One of the Reasons People Blow Their Money: Not having a purpose

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

You don't have to be a billionaire to give back to society. Al Smith sold his newspaper chain for millions, but it took him a long time to get to prosperity.

"I believe the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to."

 

-Elvis Presley

 

The King had it right. If you can do the three things he outlined, you have won the lottery of life. The irony is that Presley was not able to practice what he preached.

 

At the end of his life, he didn't have a partner in love, didn't have much to do and didn't have much to look forward to. He turned to binge eating and pills to make it through the day.

 

Like many people, Elvis died while he was still breathing.

 

When you study the wealthy people who are truly happy, most like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates used their money to give back to society. Just like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller did in the first part of the 20th century.

 

To find a version of "the happiest billionaire," my best candidate is Bill Cook.

 

Cook was a self-made billionaire, who lived in Bloomington, Indiana. He made his money in the medical device business. He invented his first medical device in a small apartment, moved to a small house and stayed in it for the rest of his life. He became a billionaire, but it never changed him.

 

You don't have to be a billionaire to give back to society. Al Smith sold his newspaper chain for millions, but it took him a long time to get to prosperity.

 

In his fascinating autobiography Wordsmith, Smith's writes with gut-wrenching honesty about how he overcame self-destruction. It might be one of the best books that anyone anywhere has written about overcoming the grips of alcohol addiction.

 

When I think of men who have overcome the depths of addiction, I often think of Johnny Cash. Al's book reminded me of Johnny Cash's music¬: stark, honest and deeply personal. And with the raw edge of a man who looked the devil in the eye and stared him down, but knows he is always just one drink away from falling back into the abyss.

 

Overcoming adversity seems to be a common theme for those inclined to give back to society.   Once you hit the bottom, you are more inclined to give back to those who have not made the same climb.

 

Having watched Wall Street meltdown in 2008, I started to appreciate the common sense values of people who live and work on Main Street in small towns. Like James (J.T) Gilbert in my hometown of Richmond, KY.

 

J.T. is the kind of lawyer every small town should have. He spent 18 years as Chair of the Board of Regents at Eastern Kentucky University. Along the way, he became one of the nation's top trial lawyers.

 

Kentucky has its share of big time rural lawyers. Sam Davies in Barbourville and Richard Hay in Somerset are two of the best injury attorneys the nation has ever produced. It's easy to see why small town lawyers make it to the top. There is a feeling of grounding that people don't have being anonymous in a large cities.  

 

Pete Mahurin of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is the Executive Vice President of Hilliard Lyons, a regional investment firm. Pete has the common sense of a man who grew up in Short Creek Kentucky and achieved higher than those from wealthy families and Ivy League pedigrees.

 

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said that Pete "represents patience to the point of painfulness. After he talks, often everyone will nod quietly in agreement, as if divine wisdom has been spoken."

 

I don't expect divine wisdom from my advisor, but I would like some common sense.

 

My father was a professional gambler and owned bars. As a child, it would stun me to see men who had toiled all week in a steel mill or hard labor job come into a bar and gamble a week's pay in one night. The workers knew how to make money, but had no purpose for it.  

 

People need to have a purpose. With their money and their lives. Otherwise, they are going to cut both of them short.

 

I've learned when people get large amounts of money, it doesn't cure happiness. It can often magnify problems. People need to focus on being grounded and developing a solid foundation.

 

Abraham Maslow developed a famous hierarchy of needs. Maslow believed that you couldn't advance to self-actualization until you had your physical, social and safety needs met.

 

No matter whom you are or how much money you have, people can find satisfaction and happiness by being good role models for their family, friends and neighbors.

 

You don't need to win the lottery to make that happen.

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