Sunday, February 18, 2007

What I Love Most About Being Rich

The following was written, at my request, by my 84-year-old next door neighbor. He has asked to remain anonymous, but the few things I can mention of him are that he is worth somewhere between 150 and 200 million dollars (my best estimate based on his former position, the current value of his company, and the years he's been in business) and that he is not only the kindest millionaire I've ever met--albeit, I've not known many--but he is also one of the nicest individuals I've known period. Here is the short introduction he's written, followed by his answer to my question, "What do you love most about being rich?"

Although my early years were spent as one of seven children in a typical lower-middle class home, I was only twelve or so when I first started to become confident that one day I would go on to prosper as a significantly succesful, and concomitantly wealthy, individual. What founded this early assumption of mine was the fact that, for whatever God-given reason, I had never been distracted in my adolescence by the many cheap hooks and hedonistic snags that so often stole the attention of my peers.

Though I lacked in other facets and suffered my own particular hang-ups and self-inflicted misfortunes, the three gifts that somehow always seemed in me both effortless and ample were focus, creativity, and passion. It was these qualities that produced in me a solid work ethic and fervor for life; as well, instilled in me a certain trust that I was somehow "geared" toward great sucess.

I want to make clear that becoming superficially successful or superfluously rich were never aims of mine, but merely what I considered to be the likely byproducts of my actual aspiration, which was simply to prevail in my intentions to live a full and honest life. My emphasis was never on business; my emphasis was always on family and my soul's own personal growth. When I founded my company in the early fifties, my motivation was to do well enough to be able to invest in the things I loved and believed in, both in the larger community and my immediate family. I wanted to be a philanthropist, a father, a husband, a friend, a brother, a son, and little else.

I am retired now, at least in the professional sense. I live in a nice, but not extravagant, home. I drive an old MG convertible because it's the first car I ever loved. I have three wonderful, financially independent children who have each gone on to make their own small fortunes and live worthwhile, altruistic lives. My beloved wife died twenty years ago, but I am happy to say that I have remained faithful to her (both in body and in heart) to this very day. I will die soon from a progressive illness that originated a few years back, but I am not afraid to go.

My friend and neighbor has asked me to make a list of what I love most about having earned my fortune, which was to have been preceded by the short introduction that I've just concluded here. So here it is now: how I find love through my millions and resultantly for my millions as well. Being the fan of Letterman that I am, I'll arrange my list in a "Top Ten" format.

10. Leaving $100 bills in the tip jars of baristas, clerks, attendants, etc. who impress me as good people. The best is to do it when their back is turned.

9. Spinning the globe, dropping my finger on a random point, and flying to the location that night to spend a weekend making friends with the locals.

8. Never-ending college courses at all my favorite universities.

7. Coming across a great short story written by a rookie fiction writer, and paying that person to author their first novel. And similarly, funding a great film project that no production company would ever dare to make.

6. Paying people to do the things I don't have time for. Like create and run schools, hospitals, orphanages, non-profit organizations, etc.

5. Finding people who from humble positions are attempting to do great things, and donating toward their efforts.

4. Reading about sincere individuals trying to make the best of tragedy and find purpose in their suffering, tracking those people down, and providing them with the financial means to begin their new start.

3. The letters I frequently receive from the thousands of children from third-world countries whom I've sponsored over the years. (Many of them are now succesful, healthy adults with families!)

2. The irony of having been able to give my children everything that they ever
really needed without having actually needed myself a single one of my dollars to do so.

1. The handful of people who I know genuinely love me
despite my financial assets. Without my wealth as a test I never would have known the true extent of my friendships with these inviduals.

These items are in no particular order. And by them, I do not mean to boast or judge less generous individuals of the financially elite. I simply trust the intentions of my friend with the simple question he posed to me, and wanted to do the best that I could to provide him with an honest answer. Also, I would like to close with this final plug. Last year, my children all came to the consensus that they did not want to receive any monetary inheritance from me after my death. Honoring this wish of theirs, I will be on the lookout in my final years for good people who could use a little help. After all, I have no need for what I got for where I hope I'm going.

Confession: The above was actually not written by my 84-year-old next-door neighbor. He does not even exist, though I hope that there are individuals out there like him that do. I myself wrote this entire piece as a work of fiction. I am a 23-year-old something-or-other who earns about $1500 a month. My questions to you are, “Do you think many individuals like the philanthropist I’ve created here actually exist in the world?” “Who are the best examples of this type of character amongst the current financial elite?”

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Jen said...

i was honestly disappointed to find out this was all fiction. wonderfully written...but i came to love this person i would never meet. now im sad to know he doesnt exist

chinlingo said...

This put me in a great mood.

chinlingo said...

what do you propose?

Won Gyu said...

I really was hapy to read this and hope that one day I can meet someone like this or become someone like this.

Olive said...

I enjoyed this ... it inspired a blogpost :)

Melody said...

That was beautifully written and I do hope that someone like this exists...

grace gunawan said...

wow, i really thought that someone like this really exist. (ur such a great writer jason! haha!)...
i really hope that this person can and would be able to exist in this capitalistic 'n money-oriented world. but so far as i've noticed over the years, 'good' people like this never existed. i think it's somewhat of a rule in life.. if u want to make more money, u have to become somewhat rutheless no matter what. that's how u make it or survive i guess....

warriormom said...

Ohhhhhhhhh this felt like it was so real,it really was a heart felt story,and the part about him being faitful to his wife even though she isnt on eart anymore, no one as speical as this could be for real.Great Story.

Shiny said...

hey jason. nice piece of fiction. they guy sounded way too good to be true. when you wrote he was your neighbor, i had a hard time believing you lived next to a millionaire but i do admit, i found myself smiling at the top ten list.
wouldn't that be wonderful?
you should write a novel man. your language is rich and real. don't put it off for too long

shiny said...

hey jason, can i post this in the paper?

shiny said...

hey Jason, can i post this in the paper?