A Resolution For The New Year
Bernie Madoff stole $50 billion.
In the process, Bernie performed a disappearing act far better than anything ever attempted by Harry Houdini. Bernie spent decades shuffling cash from one victim to another and in the process, $50 billion has vanished into thin air.
And Bernie did live like a king along the way.
But at age 70, he has to face the fact his own sons turned on him. His closest friends now consider him a pariah. The charities that once honored him now offer nothing but fearsome scorn. And worst of all, the family members in his firm are branded for life.
In his few remaining years Bernie will never be able to have the joy of knowing that he benefitted his friends, his family or his clients. No, Bernie is a broken man and his legacy is one of scorched earth.
But there is something meaningful we can harvest from Bernie’s legacy, especially in the current period of uncertainty. Over many years, whenever I’ve encountered someone who is worried about their financial situation, I ask a simple question; “What are you most proud of in your life?”
Sometimes I get answers about children or grandchildren. Other times I hear about a church or civic organization that has flourished because the individual has supported it for years. I’ve received answers about jobs that really make a difference in caring for people. I’ve been told heartwarming stories about recovery from ill health, overcoming addiction and mending broken families.
But In all my 35 years of being a financial planner… even in the very best of times… I’ve never had a single person say, “I’m proudest of having so much money.”
Never. Not once. Nada.
I’m not attempting to minimize the current World-wide recession. It is tough and there is a lot of suffering. But the truth is that nobody will spend the final moments of their life railing about the value of their 401(k) account. In the end, the value of our lives is determined based on the gratitude we feel deep within our hearts for the time and strength we have been given to make a difference in our world.
And so I would like to make this suggestion for a New Year’s Resolution as we say goodby to a difficult 2008 and start a potentially equally difficult 2009:
I hereby resolve to be thankful for the health I have, for the people I cherish, for the love I receive, for the opportunities I’m presented to make a positive difference in the lives of others and for all the good things that have allowed me to be where I am today.
Gratitude won’t cure the recession or make the Dow go to 14,000. But gratitude will help us get through the recession and encourage the patience necessary while our investments recover.
This I believe.
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