Conversation, ideas and events for parents in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County

Since the time I was a child, I remember my father spouting off his mother's wise idioms. One in particular was, "Rich or poor, it's nice to have money."

Will money make you happy? Not necessarily, but certainly it can make things easier...bills, groceries, living in a nice neighborhood, better schools for your children, vacations that don't involve a tent and a $28-per-night campsite when you can't afford to take your kids to Disneyland.

According to an Austrian multi-millionaire, money hasn't made him happy and he's giving it all away...every dime is going to charities in Central and Latin America, according to a story in the London Telegraph.

He's liquidating everything from his business to his villa and all the toys he has purchased over the years. He's going to move into a small wooden hut. (I wonder if his family will follow him.)

Will being poor really make him happy?

But will that make him truly happy? He said he grew up having nothing and thought money would bring him happiness. I think it's great that he wants to help those less fortunate, but I also think he's in for a rude awakening. He should try living in California for a month without any money or income and see how happy he is.

It's wonderful that he wants to give everything away, but maybe he should be looking at the people around him and the way he leads his life rather than blaming "evil" money as the cause of his unhappiness.

Personally, I’d love to have a little extra cash padding my bank accounts. If I had as much as he does (rather, did), I know I could be happy giving money to charities while keeping enough to maintain a comfortable existence for my family and future generations.

Even when times are tough in my own family, I find some way of donating money or time to charities that need assistance; doing so makes me feel good about helping others who are worse off than I am. But I know I can’t give it all away. This Austrian man likely has medical coverage and whatever social services he requires in his country, whereas here in America, I know those same services would not be so forgiving.

So, if there are any millionaires out there who would like to give away their money for the sake of finding happiness, I’d be happy to accept your donations. I know how happy it would make my stressed out husband to see a few extra zeros at the end of that feeble number in our savings account. And I promise, if we aren’t happy after a year or two of no longer living hand to mouth on incomes that would allow people to live like kings in most other parts of our country, we’ll give it all away.

Read more of this Austrian's story, "Millionaire gives away fortune which made him miserable"

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Tags: charity, millionaire, millions, poor, rich


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Comment by rob on June 26, 2010 at 3:00pm
Oh, come on!! This guy is awesome! What a great story, thanks for posting! I hope there is a follow up too.

I think happiness takes work. Our brains tend to adapt to whatever situation we are in, so something that makes us happy right now, will tend to fade and be taken for granted. Our 'more is more' society reflects that. Toys that made us happy yesterday are replaced by newer ones, on and on. Better house, better car, better glider after glider (ha). Whats funny is that as we spend more effort and resources for the 'next thing', we often get fewer opportunities to experience happiness.

The conviction this guy demonstrates in his search for happiness is likely to be successful for him. Sure, could he find a way to be happy and keep his security and trappings of success, of course! But, what an awesomely brave soul to go 'all in' like that. I am rooting for him!
Comment by Crissi Langwell on February 11, 2010 at 1:37pm
I know. He'll probably give it all up, then make millions on the book deal as he documents it. (I love my tiny cramped apartment. I love my tiny, cramped apartment....)
Comment by Joelle Burnette on February 11, 2010 at 10:19am
Thanks for your comment.

Re: spiritual leaders...Gandhi, most definitely, but I can't say the same for the pope, TV evangelicals, etc.

I hope the paper updates his story in a year to see how he's doing. Oh, who am I kidding...I give him less than a month before he cries into the leather Gucci shoe he's trying to boil and eat because he gave away every penny and can't buy groceries. Of course, it's people like him who rise up after starting some new company to make more money than they ever dreamed possible.

Reminds me of an old Shirley MacLaine movie, "What a way to go!" Shirley's character keeps marrying guys who start out poor, but she loves them and that's all she wants -- to be happy. But then, each husband becomes rich before dying prematurely as result of their drive to be rich. They all leave her loads of cash, she tries to give it away to the IRS, but they think she's nuts and send her to a shrink. It's a great movie with a super cast...Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman and more.
Comment by Crissi Langwell on February 10, 2010 at 11:00pm
You are so right on. I guarantee that he will be just as miserable living in a hut with nothing as he is filthy rich with everything he ever dreamed of. Like you said, he should just tie up his money and try living like us regular folk before he gives everything away. And even more meaningful, I couldn't agree more with your statement on doing for others to create happiness. It's amazing what some time spent giving of yourself can do for your well being.

But then again, this is exactly what historical spiritual leaders have done to get closer to God - by ridding themselves of all their distractions.

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