“Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio or looked at television. They had ‘Loneliness’ and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.”
“In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in — or more precisely not in — the country’s businesses and banks. This inventory — it should perhaps be called the bezzle — amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.”
–John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929
“You must walk to the beat of a different drummer. The same beat that the wealthy hear. If the beat sounds normal, evacuate the dance floor immediately! The goal is to not be normal, because as my radio listeners know, normal is broke.” (Dave Ramsey)
Lately, I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of videos, documentaries and such on finance—personal and national. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading as well. Among them, Dave Ramsey (quoted above). Scores of people have liquidated their debt and got on their feet by taking his Financial Peace University class. Many others have been helped by the direct and passionate style of Suze Orman. Here are some things I am reading and learning:
- Non-government student loans are one of the very few things that can not be expunged with a bankruptcy filing. I did not know that and will be choosing carefully. Those debts stay with you until they are paid or you die.
- Our national debt is nearly $16,000,000,000,000.00 (See http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/).
- Current US GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is $15,090,000,000,000.00 – which puts the national debt into perspective.
- Homes priced 10% below their current regional market value tend to sell 10-15% more quickly–an important point of reference for us as our house is on the market and we need to sell.
- The 5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me: About Life and Wealth (Richard Paul Evans)
- The Richest Man In Babylon (George Clason)
- Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness (Dave Ramsey)
- The Road To Wealth (Suze Orman)
- The Coming Economic Earthquake (Larry Burkett) – This one is dated but eerily prescient.
Do yourself a favor and get yourself an education—if you haven’t already done so—on the way money, debt, deficits, markets, lending, borrowing and the like functions. In this time, more than ever, ignorance is not bliss—it is dangerous. Be awake.
“I do not deny that many appear to have succeeded in a material way by cutting corners and by manipulating associates, both in their professional and in their personal lives. But material success is possible in this world and far more satisfying when it comes without exploiting others.” (Alan Greenspan)
Bernie Madoff. Michael Milken. Ivan Boesky. Charles Ponzi. Jack Abramoff. Enron.
The aforementioned are catalogued in the annals of infamy for cutting corners financially, hurting a lot of people and ending up in jail. Greed and hubris motivated them all. Plus the fatal narcotic of self-deception, thinking they could get away with their crimes.
There is no shortcut to the building of a large and stable estate. Wealth grows in the soil of patience, competence and hard work. There are no substitutes.
A good deal of the writings in the book of Proverbs came from Solomon, son of David, Israel’s wisest and wealthiest king. Here is what he had to say about the acquisition of wealth:
- Pro 28:8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
- Pro 28:19 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
- Pro 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
- Pro 10:4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
- Pro 21:17 Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
- Pro 22:16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
- Pro 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Avoid like the plague the get-rich-quick mentality. Build your estate, your wealth, day by day, dollar by dollar on a foundation of hard work, thrift, competence and compassion. You are not Gordon Gecko. You’re better than that. Avoid the siren song of cutting corners and coloring outside of the lines to get ahead.
“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” (Sophocles)
If you’ve ever purchased a new home or vehicle through an automotive dealership, you’ve been through the experience of signing, initialing and dating voluminous documents related to the transaction. Disclosures, releases, obligations, waivers. It can be daunting. The easiest thing in the world is simply to sign, initial and date with only a cursory glance.
I know. I’ve done it numerous times. So have you. And that is the problem.
We call such encounters “signing our lives away.” Given the careful, legal language in which these documents are composed, it’s not far from the truth. And in the normal course of events, one normally doesn’t think much of it. Just sign the thing and be done with it.
Until you get surprised when one of the terms, contingencies or disclaimers affect you—your plans and your pocketbook. You feel as if you’ve been sucker punched. It feels that way.
But you haven’t been blindsided. One of the documents you signed said, in effect, that you had a full understanding of the terms of the agreement. And you’re now legally liable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Liable to pay double-digit interest on that credit card when the economy flags and banks are low on cash. Liable to have to negotiate the use of your own art if you’ve surrendered copyright to a publisher. (I know one recording artist who, when younger and untutored, gave up ownership of his music and now has to lease master tapes from the record companies just to press CD’s for his fans.)
No, it’s not unfair. It’s called fine print. And most don’t read it. Those who do are often the ones who are better off financially than the rest of us. They’ve done due diligence in their financial affairs. Part of their reward is an often proportionate lack of unpleasant “surprises.”
What to do?
- Take your time when signing documents. Read the small print. Ask questions. And don’t be intimidated if the agent with whom you are doing business seems impatient. You have everything to gain or lose by taking the time you need to know what you’re getting into.
- Do your homework. If you’re buying a car, go in knowing the worth of the vehicle better than the salesperson. The blue book information is available on the Web. Same for house and land purchases.
- Learn about compound interest, something Einstein purportedly called “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” You’ll buy far less and shop around more before parting with your hard earned money.
This is a step that those who would own their future must take. Be diligent and ahead of the pack.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
“Leadership in church is one of the biggest challenges that the Church is facing because without strong leadership, the church rarely lives out its redemptive potentials.” (Bill Hybels)
I have been a student and disciple of Bill Hybels for many years. There’s a reason for this. To be sure, Bill has been the brunt of a lot of criticism for his church—Willow Creek Community Church of North Barrington, IL—and their “seeker sensitive” approach to guiding irreligious people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. At times I criticized Bill for what I thought his approach to seeker-sensitivity meant. I was way off mark. I regret that now.
Here are some things I’ve learned from Bill:
- It was Bill who turned me on to the concept of delayed gratification and the writings of M. Scott Peck, chiefly The Road Less Traveled.
- Bill has exemplified, year in and year out, the concept of the disciplined life. He runs religiously, now in his mid fifties. He applies the same discipline to journaling, sermon preparation, budgeting and time management.
- He is a man of heart. You only have to watch or listen to him but a little to realize that, though he doesn’t take himself too seriously, he takes lost and hurting people very seriously.
- Bill, more than any evangelical leader of his stature (his church numbers north of 20K), realizes it is not about him and really eschews the whole self-promotion toxin that comprises so much of American public life.
- Bill is intensely practical, a man’s man and down-to-earth. I like that. A lot.
- He has a summer residence in South Haven, MI–a town I lived in from 1967-69. He has that same kinship for the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as did my family.
Don’t waste your time with the critics. Go to the source. Read Bill. You’ll be all the better for it.
“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Henry David Thoreau)
Years ago I read a book by John Eldredge that said, in effect, that the most important battle we will ever fight is the battle for our hearts.
He was on to something.
Human beings are like snowflakes. While we all have certain commonalities like the marvelous geometry of snowflakes, we are, nevertheless, individuals. Sui generis. One of a kind.
We have unique talents, fascinations, propensities, drives, goals and potentialities. The war for the heart, at least in the realm of sense and society, takes place as we are confronted with the “safe” choice of conformity to expectations of peers and loved ones versus that road less traveled by which we fulfill our unique design and destiny given by God.
You have your own voice and perspective. There are enough parrots in the world. There are lots of people you touch daily who want to hear the events of the day through your perspective. What happens, then, if we play it safe and give the expected response, perspective or party line? Or put another way, what happens if we are not authentically ourselves by letting self-preservation rather than our values dictate our contribution to those around us?
Step to the music you hear. Don’t play safe. Play honest instead. Integrity is your watchword. It is what lets you sleep well at night. Be courageous and be who you were created to be.
And let the chips fall where they may….