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How much money should you leave when you die?

The librarian lived modestly and in the end gave lavishly to his alma mater. (iStock)

As a lifelong penny pincher, I read with interest the story of a 77-year librarian who left his entire $4 million estate to his alma mater, which is also where he worked.

This is what the Boston Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie wrote about the man’s substantial gift to the University of New Hampshire: “Robert Morin worked nearly 50 years at the University of New Hampshire library and never seemed to spend any money. He lived alone, rarely bought clothes, had Fritos and soda for breakfast, drove a 1992 Plymouth, and spent spare time reading almost every book — in chronological order — that had been published in the United States from 1930 to 1938.

In an interview, Morin’s financial adviser said: “His whole life was the library.”

[A frugal librarian left $4 million to his university]

Morin, who graduated from the university in 1963, was making good money as a cataloguer. He retired in 2014. “In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, he was paid $102,220, according to a Nashua Telegraph database of salaries provided by the University System of New Hampshire,” reported the Washington Post’s Sarah Larimer.

Kimberley Haas, writing for the New Hampshire Union Leader, said Morin decided to give “all of his money to his alma mater because he did not have any relatives he wanted to leave it to.”

I wonder.

Morin will be held up as an example of what you can do if you live frugally, save and invest well. And his generosity is to be commended. But, as we gape at the amount of his gift, should we be celebrating folks who don’t really spend what others would consider reasonable amounts to live well during their lifetime?

No vacations? Ever?

No eating out at a nice restaurant? Ever? No movie night? No shopping sprees? Ever?

I asked because despite the constant drumbeat that Americans aren’t saving enough and aren’t prepared for retirement, there are a lot of folks who do have money. These savers can afford to spend to treat themselves every once and awhile but they don’t. Some don’t because, like Morin, they are happy living a penny pinching lifestyle.

But many can’t part with their money because they are afraid to spend. Or they’re so practiced at saving they don’t know how to spend. (Count me in this last category).

I want to leave a financial legacy to my children, church and alma maters (University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Universities). However, I also don’t want to miss out on enjoying the finer things in life.

Every 10, 15 or 20 years, I would like a new or new-to-me car. I want to take two-week vacations in exotic places. I want to financially help people now when I can see the joy in their faces.

Yes, it’s vital that you save and invest for your present and future needs. But, when you can afford it, live it up a little too.

Color of Money Question of the Week
I want to hear from you. How much money should you leave when you die? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. Every once in a while someone asked why do I ask for your names. Because when folks have to identify themselves they tend to be more civil and thoughtful. Just saying.

Live Chat Today
It’s just you and me today. So what’s on your financial mind? Got some money issues you need help resolving. If so, join me from noon to 1 p.m. (ET) today.

I’ll answer your personal finance questions To participate in the conversation click this link.

The millionaire living next door to you
You may be living next door to someone like Morin.

There’s no secret to his financial success. He did what we’re told to build wealth.

As Liz Weston writes for NerdWallet, “The way most Americans build wealth is no secret: Save, invest, repeat.”

So many people think there’s some super secret way to get rich. It’s that thinking that causes many to fall victim to scams.

But, as Weston writes, “Next-door millionaires weren’t born into wealth. They haven’t invented killer apps or won the lottery, exercised a pile of stock options or played professional sports. They’re the majority of millionaires, and they include teachers, small business owners and professionals who accumulate wealth gradually over time.”

Weston provides five tips to becoming the millionaire next door. She made some great points:
— Follow the ‘one house, one spouse’ rule
— Take risks, but don’t gamble
— Teach your children well
— Don’t DIY your money
— A big tax bill means you’re winning

#Nomakeup Can Save You Money
Alicia Keys decided to stop wearing makeup and oh boy did that cause a ruckus. I loved her decision to join the
#nomakeup movement.

So for last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week I asked: Do you think it’s worth the money to wear makeup?

Connie Frazier of Nashville, Ill.: “I got off makeup by juicing everyday. Especially cucumbers, they totally eliminate dark circles. If I miss a day or two of juicing, the dark circles come back.

Janis Hochman of Silver Spring, Md.: “I can be a feminist, a hard-working single lady who is intellectual and caring and wears flattering makeup without spending tons of money.”

“I absolutely CRINGE when I go into CVS to get my $8 stick of eyeliner and $7 tube of mascara (both of which last me for at least three months!) and I see the prices on all of the various makeup items,” wrote Teresa Coluchi of Baltimore. “I mean, where do you draw the line between highlighting your features and disguising yourself?? When you really stop to think about it, what is the REAL reason you want to completely cover your entire face and neck?? If it’s to hide acne, well clogging your pores with tons of makeup is not the answer. If it’s to get a man that may work on the first few dates, but when he finally gets to see the REAL you he might question what else is real about you. I just don’t understand why a little eyeliner, blush and lipstick aren’t enough when you really want to get fancy. I mean, it takes SO long to put on concealer, foundation, bronzer, 4 shades of eye shadow, eye liner, fake eye lashes, mascara, lip moisturizer, lip liner, lipstick… (I lost my breath just saying that) and some women put on way more that those items! I’m all for the #nomakeup movement! Rise up women! Let’s just be ourselves AND save money!!”

Joyce Turner of Hyattsville, Md.: “It’s nothing wrong with wearing a little makeup to enhance your facial looks, I myself wear makeup very lightly, whereas it looks as if I don’t have any on. But some people go overboard, spending hundreds of dollars on makeup products that they probably don’t need. Whew! No way will I spend that much of my hard earned money on makeup products, just to look beautiful. Just a dab will do it.”

“I understand the no make up movement,” wrote Holly Wolf, Fleetwood, Pa. “But I feel like it’s just another tool to help improve the way we feel about ourselves. I’m currently interviewing for a new job. I wear dresses because I feel good about myself in a dress. From my clothing, makeup and hair, I want to feel good about myself to project the best image of myself. If I feel confident, that will come through in my interview. Most of my makeup comes from the local drug store and is purchased on sale and using the local drug store coupons for additional discounts. You can use makeup and still be frugal.”

Beth Rini Scott of Lynchburg, Va.: “I think it is interesting that we are only discussing makeup in this conversation and not all of the other terribly expensive and potentially harmful things (mostly) women do to be loved/accepted, feel good, etc. I would include expensive manicures (especially FAKE nails!), hair color, perms, etc. These products are all made of harmful chemicals. And don’t get me started on cosmetic surgery!

Candy Miller of Caldwell, Ohio: “I quit using makeup when I retired 11 years ago. I figured I am no longer trying to impress anyone so my natural looks will do just fine for my life.”

I’m going to let a guy have the last word (for now): “I do not use makeup but my wife sure does. Won’t go ANYWHERE without painting her face,” wrote Tom Sabel of Lakewood, Colo. “Frustrating because she looks good without it. And pray tell; never tell her that I can’t tell whether you have it on or not. That will lead to couch sleeping! Vanity, the great economic engine.”

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The Color of Money Book Club: ‘Making Social Security Work for You’

Financial news you can use
Retirement columnist Rodney Brooks Monday newsletter this week: California is the latest state to try to help people save for retirement

Brooks writes: “So much has been written about 401(k)s and other employer-sponsored retirement savings plans that we sometimes forget theses sobering statistics: 50 percent of American workers — 55 million people — have no access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.”

Brooks most retirement column: The art of keeping an eye on aging parents

In this column Brooks’ addresses: “How do you know it is time to step in to protect your parents from financial predators or even from themselves?”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to