Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's not the money, it's what you do for it.

Tuesday July 15, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Grand Junction Free Press

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: Success -- true wealth -- is experience from which wisdom about life and the discipline to live it well is gained. It may or may not be accompanied by a large bank account.

     A recent e-mail I received tells me about money: "It can buy a house, but not a home. It can buy a bed, but not sleep. It can buy a clock, but not time. It can buy a book, but not knowledge. It can buy you position, but not Respect. It can buy medicine, but not health. It can buy you blood, but not life. It can buy you sex, but not love.
     “So money is not everything. And it often causes pain and suffering. I tell you this because I am your friend. As your friend, I want to take away your pain and suffering. So send me all your money. I will suffer for you. Such is my friendship.” --Author Unknown
     If you do not like people who have money, chances are you do not have it. Jealousy and envy are nothing new to the human psyche.
     There has been a trend in the United States since the 1960s. Many people with money feel guilty about having it. They tend to not like the system or the country that made their bank accounts possible.
     Some people probably should feel guilty about having money. They should feel even guiltier about exercising the power that goes with it. They did nothing to earn it. They did not learn the lessons or gain the wisdom involved in the process of achieving true wealth. They were lucky eggs fertilized by affluent sperm -- or vice versa. This is jokingly referred to as "Gaining wealth the old fashioned way... through inheritance."
     Children of wealthy parents often have more difficulties to face in life than do children of the non wealthy. Because of money, they have more options. The more options you have in life, the more choices you must make. The more choices you must make, the greater your chance for error.
     In today's drug culture, children of the wealthy who make bad choices end up in Amsterdam or Sweden or some other European socialist haven. There, government provides protected living areas in parks for drug addicts. They provide clean needles to prevent the spread of AIDS. These children of great opportunity and misdirected choices frequently receive funds from wealthy parents to maintain their misbegotten lifestyles. It conveniently keeps them from showing up on the family's front doorstep. This is certainly not a lifestyle to be envied or emulated. How sad and wasteful!
     When people do not feel worthy of what they receive in life, they are not comfortable with the resultant lifestyle. They are unhappy. Kids who inherit a bundle and never really have to work to ensure a financially comfortable future look around them and wonder if, lacking the inheritance, they would have been able to provide for themselves equally well. They question their own worth... as they (as we all) should.
     People who earn money in their own lifetime but do so by risking OPM (other people's money) -- movie stars, musicians, professional athletes for example -- often fall into this "I don't really have a lot of confidence in myself" category. They appear to be terribly insecure. Maybe that is why so many of them have problems with substance abuse.
     It always amuses me that superstars to whom God gave a beautiful voice or the ability to act like someone else while a camera runs think themselves qualified to advise others about their social and political beliefs. That's the equivalent of believing because Mike Tyson is a hell of a boxer he is qualified to run a gymnasium for girls. In short, it is delusional.
     I do not believe that having money makes anyone qualified to do much of anything -- except spend it. I am sure they are much better shoppers than I -- though admittedly some apparently forget to pay for their selections when they leave the store.
     I feel the same way about most of the entire Hollywood crowd... you remember their threats to leave the country if George Bush got elected? Have you noticed any ships loaded with superstars pulling out of port? Maybe their delusions of grandeur do not carry them far enough to reach reality.
     It's not just Hollywood. Years after winning large sums of money from state lotteries, winners are asked about the positive impact of their windfalls. They do not say much that is good. They find money does not bring a life without problems, only a life with a different set of them.
     People who are happy in spite of having money have learned some of life's lessons. They are secure because they have done it once and know they could do it again.
     Many times, they gain their wisdom the hard way. And that is the advantage of earning what you have. It brings with it true wealth and true success, not just money. Experience, unfortunately, is not an inherited commodity. A large percentage of today's wealthy got that way because their parents left it to them. They learned none of the necessary lessons on the journey to success.
     To those poor souls who have no money and the benefits it buys like housing, clothing and food, such claims are not to be believed. "I'd rather have your problems than mine," says the person sleeping in the streets for lack of a job. Everyone, it seems, would rather have someone else's problems.
     What is the problem with wealth? Why do so many people dislike those who have it while so aggressively pursuing it themselves? Can those who find affluence be happy until they realize "money" and "wealth/success" are not synonymous?
     Success, not money, is what brings happiness. Money is merely a byproduct of success. Most people think it happens the other way around -- that money brings success.
     It is a rather natural mistake to see the apparent -- the social lifestyle money brings -- as the objective. Rather we must work to see the subtle the building of character that occurs when challenges are faced and overcome as the thing that makes people both wealthy and happy.
     American entrepreneurs have been quoted numerous times as saying "It was never the money that drove me to succeed..."
     What was it then?
     When questioned about why they were willing to work seven days a week to succeed, most American entrepreneurs say "To know on the day I die that I left the world a better place than I found it." Or they say, "It was making my idea work that was my passion, not the money."
     What seems apparent is that people who start with a shoestring and gain affluence from square one pay a pretty big price for their wealth. The workweek is often 80 hours and the project or dream dominates everything -- including social life. And when it is one person against the world, you get hit on the head a lot. Wealth creators know how hard they had to work to earn it. Their children to whom they leave their fortunes do not.
     It is equally clear that people who do not go through the "earn it on my own" process feel unworthy of money. It appears there is a certain amount of guilt associated with comfortable lifestyles one does not work very hard to provide.
     We live in a country where wealth is very important, yet we seem to understand so little about it. Is wealth good for society? Or, is it bad? A lot of people say it is bad and want to take it away from one group of people to give to another. If it's bad, isn't that an unkind act?
     Integrity, compassion, character... all are part of true wealth. People who are Wall Street brokers and compromise their integrity by violating insider confidentialities may have money. They do not have wealth or success.
     People who seek wealth for its own sake and who compromise basic principles of integrity or who ignore social responsibilities may earn a lot of money. They are, however, doomed to be short term successes and long term failures.
     There is nothing wrong with money. Some of the people who have it are as obnoxious as some who do not have it. Both groups are, after all, human.
     The American people need to give the respect due those people who risk their personal assets to build a dream, especially since the success of that dream provides employment to so many people.
     Anyone in America can achieve wealth. It is a very difficult road. It is filled with opportunities to compromise personal integrity -- a sure way to fail. If all you want is money, you can make such compromises.
     If you want success that provides true wealth, you cannot. That is one of the beauties of free enterprise and capitalism. They really do not care who succeeds or fails.
     Success is a process, not a position. So, too, is wealth.
     Anyone can have money. That does not make them wealthy -- or successful.