Friday, June 06, 2008

A Windfall

Unfortunately, the windfall is not my own-- it's my friend Wanda's, and I'm happy for her. Wanda is my New Zealand artist friend, whose life I described a bit in this post. The whole time I've known her, she's been scraping by on not much money in order to pursue her artistic endeavors. She's made a little money from it here and there, by selling work or getting small grants, but the last few years have been really tough. Now, though, she's finally gotten a nice break: a $10,000 grant.
Wanda was so excited when she found out, she called me at about 6:30 AM my time to tell me. It was as if something truly life-changing had happened for her, and perhaps that is the case.

I had another conversation with Wanda about the award yesterday, this time with me in a more fully awake state, and Wanda a bit more calm. The thing is, $10,000 is a lot of money. In actual financial terms, it may not be drastically life-changing, but it will ease a lot of her anxieties and enable her to keep her flat a bit warmer all winter. What I think was even more important to Wanda was the recognition. Apparently the grant is something you can't just apply for-- they just find people who seem deserving and then interview them to see if they want to give them money. Wanda felt like all her hard work had paid off because she was able to attract the notice of the selection committee without having to go to them and beg, but rather just on the merits of her work and the reputation she is building.

Wanda won't actually get the money for a couple of months. Now she just has to wait and think about what she is going to do with it. For the most part, I think she is just figuring she'll use it to stabilize her precarious position, but at one point she was talking about perhaps using it to leave New Zealand. For a few years, she's been applying to this green card lottery program for the U.S. (the "Diversity Immigrant Visa Program"). Back when she was more in a position to be able to move, she never got selected, but this year she found out she was selected to go through the next step of the application process. I didn't quite know what to say to her about it. She said all her friends had pretty much said that she should see it through, as green cards aren't easy to come by. But I was more cautious-- she has no real security in her life right now, and she's not some 20-something who can just go for it and figure things will work themselves out over time. I think it would be a big mistake for her to uproot herself right now-- she could blow that $10,000 in no time and be no better off than she was before.

Have you ever received a financial windfall? How much was it? Did it change your life? How did you decide how to use the money, and do you think you made the right choice?

6 comments:

KK said...

I received a little over 100k net from a serverance package in 2004. I invested the whole thing in CDs, stocks and mutual funds. I'm holding on to it as I don't really need anything "big".

I was going to use it for house renovations but I never bought one. ( I own a co-op that I did a total kitchen reno on years ago).

So the money sits earning interest, for the most part. Only around 11k is in stocks..down from 17k initial investment.

Rachella said...

I received some money that changed my life.

Mine came from sadder, even more life-changing circumstances because both my parents died. Since it was an inheritance, my siblings received the same as me. They invested their money wisely and kept the same type of life they had before.

I used mine to move to England. While, to some, this may sound fiscally irresponsible to leave a sure thing and risk losing a once in a lifetime windfall, I saw it as a way to honor my parents by following a dreams and doing something that I would have never been able to do otherwise.

Like your friend, I also work in a creative industry. I am a writer and university instructor. I started to teach years ago as a way to support myself as a writer. Now that I've moved to London, I support myself as a writer, while teaching on the side.

London is a very expensive city, so it was a bit dodgy at first. Moving countries and settling in cost more than expected, but I moved from another expensive city (San Francisco) so I knew how to get buy, and I had family members who took me in and gave me plenty of moral support until I found work and a place to live.

My advise to your friend is, as a artist, go ahead, take the risk, follow your dreams. Risks like this will inform your work, whatever the outcome. HOWEVER, don't jump without a well laid out plan. $10,000 can disappear much quicker than you think without a place to stay, a way to make some money, or a safety net against emergencies. Perhaps your friend could use a small part of the money to start promoting her work in the US before she moves.

uzvards said...

Now Wanda will have to send some parework in to INS. Then she will wait for another letter (which may never come, BTW), with a date for her interview at an American consulate. This interview may be scheduled in late fall, or even in spring, next year. (And one can ask to re-schedule the interview to a later date.) If visa will be issued, she'll have six months to enter the United States. So, realistically, it may happen in Jul-Sep, 2009. Many things may change in Wanda's circumstances during that time.

"Future Millionaire" said...

I will be receiving a windfall soon of about $15,000. I'll be receiving the biggest bonus I've ever received.

I'm not really sure what to do with the money. I'm thinking that I will invest almost of all it since all of my need are net and all of my financial goals are on track. Plus I don't want to get too attached to it since I know next year I'll probably only receive a thousand or two as a bonus.

madkaw said...

My grandfather gave me an extremely generous gift of $10,000 earmarked to pay off my student loan and pay my health insurance deductible which I met because I had a small surgery. He was seeing his immortality (he died about 2 years later at age 96) and was trying to put his money to good use while he was alive.
It really put me in a great position financially right before I got married and I'm so grateful to him.

Anonymous said...

I received a very generous inheritance twice- once 20 years ago (65000) and just recently 400,000. I used the first to follow my dream of law school ( i already had an mba so alot of people thought I had lost my mind) and then with the second, I paid my house off in full and have banked the rest. I can say that the first part came when I was griefstricken over the death of my mother and I waited two years to go to law school so I didn't jump in and make a mistake due to grief. But I did ask my fiancee at the time for a prenup (I and he knew the other part was in the future) and he said no and I said goodbye. That was a good thing. Now, at 51, I can relax somewhat and not worry about the heat and water and food, etc. etc. Actually, I probably live more frugally now than ever before and I am still working, albeit less hours. I am so thankful to my farmer parents who worked a lifetime and left three of us very lucky indeed.