A Cautionary Tale

For reasons that will soon be obvious, I’ll refer to the person in question as only ‘someone I know’. I’ve known them for awhile, and I’ve always been polite, even though at times that’s been difficult.

I’ve always wished them well and hoped the best for them, and I was delighted when their entrepreneurial efforts paid off about 18 months ago. It had been a long, arduous road: a lot of long hours, a lot of stress, a lot of soul-searching through sleepless nights.

Finally, the years of all these things were to pay off. This person was going cash out, close the big deal, and start the next chapter of their life. Everyone who knew this person breathed a sigh of relief. We had had concerns for their physical and emotional health, as well as the financial health of their enterprise.

I had lunch with this person. I had given them a copy of The Old Money Book when it was first published. I recall them saying they had ‘started’ reading it. This means they hadn’t read it. I asked them, diplomatically, over lunch, if they’d ever returned to the book.

“No, very busy.”

“Completely understand. Very happy for you. Wish you the very best as you move forward. But in your situation you might just want to read the Introduction. Won’t take five minutes. Might give you some insight on this experience. By the way, are you going to consult with a CPA during some point in the process?”

“I haven’t really thought about that. Just trying to get the deal closed. I’m also looking at acquiring a couple of new vehicles.”

At this point, I gave up. I let this person talk. Nodded politely, and tried to bury my head in my Caesar salad.

Fast forward to last week when I received a call from ‘someone I know’. I rarely speak to them now that I’m living in Paris, despite having maintained and even strengthened some relationships with friends living in the states. I was surprised, but then not, that this person called. They asked how I was doing and how things were going. I was updated on this and that, things that were happening in their life. Very superficial, fairly vague.

Then the other shoe dropped. The windfall of cash was depleted. I had heard through mutual friends of a fledging business venture, a couple of new vehicles (none inexpensive) and a new home that had been purchased, so I wasn’t completely surprised. The kicker was the near-six-figure Internal Revenue Service tax bill, something that had been overlooked in the euphoria of that windfall. Ouch.

But, of course, there were a couple of great opportunities on the horizon that were sure to fill the coffers once again. This someone was nothing if not optimistic.

“Great. Glad to hear it.”

I find it a little sad and more than a little fatiguing to say that my radar is fairly well developed at this point in life. When someone who’s just stepped in it financially calls me from out of the blue and asks me how things are going for me, I have a fairly good idea of what’s coming next. I’m not alone. A lot of people have this sense, especially if they’re OMGs.

It may be next week or next month, but I’m fairly confident I’ll get another call, asking for a loan. I’m not without feeling, but I did on several occasions suggest that this person read my book…no, just the Introduction of my book. But no.

So the answer will be No. If friends or family have an emergency, I’m often responsive, generous, empathetic, compassionate. But once someone has had a financial windfall from their business or investments, or inherited from their family, I consider them above circumstances and wholly responsible. Especially if I’ve offered advice and introductions to people or resources that can help them maximize the opportunity and preserve their wealth.

‘Someone I know’ had the chance. And it’s not like I haven’t watched this scenario play out before with other people. It’s a cautionary tale, and a large part of the reason I wrote The Old Money Book in the first place.

I think someone once said that a large part of wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes. Consider this story a word to the wise.

  • BGT




8 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale

  1. A sad story but an all-too common one. I have several close family members who exhibit this same behavior when their wallets are fat. When times change and the money is gone, other family members (myself included) are approached for a loan. I have finally learned (at age 56) that a compassionate but firm “no” is the only answer. This goes for loans and co-signing of vehicles. I have read your book several times and its advice is calm, sensible and practical no matter how much or how little one may have in the bank. I use its knowledge on a daily basis and have based many financial decisions upon what I’ve read. I did not manage my money very well when I was younger but I have learned from my mistakes (and am still learning today.) I clearly remember when my mother, at age 82, received a sizeable inheritance from her late sister-in-law. Her first move was to make an appointment with a CPA to make sure that the tax bill on the money was paid!

  2. Hi Byron. Ditto Sophie….almost verbatim. I also have read your book several times and base many of my decisions today remembering the values you spelled out. With much gratitude, Byron. And, while I believe you are not in the states right now, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

  3. Hi Byron. You cut out the story from my life. He was a TV star, two shows, showered with money over good fifteen years, full page pictures of him in every magazine ….. He started his career at university. Wherever we appeared we were surrounded by his fans, teenagers …… Wild parties and wilder after parties. Huge SUV, vacations, giant house, countless dates – every two, three months a new girl friend. Boozing was his religion. Marriage and a child. After the first trimester he carefully planed his and his son’s career. He will be a famous soccer player. But before that, they will make a ton of money on commercials for baby products, internet and telephone services …….. He and his wife both inherited. His father in-law, a prominent lawyer…… Web portal for bling-bling lifestyle …… The child was born with permanent brain damage, literally retarded, cannot crawl, seat, walk, talk. Around the clock treatment required. Sued the hospital and lost. He is in red and his life is ruined. He did not ask for loan though, I did not have life like him, I did not have things he had, so I had to be poor. Thank God!

  4. Indeed, one needs to be receptive in order to learn. “Someone you know”, wasn’t. Likewise, one could give the President a copy of Kant’s “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” — even if he read it, it wouldn’t probably lead him to evaluate his actions.

    However, while certain people may reject Old Money values, others may need a little guidance and incentive in order to understand and assimilate them. Remember how Mr. Keating inspired his students with poetry, in “Dead Poets Society”? Would he have achieved the same result, just by suggesting them to read?

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