Investing and Your Priorities

In 2004, roughly 200,000 people died as a result of the Asian tsunami. This was considered a disaster so big that the world was galvanized into action on an unprecedented scale, rushing supplies, manpower and money to those devastated by this natural phenomenon.

However, against this statistic of overwhelming disaster and death, we must remember that 210,000 children worldwide die from hunger every week!

In Africa, a child will die from malaria every 30 seconds.

Worldwide 1.2 billion people live without access to clean drinking water.

In the time it has taken you to read this text so far, 50 people have died of starvation. Ten people have died from poor sanitation. Eight people have died from malaria.

Several weeks ago, Leona Helmsley left her dog $12 million dollars.

Mind boggling. Simply mind boggling.

I have a dog. She wouldn’t know what to do with $12 million dollars, I can assure you. And she’s probably just as smart as Ms. Helmsley’s Maltese named, aptly, Trouble. What is Trouble going to do with this fortune? Certainly not spend it on the poor. Certainly not feeding the hungry, curing disease around the world.

The difficult thing to understand is how a person could do such a thing as leave a canine her fortune instead of using it to change the world for the better; we shouldn’t let it go un-discussed in this column.

Why? Because one of the most important assignments I can give you as you learn about investing and profiting from the stock market and any other sources of revenue is to decide up front what you’re doing this for.

If it’s to amass your own fortune so you can sit back and smile and turn away from the plight of those who inhabit the same planet as you, then I’m not happy giving you the knowledge to do this. In fact, I’d be downright disappointed if all of these articles meant only one thing to you, dear reader: “I’m wealthier and so I don’t care about anyone else.”

We are probably in agreement that what Leona Helmsley did is nothing short of obscene. Giving millions to a dog (and I’m a dog lover too, so it’s not anti-dog to make these statements) when there is such need in the world is the height of self-centeredness and meanness. (Do remember her nickname was “Queen of Mean” because of the way she treated servants, service people and anyone who stood in her way.) We shake our heads and purse our lips and wonder how someone could be so selfish, so unconcerned about those less fortunate.

And yet … and yet.

Where do we go wrong in this area? Do we ignore the needs around us to a much lesser scale than Ms. Helmsley because we just haven’t thought about this aspect of investing and dealing with our money? And if this is true, shouldn’t we become more aware not only for our own inner peace and satisfaction but also to make the world even a tiny bit better?

It’s very important you understand the stock market and other investments so you can be a responsible person who can take care of herself now and in the future to the best of your abilities. I am not detracting from this truth at all. After all, the only way you can help anyone else financially is if you have the means to do so.

And acquiring the means to do so means reading these articles, doing your homework and research, and learning as much as you can before you put it into practice.

But having done all of this, be sure you have a firm grasp on another aspect of investing and making money: sharing it with others. There is no greater satisfaction in life than using your resources — time, energy and money — to make your mark on the world. Not because it makes you look good, but because it is the right thing to do.

Poor Leona didn’t get this great truth. For all her power, for all her wealth, what a sad comment her last will and testament were to her life: meanness followed her to the grave. Surely she knew how her generous gift to Trouble would be perceived. Surely she knew that this would be what she would be remembered for. And obviously she just didn’t care.

Let’s care about what happens to our money as we acquire it. Let’s not end up like Leona, mean to the end. Well, mean beyond the end.

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