“I CANNOT COME AND KILL MYSELF: LET ME CHOP LIFE SMALL”(2)

“I CANNOT COME AND KILL MYSELF: LET ME CHOP LIFE SMALL”(2)

SOFT FINANCE

“Everything we own here on earth is only on a lease to us. It would pass on to others when we die. The best decision that the wealthy should make is to remain detached away from the glamour and ego of their wealth and create happiness for themselves, through habitually giving and giving to society’s needy” – My Billionaire Friend

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.

 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” 

– Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven – Matthew 19:21-23

More than I had anticipated, my article with the above title published in the September 3rd edition of THISDAY has continued to generate interesting feedback. The first to fire the salvo was my very good friend and brother, Mr. Remi Babalola, a former finance minister, who has developed more than a passing interest in my finance-related articles. Indeed, he was the guest speaker at the public presentation of my first personal finance book, The Millionaires’ Capsules at Muson Center, Lagos in 2007. Let me quote him directly:

“I just finished your entire article for today, and I have a few points. 1. Anyone following your writing and, on this platform, and yet to write his will or place to be buried has not done justice to your efforts. 2. Your article today is YOLO (You Only Live Once), but I think wealth management doesn’t mean suffering otherwise you have no wealth you are managing. You should eat, dress, go on vacation, and have fun on a normal regular basis while you are managing wealth. The class, style, poise and personality types are matters of individual differences. Why is Warren Buffet living in a 1958 ordinary house and not eating out every day? This topic is very popular among wealth hunters. One of the enlightened USD billionaires in Nigeria living in Ikoyi was building a new top-end residence in Ikoyi to move from his former house where he has been living for over two decades, and I questioned his logic using Warren Buffet’s example. He didn’t find it funny because he felt YOLO. We should adopt the masters in wealth management, which is the Jews’ way of life and attitude to wealth management. But do whatever makes you happy and peaceful, not impress anyone”. We have had interesting conversations on this after that.

On my way to my unit in the church last Sunday, an elderly deacon who happens to be a fan of my column said casually  once he sighted me: ”I cannot come and kill myself; you have told us to start chopping life and we shall, God willing”. A few individuals who had read the article had interpreted it as if I was suggesting that they soft pedal on financial planning and start to devour everything! That could not have been my message. For those who did not read, let’s recap the genesis of the commentaries. I had gone on a business visit to a lawyer friend of mine a couple of weeks ago to seek his expert opinion on how to implement a financial planning strategy I had picked from a billionaire friend. I was interested in creating a structure for my finances. My lawyer friend had wondered why I was interested in such complex matters. He suggested that I should concentrate on what I have control over, which is living to the fullest in the present rather than embarking on preparation for a future I had no control over. I had also written in that article on how I moved from the lawyer friend’s office to a highbrow spa not far from his office to “spoil myself a little”. But I did some reflections on the matter after leaving the spa and I had promised to share my thoughts on the matter in this column. This part two is a fulfilment of that promise.

A long time after I had started the relationship with my billionaire friend, he had volunteered to take me on a tour of his gigantic edifice, occupying almost the whole stretch of a street. The last place he took me to was his bedroom. In that bedroom was his massive bed, covering a sizable portion of the room. He now started to share some interesting stuff with me about his wealth-building principles. Lastly, he asked me to watch as he lay down on the edge of his massive bed. He said that is how he sleeps every night, just to demonstrate and remind himself that despite the enormous wealth he has built through meticulous financial planning, he does not need more than that space. This billionaire friend has also invested a huge amount of money, running into billions of naira in philanthropic endeavours, some of which are not in the public space. I also asked him why he was doing that, and he now elaborated on the principles guiding his wealth-building endeavours as we rounded off our conversation. My billionaire friend also shared his experience about building wealth to give out.

“I cannot tell you per se when I came about this principle about life, but I can tell you that I wrote my will at only thirty-two (32) years of age when I discovered that the whole essence of life is empty and that the little wealth, I had built should go to help those who I would leave behind, my immediate family and my society in general. I thus wrote my will at the age of thirty-two (32), which clearly shows how early I came about this principle of life and living. This principle has very much helped me to be useful to many in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. I have used my little knowledge and resources to help lift many people”. The summary of his message, as he put it, is this: The Essence of Wealth is more important than wealth itself.

My interest in understanding the dimensions of wealth-building dates beyond the current article. I had explained in one of my articles how I had watched the humongous wealth of my former employer, a newspaper mogul of note, vanish not long after his controversial politics-related death. He had possibly worked out elaborate plans of how his children would inherit his publishing empire and continue the legacy. That did not happen.

A pastor friend who recently relocated to the United Kingdom shared with me an interesting encounter he had while pursuing his new interest in real estate development. A very wealthy Jew, according to him, had left a huge estate for his three daughters with a will to back up how the property, about 45 spread across different parts of the world, was to be distributed. The real estate consultant in charge of the assets had got in touch with the daughters, and to his surprise, none of the daughters was interested in having anything to do with the property. Indeed, they gave the real estate consultant the go-ahead to dispose of the assets and give the proceeds to any charity organisation he considered okay. They didn’t care what he did with the property left behind by their father.

I also got to know last week that one key regret of a Nigerian billionaire is that his only son shunned the elaborate plan he created for him to step into his ICT business empire. He had spent a huge amount of money training his son in the best ICT schools in the world. While he was expecting his son to return to take over the business empire, his son had flung his ICT certificates and branched into an unrelated career. The father had done everything, including monetary inducement, to get the guy to change his mind, but no deal.

A judge in one of the states IN Nigeria who also read my article of last week: ‘Your Mind is the Most Important Assets,’ shared this with me after a conversation on the article: “I shed tears after reading your epic journey through life. I can relate to several things you said. I was called the bar in 1982. The vogue then was to secure a visa, which was relatively easy, then. Many of our mates did so and left, but I asked myself one question: what are you going to America to do? I spent a lot of time on the question but I had no clear answer or pathway. I decided to improve myself and hone my skill in litigation practice by doing pupillage with the legal giants of our time…. I spent 10 years on a monthly salary of 500 naira. l left thereafter to set up my practice, and my seniors referred several cases to me and even involved me in election matters. Our youths are impatient. I have a son with a master’s degree in pharmacy from Aberdeen University. He was doing well here as he is not only a lecturer but runs several pharmacy stores. Lo and beyond, he insisted on the urging of his wife, a Ph.D. holder in pharmacy. My wife and I tried everything to dissuade him, asking him to name his price. Without informing us, he left for the USA. Could you believe he is now a parker with Amazon and has cut all communications with us? It’s a tragedy.”

Researching my articles on personal finance, I read pages of biographies of several wealth builders around the world. I had also decided to visit the JD Rockefeller Centre in New York a few years ago. The Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 32 acres between 48th Street and 51st Street in Midtown, Manhattan, New York City. I spent one day and a half there. It is a tourist centre as many tourists flood the place to behold the assets left by the man: his tomb, towers, etc. I paid to be conducted around the centre, including riding to the 46th floor of his tower. As I was on the 46th floor, the questions started to flood my mind again. What did he do differently that made his wealth speak after he had long gone?

I came to some interesting conclusions after also consuming the entire Bible in different translations, paying attention to the wealth builders in the Bible.

Jesus’ message in the quotes at the beginning of this article clinched it for me: Here are my key conclusions:

DETACH FROM MATERIAL WEALTH. Jesus, as well as well-recognised spiritual leaders, never suggests people should not build or accumulate wealth. The central message is that we should not attach much importance to them. Anything your eyes can see, anything your hand can touch, anything your mouth can taste, indeed anything your five senses can recognise is temporary, and is subject to change.

WE ARE MERE CHANNELS OF WEALTH DISTRIBUTION 

Jesus painted this line in his story of the vine. His message in John 15 is that as branches of the vine, we are to open ourselves to receive as much from the vine, take the much we need and intelligently distribute the rest: Keeping more than is necessary for ourselves leads to spiritual constipation.

POUR YOURSELF AND YOUR WEALTH INTO OTHERS WHILE YOU ARE ALIVE

I have also discovered that those who have managed to live on after they are gone perfected the art of replicating themselves in others while they were alive and spending a large chunk of their resources blessing the less privileged and society as a whole. Mother Theresa poured herself into others. She has continued to live on. No street or monument was named after Jesus Christ, yet he has continued to live on. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are two billionaire friends who have mastered the art of building wealth to give out.

The essence of this article is captured by what was credited to Steve Job at his deathbed: “I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

“At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I now realise that all the recognition and wealth in which I took so much pride have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death. In darkness, I look at the green lights from life-supporting machines and hear humming mechanical sounds, and I can feel the breath of the god of death drawing closer…. Now I know when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…. The wealth that I have won in my life, I cannot now take with me. What I can take are only the memories precipitated by love…. Material things lost can be found, but there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – life. When a person goes into the operating room, he will realise that there is one book he has yet to finish reading –the book of healthy life….”

The conclusion of the matter is this: Wealth will mean nothing if it is not used in serving humanity, while the wealth builders would be wise to detach. And who says we cannot chop life small while doing that?

Shalom.

QUOTE

I have also discovered that those who have managed to live on after they are gone perfected the art of replicating themselves in others while they were alive and spending a large chunk of their resources blessing the less privileged and society as a whole. Mother Theresa poured herself into others. She has continued to live on. No street or monument was named after Jesus Christ, yet he has continued to live on.

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