My relationship with Richemont chairman Johann Rupert has been patchy – as tends to happen between journalists and those about whom they report. Rupert is at his absolute best, though, when passing on memorable chestnuts. Like his advice that the person who signs surety for another is a fool with a pen. That quip has saved me from some sticky situations. But what to do one level down – when an unreliable friend keeps badgering you for a loan? In this wonderfully crafted piece, entrepreneur, author and Coolfidence.com founder Ronnie Apteker (right) applies his mind to this and other prickly issues. And, using his unique brand of humour, delivers advice that’s as sound as Rupert’s on the subject most everyone hates taking about – our own money. – Alec Hogg
By Ronnie Apteker*
It has been said that money is the root of all evil. But then again, a man needs roots. And a woman too.
Does money make the world go round? Some have said so. Whatever the answer, money pays the bills, and it puts food on the table.
I have never had a love affair with money. I know quite a few people that have, and that’s cool. Whatever your relationship with money is, the one thing is constant: money gives us choice.
The thing about money is that we have all seen it bring out the best and the worst in people. Just go to a casino for an evening and watch people at the tables – their behaviour may shock you.
As George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “There is nothing like the prospect of a lot of money to fog otherwise intelligent minds.”
1. Money and friends
I once lent my best friend money. My mother and my father told me that I will lose my money and my friend. I told them that would never happen. My mom and dad got it right. They have been there. The more I listen the more I see that this happens to almost everyone. The amounts may differ, but the sad endings are all the same.
We all have that one friend that conveniently leaves their wallet at home when the bill arrives in a restaurant at the end of a meal. You know, that guy that searches in his pockets frantically and then has that coy look on his face, and lands up having no money on him, again. Yes, some people are simply tight when it comes to the dosh. But we take it on the chin.
What happens though when someone asks you to lend them money. This is never an easy situation. Perhaps you can’t afford to help them. Or perhaps you are dealing with your own pressures and just can’t handle anything more at the present time. Whatever the reason it is something one can’t just dismiss. Friends are there for each other, but, as we all have learned, when it comes to money and friends, it very rarely ends well. Yes, we all wish we could help everyone who needs it, but in reality we can’t.
Friends in business most often land up fighting. Perhaps because friends expect more from each other. When a bank loans a person money they are not doing it out of friendship. There is paperwork and checks and balances. And there is a business reason. That is how the bank generates its revenues. And if something goes wrong it could get serious and litigious. But, when a friend makes a mistake it generally gets emotional, and that never solves anything.
I have lost a few friends because of money. The money can be earned again, but the friendship is gone. If money was no object and you wanted to help everyone around you, then go wild. But, if you dealing with your own challenges and a friend asks you to give them some financial help then what do you do? Sometimes you do help, and sometimes you just don’t know how to respond.
A mentor friend told me once that the next time someone asks me to help them financially that I should do the following: Offer them 10% of the required amount as a gift. That way you don’t expect it back, and your trust and your friendship will be preserved. And if 9 other friends now help that person too, then everything will be in harmony. This sage life guidance has been put into practice a few times, and I have lost no further friends.
2. The best way to receive is to give
Another mentor of mine often reminds me that the best way to receive is to give. And then I have an old school friend that also tells me every passing week that you are as rich as you live. Having a generous spirit is another secret to life. People who are not tight look happier – that is my experience.
I love spoiling the people around me. I always try support those who are trying to do magical things in the world. Good energy is infectious, and I am drawn to people who follow their hearts. Putting your money where your mouth is comes naturally to many people. But, when someone asks you to lend them money, especially someone you don’t really know, then that puts you in a position. Yes, you may try to help them, but sometimes you just don’t feel compelled too. I don’t know why some people have money to spare, and some are struggling. But I do know that whatever the choice we make, we must always be respectful of others, and we should act gracefully. Don’t dismiss people who are needing help.
I do wish I could help everyone, but sometimes I battle just to help myself.
Money does indeed give us choice. And the big fundamental choice is whether to help others or not. I believe I do a lot to help many people, but I also wish I could do more. I don’t believe I am alone on this point.
We all know the expression that time is money, and sometimes giving people time is just as important.
3. Money and advice
There are many different scenarios when it comes to people and money. There are folk you have never met before, people in the office, your neighbours, friends of friends, and then there are the people you know and care about, and the people you admire and believe in. All of these have different influences on our behaviour. I have had total strangers asking me about investing in their venture, and that is easier to contemplate. If you like what they are doing, and if you believe and trust in the people, and of course, if you have the money, then perhaps you may choose to take a chance, and help them enable their dream. And perhaps everyone will win, and then, perhaps not. But that is about taking a chance and making an investment. If it works you have ultimately helped yourself.
My one mentor friend, who is a successful and wealthy man, and a prolific investor, told me that so many people contact him looking for capital. He gets countless requests for funding. Sometimes he does get inspired and sometimes he doesn’t. And sometimes you just want some downtime and no new stresses. When you give someone money there is always stress. Expectations, details, personalities – these all take up time and often they can create anxiety. He went on to say that he doesn’t often just invest money when people contact him. He did say that he gives them advice. I asked him, “When do you give them money?” “When they call for advice.” It was an inspired moment.
4. Don’t judge
People have all kinds of financial challenges. Some simply can’t make ends meet, some make bad decisions, and some have bad luck. There are of course all kinds of other possible situations, like gambling problems, etc. Whatever the situation is, if someone asks you to help them, do not judge them. Either say no with grace, or help them in any way you can, but don’t think you are better than them.
This is something I have learnt about people with money. It makes them act important. People with money are people with money – they may be important and they may not be. The point is, there is no data to suggest that people with money are important. Yes, having money comes with responsibility, and that really is about helping others, or not. We all have the choice to make.
5. Easy come, easy go
Respect can be compared to money. It comes from hard work. You have to earn respect, just like you have to earn money. Yes, some people win the lottery and some people simply get lucky. But most people work hard to earn a living. Some take risks and try and build businesses, and sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. Entrepreneurs take risks and I know many who have won and I know many who have not. The strong ones keep trying. And if they do make money, then, in my view, they earn it.
We have many other examples of people who don’t make, as much as they take, money. The world has become filled with “fat cats” who are raking in massive amounts for… hang on, I better not judge them. But I am sure you understand the message here.
The people that come into money easy, they also tend to squander it just as fast. And they also tend to judge everyone around them. In my experience, people who have worked hard, and earned their keep, well, those people always seem to be the most compassionate. Perhaps it is because many people helped them on their journey. And perhaps because they know what it means to struggle.
6. Money talks, but mine just says goodbye
There are so many courses and books on how to make money. On how to be more effective, how to be better, how to maximise. But I have not seen a university course on how to keep money. Making money and looking after money are two very different things. I have a lot of experience in working hard, and it has resulted in some successes and some losses. But, the one thing I have never learned is how to look after money.
Some people work hard and make a good living and still get into financial dilemmas. Taking care of one’s finances is not as easy as it sounds. People need all kinds of help. Some simply need help in looking after what they have.
Keep in mind, that we may also be the ones that need to get some financial help. The shoe is sometimes on the other foot. I have taken so many risks in my life and I have got into a bind a couple of times.
When it comes to money talk there is very often an uncomfortable feeling. This may be a good time to try break some ice and get a smile going. After all, as my mom says to me, “It’s only money.”
In that inspired film Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise will also be remembered for “Show me the money”. Money certainly gets people moving. It is never the easiest subject but we all need money to put food on our families, as George W. once said. Well, you know what I mean.. Money pays the bills. And sometimes those bills just get too much, and we need some help. I think this happens to most of us.
If you do ask someone for financial help remember these old wise words “Risk everything in life but your reputation”. Money and trust are closely linked, in my view. If you are going to get help from someone you know, then do the right thing, and pay it back. And, on the reverse, if you do help someone with money, be decent about it. Sympathy is a good quality. Don’t rub in the salt. Be fair and be cool.
- Ronnie Apteker is one of the three founders of Internet Solutions. His latest business endeavour is coolfidence.com – click here to see what it’s about.