I heard a story this week that I just have to share. It seems that God called Gabriel and the other archangels in for an update and strategic planning meeting.
He asked, “So, how is our plan for the 2020s going?” The angels looked around, looked down at the streets of gold in heaven, fluttered their wings and finally Gabriel spoke up and said, “Oops, we thought that you meant 2020. We are all really tired since we have been working a lot of overtime to get everything done by year end.”
It has been that sort of year. We have all suffered losses and the year isn’t over yet. Our customers and friends are struggling both financially and emotionally. We don’t know what comes next, but we know that we are resilient, and we will get through whatever is next for 2020.
As we work through the balance of the year, I want to encourage you to take time and give thanks. We still live in a great state full of wonderful people with a rich vibrant culture. We still live in America where we can say what we want about our leaders and make changes at the ballot box if we wish. We are still able to go to a good local grocery store and get the food we need to make a tasty meal.
Being grateful may seem to be an odd topic for a banking column, but as a banker, I have seen how a person’s attitude can affect their financial situation. If your goal is to exceed everyone else financially, you will probably never achieve that goal. Jeff Bezos is arguably the richest man in America, and his now former wife is one of the richest women after a tough divorce. Mr. Bezos is so rich, that he out earns all of us in the state of Louisiana put together. While it is possible, it is not likely that one of us will out earn Mr. Bezos.
The problem is not with wanting to succeed, but in placing that goal ahead of family, community and ethics. Greed and a lack of gratitude can lead to unbelievably bad financial decision making. One of our customers won a multimillion-dollar lottery prize. He was so upset that he had to pay taxes on his winnings that he became obsessed with tax shelters. We at the bank advised him to be grateful for his windfall, celebrate his success and invest most of the money to guarantee a good future income.
Unfortunately, he refused to listen to us. He bought a number of risky tax shelters designed to create tax losses so that he would not have to pay any income tax. The tax shelters worked all too well. They generated real losses and tragically, he ended up going bankrupt.
I wish that he were the only one, but through the years I have seen a number of people get so focused on rapidly accumulating wealth and avoiding taxes that they ended up destroying family relationships and often losing the wealth that they struggled to gain.
I recommend a balanced approach. Be thankful for what you have. Work to make more so that you will have enough to share but do not allow an obsession with money to consume your life.
This has been a tough year, but we are still here and grateful for the chance to make next year better.