Don’t Fall For Scams

Some years ago when I operated my own law firm, a client of mine (let’s call him Greedy Dude) asked for my counsel on a pending business deal. According to Greedy Dude, the deal was to happen like this: he would transfer $50,000 (USD) to a Nigerian bank account in the name of Nasty Shady Character (not the recipient’s real name, but you get my point). This money would be used to pay bribes to Seriously Bad Guys who would then release $40 million (USD) that belonged to Nasty Shady Character. Being ever so grateful for the release of funds, Nasty Shady Character would share the bounty and transfer $20 million (USD) to Greedy Dude.

I did my best to persuade Greedy Dude that he was being set up, scammed, tricked, conned, swindled. Call it what you will. I queried how Nasty Shady Character got hold of his name and contact information and why a stranger would so readily hand over a fortune to another stranger. I questioned the fact that he had never met with Nasty Shady Character, really knew nothing about him. I explained that Nigeria is notorious for these kinds of scams, so much so that they even have a name, the 419 scheme, in honor of the Nigerian criminal code anti-fraud section. I pointed out that there is zero assurance of the truth of what he’s being told and near certainty that the information fed to him is false. And I vehemently expressed my opinion that any and all money forwarded to Nasty Shady Character would be in vain. But I couldn’t break through. I was up against a formidable opponent: Greed.


Come On! People Actually Fall For These Schemes?

Here’s an email I received in my spam folder just the other day:

“Good Day Friend;

My name is Dr. Christopher Brown, A banker by Profession and Currently A Director of Finance Auditing and Accounting Unit in my Bank, Which the name will giving to you as soon as you respond for security reason.

I got your email address in my search for a reputable and reliable person to help me claim the sum of Fifteen Million Six Hundred Thousand United State Dollars ($15,600,000.00) Deposited in our Bank by one of our customer Eng. Mueller who die with his wife and two children on the 21Th day of April 2001 in car clash along Aflao express road.

Since his death no one has come up as his next of kin and all our efforts to locate any member of his family immediate family has prove Abortive that was why I decided to see if I can get anybody who has the same surname or last name with him via Internet preferably some one of the same nationality with him which I believe you have all the qualities we need.

Why I am contacting you is to present you to our bank as the next of Kin to the deceased customer. He was Drilling contractor with some Oil Companies here in west Africa. So it will be more acceptable and wiser to present you through paper work to the Bank for claim of the total fund.

I will give you all the necessary requirements that the bank may request from you and follow up the transfer of the fund into your account as an Insider. It will interest you to know that I and my partners has been keeping the account dormant to enable our plans for the funds to come through and this is the time and we are happy to locate you for the perfection of the transfer of the Fund into your nominated Bank Account to be given.

As soon as I get your positive response I will update you about the mode of disbursement and we will also need to know about investing in your Country as a way of helping your people who suppose are the original owner’s of this Fund, I suggest you get back to me as soon as possible through my confidential email ( stating your wish in this deal.”

The email is so absurd it’s comical. Who would fall for an email riddled with poor English, a preposterous story fitting for a third rate B-movie script, and a promise of millions from an unknown person because, hey, this is your lucky day? Well, here’s the sad part: Greedy Dude was not the only one to get reeled in.



How It All Plays Out

The U.S. Secret Service, the agency responsible for investigating this kind of fraud, estimates that Seriously Bad Guys gross several hundred million dollars annually from their evil game, known to law enforcement as an Advance Fee Fraud.

The typical scenario goes like this:


First contact is an unsolicited email, such as the one above, intended to tug at heartstrings and appeal to a sense of altruism. The email will be full of bizarrely polite language, a sob story, and promise of a huge payoff. The name on the email will be a government official, businessperson, doctor, or a surviving spouse of a former government bigwig in Nigeria or another country whose money is temporarily tied up.

Once the soon-to-be victim takes the bait and replies, a second email arrives offering to transfer big time dough into intended victim’s bank account IF intended victim pays fees or ‘taxes’, in the range of several thousand dollars, necessary to gain access to the money. In exchange, intended victim is promised a share of the fortune that inevitably originated from an unclaimed estate, dying Samaritan, corrupt executive, etc., etc.


Seriously Bad Guys are out to steal your money and/or identity. Never (this bears repeating), NEVER, will they send money to the victim. Instead, more and more emails will arrive, relentlessly asking for more and more money, accompanied by excuses as to why the transfer of funds to your account is delayed.


What The … Is Going On In Their Head?

Alright, so the vast majority of people who receive these emails junk them immediately. But there’s still a tiny percentage that take an interest. A small group of people who don’t see absurdity; instead, they see opportunity. And this opportunity is worth pursuing because the potential reward outweighs the risk. Owing to this sort of skewed, deluded and unfortunate perception, these people make for the ideal mark.

Here’s how David Maurer explained the mark’s mindset in his book, The Big Con:

“As the lust for large and easy profits is fanned into a hot flame, the mark puts all his scruples behind him.

He closes out his bank account, liquidates his property, borrows from his friends, embezzles from his employer or his clients.

In the mad frenzy of cheating someone else, he is unaware of the fact that he is the real victim, carefully selected and fatted for the kill. Thus arises the trite but nonetheless sage maxim:

‘You can’t cheat an honest man.’ ”


Keep Life Simple And Free And Honest

Giving the nod to that last line, honesty includes not letting greed take hold. The only reason the scam works is because the greed factor raises its ugly green head.

Enter Buddha

bmDo not allow Need to turn into Greed. Be grateful for what you have. Accept that More does Not equal Better. Know that what you have is Enough. And you will avoid Suffering.



Buy Substance, Not Image

Last week, my Apple MacBook gasped, wheezed, and hiccupped uncontrollably. Then there was silence. After more than eight years of devoted service, this was the machine’s way of saying goodbye. I said my thanks, expressed gratitude, and made arrangements for its various parts to be recycled. Moments later I was online at the Apple Store purchasing a replacement, a new MacBook Air.

And I didn’t think twice about shelling out a fair bit of dough for another pricey Apple laptop. Because the brand has earned my trust. Not owing to superficial matters such as the ‘cool, hip, styyyyllllish factor’, slick marketing or product packaging. But because my experience with Apple products has led me to associate the brand with superior quality, durability, reliability, and ease of use.


Brand Power

Branding is important. It sells an image. From a consumer’s perspective, the brand communicates what the organization is all about. And it speaks to more than the utilitarian function or benefits of a particular product or service; it’s also intended to speak directly to each consumer, to make each consumer feel special, to tap into our emotional network for the purpose of bonding consumer with brand thus giving birth to Loyal, Repeat, Profitable Consumer.

If this seems part science fiction, part Dr. Evil (cue Mike Myers), well … welcome to the mercenary underbelly of marketing (cue sinister laugh of Vincent Price – have a listen, and a laugh of your own, @


Okay, maniacal chuckles aside, it’s time for a real life example: Nike (NYSE:NKE). The shoe manufacture of sizeable fame and fortune that takes its name from the Greek goddess of Victory.

The corporation that became known as the ‘Just Do It’ brand. And in bringing to life one of the most successful slogans ever, Nike knocked the socks off the advertising world. More importantly from a shareholder’s perspective, they gained millions of new, faithful, true believer customers, enabling them to sprint miles ahead of the competition.

Why has ‘Just Do It’ been so successful? Well, even though their primary product back in 1988, when the slogan first aired, was shoes, Nike didn’t position themselves as shoe sellers. Instead, Nike was selling courage.

Here’s what I mean: the slogan speaks to laziness. To varying degrees, happens to everyone, right? We get lazy. And laziness is our foe. That’s where magic shoes come to the rescue, shoes marked with a simple swoosh, shoes ushered into the public consciousness with a battle cry, shoes urging you to wrestle with your inner sloth, shoes beseeching you to suck it up, get off the couch and DO IT!

Do whatever it is that’s necessary to reach your goals, be they business or personal. And know that when you DO IT, when you engage in hard work and personal sacrifice, when you roar like a lion (or a highly paid athlete) you empower your self.

For close to thirty years, the Just Do It message has resonated with huge numbers of consumers worldwide and facilitated Nike’s continuing success.


Whatever You Do, Don’t Identify With A Brand

That’s all well and good for Nike. But what about the consumer? Is it in the consumer’s best interest to attach them self to a brand? To be hypnotized by a swoosh? To believe that one kind of shoe or computer or car or anything else being sold in our hyper-competitive commercial markets is better or awesome or desirable simply because of a logo or a slogan or an all too common celebrity endorsement for those companies lacking the oomph! of a Nike slogan?

Frankly, it’s delusional on the part of the consumer to think this way. To think that marketing campaigns are anything but surface bluster, hype and showmanship the sole purpose of which is to stimulate sales, NOT to accurately reflect quality or value. Or to think that celebrity endorsements have any substantive value whatsoever when it comes to the worth of a product.

Ahhh, but mine appears to be a lonely voice in the wilderness (said with an Irish lilt).

Because brands, together with marketing campaigns, are powerful. Moreso because consumers want to believe the fanciful imagery being sold.

They want to believe that slipping into a pair of new Nike shoes will let them soar like Michael Jordan or slice and dice a tennis ball like Roger Federer. Consumers want to believe that dabbing on Chanel No. 5 will increase their sex appeal because Nicole Kidman is paid $4 million/year to shill for the perfume. Or sipping Nespresso, owned by Nestle (OTCMKTS:NSRGY), the $275 million consumer products giant, is fashionable therefore desirable because George Clooney takes home $5 million/year for being its poster boy.

Fascinating really. Actors, athletes … celebrities of all stripes, are people hired by for-profit organizations to capitalize on their ‘star’ power, to seduce wide eyed consumers. Consumers who spend too much money, sometimes more than they can afford, sometimes taking on destructive debt, sometimes losing or misplacing their sense of self, as a result of buying into the celebrity brand.

Why, is the question someone as naïve as myself asks? Why does the magnetic celebrity pull exist? Is it because the consumer wants to feel like the celebrity? Is it because the consumer admires the celebrity’s image (because that’s all the public is privy to – an image), and feels connected to the celebrity when wearing clothes or perfume that the celebrity endorses? And this makes consumer feel better about them self?

Hmmm. This is what I’m going with: bewitched consumers, having fallen prey to the misguided notion that in buying a product they are connecting with the ‘star’, feel a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and all around feel good.

An accurate understanding or not, what’s more important is for consumer to ask: what is the benefit, and what is the cost of my expenditure?


Who Do You Trust With Your Life Savings?

Financial institutions do their own form of branding.

Wealthsimple, one of the larger independent American Robo-Advisory companies, recently circulated a money focused article apparently written for them by Kevin Bacon, the actor ( All I can say to this is that Bacon may not want to give up his day job.

Why would Wealthsimple want an actor to write an article about money? Straight up, they’re banking on his status to attract new customers.

Colonial Penn, an insurance company, uses Alex Trebek as their spokesperson. And why not? He has hosted the most popular television game show ever, Jeopardy, for more than 30 years. So, clearly he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to insurance products. Okay, sarcasm aside, Trebek is an excellent front man. Widely recognizable name, calm presence, pleasant on stage personality; everything about Trebek says he’s a perfect fit for a staid industry.

But does this mean you should do business with Colonial Penn? I really don’t know. Because I haven’t researched the company. That said, there’s no way I would make a decision based on a T.V. personality pitching their products. Because it makes zero impression on me, the fact that someone who earns their living playing someone who they’re not on an entertainment show is now their public salesman (because that’s what actors do, they play, and as they play, they sell an image void of authenticity; and this is what earns the public’s trust, an inauthentic image, and the more the public fawns over the image, the more the actor is paid for their role, the more this reinforces the actor’s inherent narcissism … and the public continues to buy in???).

What matters is substance, not image. If Colonial Penn, or any other company for that matter, backs up image with substance, then it’s all good. Apple backs up image with substance, with quality and value. So does Nike. As do some other companies.

For the sake of your wealth, whether your buying products or services, financial or otherwise, ignore the show, the glitz, the imagery intended to sucker you in. Instead, dig deep into the notion of value, fully understand costs and benefits before making the call or clicking ‘purchase’.

I mean, we’re all consumers of one sort or another. And in the consumer role, it’s always to our advantage to be fully informed.

Power to Robo-Advisors

The word is that Robo-Advisors are good for your financial health. Why? Because they offer similar services as the human kind of financial advisor at lower cost. If you’re paying less in management fees, your returns are higher, your portfolio fatter. That’s the dominant sales pitch. And with the nascent industry growing from $16 billion (USD) under management in 2014 to more than $160 billion today, there’s reason to stop and look at what a Robo-Advisor may do for you.


Financial Giants Muscling Into The Game

As retail investors flock to Robo-Advisors (i.e., software programs using mathematical algorithms to generate investment advice and manage your portfolio), pioneers like Wealthfront and Betterment must now compete against big boys such as Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard Group, and Fidelity Investments.

And the bandwagon keeps growing. Bank of America activated Merrill Edge Guided Investing earlier this year, Morgan Stanley announced that they’ll be launching Morgan Stanley Access Investing in the fall, 2017, and Goldman Sachs is gearing up to introduce its own Robo-Advisory services.

In Canada, several independent firms (i.e., WealthSimple, QuestTrade Portfolio IQ) offer Robo-advisory services with Bank of Montreal being the only bank having a firm foothold. With momentum and money on the side of robots, it would be surprising if Canada’s other big banks didn’t roll out their own Robo-Advisor in the next year to secure their slice of this particular money pie.


How Does It Work, This Robo-Advisor Thing?

Robo-advisors are a third option for investing; doing it your self and full service financial advisory services being the other two options.

Robo-advisors are convenient (24/7 online access) and more accessible and affordable than hiring a financial advisor (you often need a minimum of $100,000-$250,000 to retain the services of a financial advisor; as for Robo-advisors, some do not require a minimum balance to open an account, others are as low as $500).

Depending on the specific Robo-advisor, they offer different degrees of automation: fully automated or a hybrid set up offering access to old fashioned humans for an additional fee.

Either way, getting started involves you answering some questions about your age, assets, financial goals, risk tolerance, investing time horizon, etc. Moments later, computer algorithms propose a cookie cutter portfolio most suitable to you.

Available investments typically include a range of exchange traded index funds. The software continually monitors your portfolio and periodically buys and sells to maintain your stated risk tolerance and financial goals.


Hype or Substance?

Despite impressive growth of Robo-Advisors in a relatively short period of time, $160 billion is no more than a few drops in a financial industry bucket worth somewhere around $20 Trillion. Still, this niche is expected to continue growing thus more players entering the market.

So … should you bite?

That depends.

  • If you have less than, say, $100,000 for investing, and you want some guidance, then definitely give it a go.
  • If you prefer interfacing with computers rather than humans, again, Robo-Advisors are for you.
  • If you’re currently working with a financial advisor and are not entirely satisfied with the value they bring to the table, then consider opening a Robo-Advisor account to see if it better suits your needs (this may include intangibles other than fees such as guiding you on debt reduction issues, divorce, house purchase, loans, estate planning, and any other financial issues not directly related to investing).

Well, what if your advisor places you in passive funds? They’re still charging you 1 or 2 points. Why pay high fees when an effective Robo-advisor portfolio may be built for less than half the cost?

  • Back to value, let’s give a little more space to fees.

Depending on your robot of choice, we’re talking management fees in the neighborhood of 0.25 – 0.50% for a Robo-Advisor.

Compare this to financial advisors of the human variety who typically charge between 1.0 – 2.0%.

Seems like a small difference in fees? It’s not. Fees matter.

Consider a simple example: your portfolio is worth $500,000. Fees are 2%. Total fees for the year equals $10,000. For simple illustration purposes, if your portfolio remains at $500,000 for 30 years, that’s $300,000 in fees paid. Compare that to 0.5% fees that results in annual fees of $2,500. After 30 years, the final tally is $75,000. Either way, that’s a whole lot of dough toward fees but the 75k is much more palatable than 300k.

Of course, you could slash fees even more by avoiding both humans and robots. Instead, open a discount brokerage account, buy exchange traded index funds, and pay the $5-$10 transaction cost for each buy and sell.

But … what if you’re not the do-it-yourself type when it comes to investments? What if you don’t have the time, knowledge or inclination to manage your investments solo?

Well, then a Robo-advisor would be your next best choice.







The Rabbi, The Monk, The Money

I know, the headline sounds like the beginning of a well-worn joke or a film title that’s trying too hard to be irreverent. But here’s the thing: this post is really about a Rabbi, a Monk, and Money, as odd as the title may seem. Then again, this is BuddhaMoney. And we’re known to sprinkle spirituality into the money mix, you know, for the sake of leading you toward a balanced, fulfilled life. Because, hey, this is who we are and what we do.

Digging deeper than the snappy title, this post is about whom you choose as a financial advisor, mortgage broker, or anyone else hired to care for money related aspects of life.

That said, it’s not that you need to choose folks of the cloth for financial guidance. And, anyway, it’s not like there’s a whole lot of spiritual gurus out there who double as profit seeking money experts. But there are some. Or a few, anyway. Um, well, let’s say four that I’ve come across. Still, regardless of scarce availability of sage-turned-crackerjack-financial-pro, we can learn from the ones who do exist.


Does Money Matter? Oy! Do You Really Need To Ask Such a Question?

There’s this guy named David Frankel. Frankel works as a mortgage broker in Philadelphia. His previous gig included, among other responsibilities, officiating at weddings and bar mitzvahs as a Rabbi.

Like other quality mortgage brokers, Frankel knows the ins and outs of mortgage related issues. And he surely does his best to secure the lowest possible rate on terms most favorable to clients.

Okay, sooooo … what differentiates Frankel from competitors? Given that there are other quality brokers out there, what makes Frankel a guy you want to hire? Does his rabbinical knowledge and experience translate to a business edge?

Lets answer this by turning back the clock to the middle / late aughts. Remember 2007-2009, when the financial world imploded? And the building blocks for the economy busting meltdown were constructed with unsavory, immoral, dishonest (I’m being kind here) people and institutions intent on making a buck for them self any which way they could?

There was something missing from these kind of people, the kind who didn’t think twice about taking part in the Get-It-While-You-Can-Get-It-While-Its-Hot festival of selfishness and greed. What was missing? How about a crazy little thing called Integrity.

And this is Frankel’s edge. Integrity. In an industry where self worth is measured by net worth, this is where Frankel, and others (spiritually learned or not) with equal parts Integrity excel. These are the kind of people who stitch together the fabric of society. These are the kind of people, truthful people, who you want to hire for money matters.



In the mortgage business, people like this do not try to provide you with the largest mortgage possible (so the lender may make more money) nor an elephant size Home Line of Credit (so you may be tempted to borrow more against the equity in your home thereby increasing your debt so, again, the lender may make more money). Instead, their purpose is to provide you with nothing more than a mortgage that suits your needs and fits your financial circumstances.

And before rushing through paperwork and sending a bucket of money your way, they patiently learn your needs through asking questions. And listening. And caring. And encouraging you to consider what a home means to you, what money means to you. And when all is said and done, the person with Integrity is just as satisfied with a fair transactional profit as they are with knowing that you, their client, is equally satisfied.

Frankel, and people like him, are the kind of people you want to deal with. Genuine people whose actions are guided by honesty, compassion and a sense of fair play. Guided by a crazy little thing called Integrity.

 Chewy Bit

For a riveting ride inside the minds that cratered Main Street and Wall Street, read The Big Short. It’s a movie too but the book offers way more detail and is equally fascinating.

Suffering Prevention Specialist

The basis of some religious teachings is something along the lines of … ‘suffering exists; we will teach you how to overcome suffering.’

Doug Lynam, former Benedictine Monk, current Financial Advisor, sees himself as a Suffering Prevention Specialist. (Gotta love the job description!) Like Frankel, Lynam truly cares about his clients, saying that his work “requires all of my mind, heart, and devotion”.

Specifically, he’s focused his efforts toward reducing suffering among schools and their employees. Seems that there have been too many schools farming out employee retirement plans to incompetent, or even negligent, money managers. The result being the blowing up of later in life dreams through depletion of pension assets.

Lynam’s response? Instead of smoke billowing out his ears or filing a frenzy of lawsuits, Lynam calmly steps up and takes action by devoting him self to helping schools build more effective retirement plans. Because it wouldn’t be enough to only sympathize with the plight of those who have suffered financial wrongdoing. The sympathy, the compassion, has to be combined with mindful action that helps people.

And together with other caring people working at LongView Asset Management (including a Hindu Nun and a Buddhist Chaplain), Lynam takes action not only through constructing and implementing sound financial plans. He also walks the extra mile for clients … because that’s who he is.

In this sense, Lynam helps people work through other issues loosely related to finances:

“Perhaps one of the cardinal sins that I see the most, though it’s not a popular one to talk about, is sloth.

Some people are afraid but also a little lazy, and they don’t really want to do the hard work of facing their mistakes or lack of organization and knowledge on these subjects and take responsibility.”

Here, Lynam recognizes the life challenges and difficulties people experience. And he does what he can to educate, guide, and help people alleviate their suffering.

Well, I wouldn’t be going out on a limb here in saying that Lynam is certainly not your typical financial advisor. But he is the kind of financial advisor from whom most everyone would benefit.


Integrity Is Available For All

Like I said earlier, there aren’t a whole lot of spiritual gurus out there who double as money experts. But there are others plying their trade in the financial industry whose principled, stand up values inform their work and their approach to business relations. These are the kind of people you want to do business with; people who show by their words AND actions that they care about you and your family. People with Integrity.


Imprinting Generosity On Kids

You know the saying that goes something like, ‘they have so much money they don’t know what to do with it’? I’ve come across folks like this. Folks who are wealthy, who have more money than they’ll ever need, and who are at a loss as to what to do with their good fortune.

Invariably, these people pose the same confused question: ‘what’s the point of having money just sit there? If I have it I should spend it, I should buy stuff, right?’

When I come across this sort of self-indulgent, inward focused, Me, Me, Me thinking, my insides instinctively seize up, judgment floods my airways, and my tongue prepares to peel a strip or two off this kind of attitude.

But before saying anything, I calm myself. I breathe deeply. And I remind myself that everyone is on their own life path, and it’s not for me to TELL someone about the benefits of adopting a generous mindset.

bmEnter Buddha

The practice of generosity liberates you from feelings

of separateness or alienation.

Measuring Wealth

Instead of trying to direct someone’s behaviour, I tell them stories in an attempt to lead them to water.

The first story is about Bill Gates, Microsoft founder (NASDAQ:MSFT), the man with the most money in our world. Not only preposterously rich in monetary terms but also spiritually rich, here’s what Gates says:

“Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organization and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”

With Gates and his wife having established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization that recognizes the equal worth of all lives, helps people and communities lift themselves out of hunger and poverty, combats infectious diseases, and devotes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to supporting the Foundation’s objectives, his words are far from empty.

The second story involves my two eldest kids, The Teenagers. They have had the good fortune to learn about, and participate in, the WE MOVEMENT, a phenomenal organization that is all about giving back.

Here’s a few highlights of WE taken from their website:

  • WE is a movement that exists for one reason: to make the world a better place.
  • Anyone can make a difference and there are myriad ways to participate both through giving back and our daily choices.
  • We are defined by our daily efforts; small things add up to great change.
  • Our lives take on a deeper, transformative meaning when we impact the lives of others.
  • We believe in giving of ourselves to help raise a compassionate future generation that looks for any opportunity to make a difference.

In relating these stories, my hope is that the Don’t-Know-What-To-Do-With-My-Money-Crowd will at least ponder why some people choose to give back. And consider the possibility that their heart may just smile and go thumpity thump thump simply by shifting their focus, if ever so slightly, away from ME and toward sharing with others less fortunate, impacting their lives in a positive way.

Because the point of having surplus money is not just to hoard it or spend it on stuff for your self. Far from contributing to your personal happiness and sense of well being, clinging to money, allowing money to possess you, makes you miserable.

Giving, however, is what contributes to a sense of fulfillment. Giving is what makes you wealthy.

This from Anne Frank, the young girl with the wise philosopher soul:

“No one has ever became poor by giving.”



Giving The Gift of Generosity To Kids

My kids love receiving gifts. Six months before their birthday, I’m being told what’s on their wish list. Often, I respond by rolling my eyes, and issuing a reminder that I’m open to receiving b-day lists no sooner than one month before the magical date.

But, wow, I think to myself, they get so excited! The anticipation, the mystery, the fact that people are giving you stuff that you’ll probably like a lot and use for at least one week … it’s all heady stuff for a kid.

That said, the two teenage creatures in our home seem to be evolving. Having passed the halfway mark of their second decade, they’re no longer kids in many ways.

And while they still enjoy receiving gifts, they now understand the joy of giving too. They understand the satisfaction that comes with watching someone receive your gift and express true appreciation for your thoughtfulness. They understand that Giving is the Gift they give to them self as much as to the other person, one that is worth so much more than money or stuff.

Most of us get to this place sooner or later, the one where we get that we’re wired to help, support, and give to others. It’s part of feeling connected, acknowledging that we’re social animals, that we’re at peace when we show love and care for others, that giving is as essential to our well being, if not moreso, as receiving. It’s our natural disposition, our fulfilled state of being. And when we inhabit this state, we feel good, knowing we’re making a positive difference.


Why Should I Be Generous?

I’ve taken my kids to several birthday parties where parents of the birthday girl/boy send an invitation asking for a small donation, say $1 or $2, and no other gift. And I’ve done the same with my kids. I get it. I mean, some kids have enough stuff. And parent thinking is that this is an opportunity to teach the kid about giving to those less fortunate. So parents take the donations and, together with the kid, decide upon a charity worthy of donation.

It’s the rare kid who doesn’t see this type of parental scheme as nothing short of diabolical. Sure, the kid hears what the parent is saying but the will, the desire, to forego a truckload of cool toys just isn’t there. And that’s fine because Lily or Lenny is still a kid and the Giving Gene hasn’t yet been activated.

Still, how can you be sure that Lily or Lenny won’t want toys all to them self for their entire life time? How do you make sure that the giving gene is activated one day, and that children, teens, and late blooming adults eventually understand that generosity is a good thing for them self and for others?

  1. Make Giving Personal. Tell them your story. Tell them how you or family members were given a hand up.

Maybe you received a student loan from the government or a generous aunt and these funds allowed you to attend university, graduate with a degree, get a well paying job and now provide for your family.

Maybe you had a grandparent who risked leaving their home country to settle in the USA or Canada, and their doing so meant that you grew up in a political system supporting rights and freedoms, and providing opportunities.

Maybe your mother was struck with breast cancer, survived owing to a skilled physician working in an advanced medical system, and as a result you grew up with two caring parents instead of only one.

There are countless ways, small and large, in which we’ve been helped by others. The thing is, no one gets to where they are without someone setting the foundation for you, without someone helping you or your family or friends along the way. So tell your kids all of your stories, over and over again because what you say and do matters, specifically in terms of imparting the value of generosity.

  1. Give Together. Your kids may not know how they want to give back or what they want to give. So take this journey together.

Consider different forms of assistance such as charitable giving, being a friend to a recently arrived immigrant family, or volunteering at the local Alzheimer’s Foundation because a family member was stricken with the disease.

Whatever cause you choose is not as important as joining your kids on their giving journey, sharing your enthusiasm, and displaying your own sense of generosity. Because awakening their own sense of generosity would likely be your finest gift ever.

  1. Giving Circles. Charitable giving circles involve a group of people pooling assets and then deciding how, and to whom, to give those assets.

In my family, we have five people in our circle, including my kids and spouse. And each year we make a collective decision about which charities to support financially and which causes will receive our time and energy.

This year we’ve spoken to several friends, inviting them to join the circle. Without pressuring them (because giving is best when it comes from the heart not because you feel pressured by family, friends, culture, religion, etc.), we’ve received positive replies from seven people.

And we’re excited about this larger circle that’s being created. Because with more people sharing of them self to make an impact on other lives, with more giving, and more generosity, we all feel better.

And like the WE Movement says, giving paves the way for our lives to take on a deeper, transformative, more satisfying meaning when we positively impact the lives of others. And it’s really, kinda amazing that our kids our learning the value of giving, the value of compassion, and in the process making themselves as rich as they could possibly be.





Optimists Make More Money

Several years ago, believers in the ‘Peak Oil’ theory prophesized that our world had reached the height of oil extraction. Moving forward, they said, oil extraction was doomed to permanent decline before eventually ceasing altogether.

A friend of mine (“Squawker”) was an unwavering proponent of the theory. He was bug eyed passionate about telling all who would listen that when oil supplies get squeezed way, way tighter than the early 1970s oil embargo, our economy and lifestyle will spiral down. And the only thing you’ll be able to count on will be the fact that imminent disaster is just a matter of time.

You see, said Squawker, once oil prices skyrocket, transportation costs will be prohibitive. This will translate to an exorbitant rise in the price of food, since food cost is closely tied to oil cost.

And the next domino to fall will be the suburbs, which will transform into ghost towns. Because extraordinary fuel costs will essentially shut down individual commuting and public transportation. Biblical proportion exodus from nationwide suburbs will lead to higher and higher density and massive congestion (we’re talking Hong Kong style density multiplied by 100) in urban centers convenient for walking and cycling to work.

Squawker Does Not Come Home To Roost

Of course, Squawker was wrong. He was also wrong about impending Armageddon resulting from the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And he was wrong about returning to the gold standard and consequent end of paper money’s reign owing to perceived incompetence and self-interest of central banks worldwide.

I could go on but the point is not to flog Squawker. He’s a good person, smart guy, big heart. And as much as I shrink from labeling anyone, from boxing anyone in with a fixed, unchangeable trait, more often than not Squawker sees life’s glass as half empty.

 Enter Buddha


Your mind belongs to you. Your perspective belongs to you. You may always choose what you see, and the way in which you see life.

Here’s the thing about pessimism: it rests on the notion of a perceived problem, or even crisis, that cannot be solved. Pessimism says that once we enter economic recession, especially a once-in-a-many-generations-shock-shiver-and-quake-in-your-boots-to-the-financial-system-set-back, you may as well drop the curtain and cut the lights because the party’s over. Pessimism says human ingenuity and capacity for problem solving is limited and finite. Pessimism says that never before seen difficulties, puzzles, and complications cannot be solved so it’s best to run and hide.

Optimists Rock

Optimists have another take. And Optimists, thankfully, dominate our scientific, engineering and business world, especially those in the following countries: South Korea, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and the USA. These six countries sit atop the Innovation List.

And individuals resident in these six countries are positively changing the way we live, empowering more and more global citizens through inventions that solve humanity’s problems and raise our standard of living.

Of course, residents of other countries contribute too, but I’d hazard a guess that there’s something about the culture of the six leading countries that encourages and cultivates an outsized share of Optimistic Thinkers and Do-ers.

Moreso than other countries, there’s something in the air or the water or the general rights and freedoms given to people in these six countries that facilitates determination, resilience, perseverance, strength, motivation, enthusiasm and flexibility, all traits common to the glass half full folks.

Unlike Pessimists, Optimists are fond of saying, hey, we sure would prefer to see human and economic development advance on a straight line up. But we’re realists too, and we know that just isn’t going to happen. We know that there are, and will continue to be, hiccups along the way. Two steps forward, one step back, and all that jazz.

And when the step back happens, we don’t freeze up, we don’t wallow and moan and hunker down with a multi-year supply of food, water, guns, and a mind wracked with fear. Nahhhhh! Optimists recognize the step back for what it is, knowing forward movement will soon resume.

As for us folks in the investment game, we know that the step back in the form of economic recession or a particular, fundamentally sound, company falling off the revenue/profit rails for a short time period presents prime opportunity to buy top quality shares on the cheap, paving the way for juicy long-term gains.

Enter Buddha


The Pessimist complains about the wind. The Optimist expects it to change and adjusts her sails.

Optimism Leads to Success

Some folks attribute Warren Buffet’s unrelenting optimism to the fact that he’s the most successful investor ever and, for those keeping score, the third richest dude on this planet.

But here’s what Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and numero uno on the global rich list, says about his friend Warren:

“Warren’s success didn’t create his optimism; his optimism led to his success. Because optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better.”

One research study after another has shown that optimism favorably impacts success of any endeavor. Because those who are optimistic, those who are able to envision a brighter tomorrow, are resilient and don’t hesitate to dust them self off after falling down, again and again and again.

What exactly are the ingredients stirred into the optimist’s mix? Dr. Susan Kobasa (1982) found that ‘resilient’ folks have certain characteristics that contribute to their constructive, positive perceptions:

  • Curious.
  • Accept that change is part of life.
  • Accept that change is essential for growth.
  • Believe in them self; believe that they make a difference and influence change by what they imagine, say, and do.
  • Are intent on making their life experiences meaningful and interesting.


Looking On The Bright Side

Our brain works kind of like a muscle. Work it, and it grows stronger. Keep it idle, and it atrophies.

Our mental perspective operates in the same way. Grooves for cynical, pessimistic thought are dug deeper, little by little, each time such a thought takes root in your headspace. And if pessimism dominates thinking for an extended period of time, well, that’s going to result in an awfully deep hole, one that will detrimentally color your views on life, including investing and money management. Unfortunately pessimists often seek company from other pessimists, people who think like them, thus reinforcing the dark loop. And the longer the loop persists, the tougher it is to find an exit.

Looking on the bright side comes naturally to some; others have to work hard for it. Take Thomas Edison. Apparently, he ‘failed’ close to 1,000 times before perfecting the light bulb. And he had many other ‘failed’ inventions. Here’s a glimpse into Edison’s mindset:

“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Getting back to Squawker. In 2008, he sold all of his stock market investments at a loss. Then he bought gold bars. And to this day, he holds the gold and hasn’t returned to the stock market. A stock market (let’s use the Dow Jones Industrial Average here) that has gone from a low point of about 6500 to today’s close above 21,000. A gain of about 325%. Easy pickings if he’d just stayed in a DJIA based passive index fund; if he just stayed invested in equities, which is a bet on the global economy, a bet on human resilience and innovation, instead of letting fear lead him astray, to the detriment of his personal finances.

Life, finances, investing … it’s sooooo much about perspective. And perspective is a choice you can make each and every day.

Enter Buddha


The Optimist believes they are living in the best of all possible worlds. The Pessimist fears this may be true.





You Can Have It All

I’m of the view that I can learn from anyone. In this sense, we are all each other’s teacher.

As for money matters, sure, I know a fair bit about finance and investing. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m done with learning more. Because when it comes to learning, less is NOT more. Nope. More is more. And my plan is to keep on thirsting for knowledge, to continue growing, until my departure date from this planet we call home.



If You Want It, Here It Is, You Can Have It

My 17-year old son tells me that he’s terrible at managing money.

My 26-year old niece says she doesn’t even know where to start when it comes to investing.

My 42-year old friend complains about mortgage debt and making ends meet.

My 47-year old friend fears for his financial future, knowing he has contributed way too little to his retirement account yet remains unwilling to reduce borrowing and spending.

My 59-year old relative, who has crazy long longevity in her family, plans to continue working into her 80s despite a decent sized nest egg because she’s concerned she’ll run out of money before she runs out of breath.

My 81-year old Uncle, who lost any sense of purpose after his wife passed way, does little with his days but review his substantial investment accounts, the size of which seems to be the only support for his sense of self.

Whew! Not a content bunch, at least on the financial front. And these are some of the folks I learn from, with my primary takeaway being this: freedom is often a perspective, an outlook. And this includes financial freedom.

Because, the thing is, if you want financial freedom, you can have it. But not in the conventional way of thinking, i.e., not by earning or inheriting a gazillion dollars. Rather, through adjusting your relationship to money, by empowering your self through learning about money matters, by tweaking the way you manage money, this is how you achieve financial freedom.


Money Troubles: Two Sources

1. I Want It!

When did so many of us so-called adults revert to an adolescent mindset? A sense of entitlement, a demanding, impulsive neediness to have what we want when we want it?

A long, long time ago (say, when Elvis first popularized hip gyrations), credit was virtually non-existent. So if you didn’t have the money to buy stuff, well, you didn’t buy it.

The obvious upside of this sort of system was no debt. The perceived downside was you either didn’t get stuff or your possession of stuff was delayed until you could save enough dough.

Then along came credit. And people feeling it was their ‘born in America right’ to possess material things that they cannot afford. And lenders, in business for the purpose of earning bucks from lending, were all too happy to lend.

As for the deep dark debt holes being dug by Ms. and Mr. Consumer, well, that was the lender’s business only if they didn’t get repaid. Otherwise,  Consumer would bear the burden and the strain and the stress of debt.

And why shouldn’t they? I mean, presuming Consumer is of the age of majority, presuming Consumer has been wearing big boy / big girl pants for some time, isn’t it Consumer’s responsibility to manage their finances?

It’s not like Consumer is being forced to borrow money, to max out several credit cards, to finance a luxury car or take out a McMansion home mortgage. So in the end, if Consumer is voluntarily taking on debt, then Consumer alone is responsible for that debt, and all its attendant headaches.

… Stop Wanting! 

You know a simple, entirely effective way to eliminate debt, to prevent that pulsating ulcer from ever happening?

For the single purpose of your financial health and resulting freedom, turn the clock back to the 1950s. Pretend credit does not exist. Pay all cash for each and every purchase, whenever possible, except for your home. And even then, borrow only the absolute minimum. And be certain you can and will repay the mortgage within the contractually agreed upon timeframe.

And recognize that not having the money means you cannot afford the purchase. And that’s okay. There’s no need to keep up with the Jones because the Jones are dead. This is 2017, not 1950. Once you stop wanting what you cannot afford, an amazing thing happens. The leaky boat that is your financial house soon repairs itself. Clouds disperse revealing blue sky, sunshine, and calm waters. Your sense of freedom expands, and life is good.

2. Greed Sucks

You can’t have it all and pay for it later. Thinking otherwise defines greed. Inherently, greed is destructive. It will mess with your moral compass. Blow up relationships. Leave you empty.

So how do you quiet your wants so they’re reasonable and not obsessively focused on Self?

Give some away. Really. Giving away money or possessions has the effect of taming the greed monster. In effect, you become more of a Giver, rather than a Taker. And once you start down the Giving path, here’s what happens:

  • Compassion. Prioritizing the needs of others ahead of your own wants not only reduces selfish desire, but also contributes to you seeing how much you already have, and caring for others.
  • Generosity. When you realize how fortunate you are to have what you have, in terms of the people in your life and material goods, then you become grateful. The natural outflow of a heart filled with gratitude is generosity. Generosity subdues greed. And inner peace and contentment then thrive.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it your self; see what happens. And if you’re so inclined, you might want to think about the following:

  • Regular Giving. Determine how much money, stuff and/or time you will give away, and when you will make your gifts, i.e., monthly, annually, etc.
  • Others First. Give to others before giving to your self.
  • Plan. Take time to devise a thoughtful giving plan.
  • Voluntary. Giving comes from inside you, not from social pressure. Be driven by issues close to your heart, issues that engage and excite you, whatever those may be.
  • Happy. Generosity brings happiness to you and the recipient just as surely as miserliness brings misery.

Yours For The Taking

All those people I mentioned in the second paragraph, if they take on the perspective that learning is a never-ending process, and if they are patient and kind to them self, then financial freedom is waiting for them. Because through giving to others and our Self, we’re all allowed to take freedom and feel good about it.









Cars Are Terrible Investments

Here’s what one journalist wrote about Tesla cars: ‘Tesla fans are crazy advocates. They attach deep emotional significance to the car. They’re not just paying for a mode of transportation, they’re paying for a slice of the future.’

Yup. There’s a whole lot of wildly passionate car lovers out there. People whose emotions drive them to buy a cool, fast or stylish car. People who see their car as a reflection of them self, an object that reinforces their self-image. People who want a visible status symbol broadcasting to others that they’ve arrived, have dough, care about the environment, or lean left or right in the political sense.

Then there are the folks who don’t get caught up in the hype. These people don’t quite understand why others form an emotional bond to a 4,000-pound hunk of steel, aluminum, glass and rubber.

They see cars as utilitarian objects, the purpose of which is to efficiently transport you from A to B, from home to the office, school, the grocery store, kids soccer games. And just like the dreamy car lovers, the emotionally-detached-from-cars types let the world know who they are through choosing a car based on safety ratings, fuel efficiency, and price.

Still, no matter who you are or what your reason is for owning a car, be it a luxury or economy model, cars are terrible, horrible, no good investments.


Virtually Guaranteed To Lose Money

Question: Name an investment that loses 25% of its value immediately upon purchase, and even more value down the road?

Answer: Your Car.

As soon as you sign the transfer papers for that $30,000 car, its resale value drops about $7,500. Because a car is what’s known as a depreciating asset, meaning it loses big value, fast. Own a collector’s classic that has held or exceeded its original sticker price? That’s all fine and good, and your car would be an exception. But for the overwhelming majority of owners, cars are a non-stop money burn.

Question: Aside from a lower resale value, will I incur other car ownership costs?

Answer: Oh ya, a whole lot more!

We’re talking annual insurance payments, licensing and registration, repairs not covered by warranty, and ordinary maintenance costs including gas (or electricity), new tires, brake pads, etc.

Question: How else will I lose money from car ownership?

Answer: Finance your purchase.

Look, if you don’t have enough money to buy the car, then don’t buy it. Think about it: if you borrow funds for the purchase, just like taking out any other loan, you pay interest. So if you’re paying interest for, say, five years, you’ve not only shelled out 30k, you not only incur ongoing expenses, but you also pay even MORE than the sticker price thanks to interest payments.

Question: What’s even worse than financing your purchase?

Answer: Leasing.

Leasing is renting. You’re renting the car for several years. At the end of the lease term, you have zero equity in the car. Yes, when the lease expires you’ll have the option to purchase the car but don’t expect to get any sort of deal. You’ll be paying full price. And usually, you’ll end up paying more for the car than if you had purchased it at the outset.


So What Do You Do?

Cars are expensive. Cars are money pits. But a bicycle, scooter, or hoverboard doesn’t suit your needs. So what do you do?

Ideally, make an all cash purchase of a used vehicle sporting high resale value. And keep the car forever.

By not shelling out for a new car every three to five years (and remember that the resale price of your old car will not even come close to paying for new wheels), you’ll save serious dough that may be put toward saving and investing. That’s the beauty of cutting expenses: more money in your pocket, more financial stability, more freedom today and down the road.

If an all cash purchase isn’t possible, then hold your breath and go the financing route.

Borrow the least amount necessary and no more. Don’t get sucked into the ‘low monthly payments’ sell job. Fact is, with any sort of financing you’ll end up increasing the bottom line price for your car. And work out the money details before you commit to the buy, i.e., know what you can afford, and know that you will pay off the loan within a fixed time period.

Finally, do your best to negotiate cost downward. Because in the car sales business there’s a few things you absolutely need to know:

  1. You can always negotiate on price. And if the dealership refuses, then take your business elsewhere. That said, they all negotiate. It’s part of the game. But the onus is on you to insist on a better deal.
  1. Car dealerships are not in the business of losing money. Keep this in mind when they’re tossing sales pitches your way. You know, stuff like ‘$2,000 cash back offer!’ or ‘employee discount available for a limited time!’.

The usual nonsense where dealerships try to make you believe (‘make believe’ being the key phrase) that you’ll get the car for less than dealer cost. The thing is, dealerships are profiting on every sale. And they should. I mean, if they didn’t turn a profit, then they wouldn’t be in business for long. But instead of fattening their profits, you should be looking to minimize their take by driving the best bargain possible.


Pad Path To Wealth By Keeping Emotions in Check

Car ownership is a lifestyle choice. And it would be wise to make choices that do not hamstring your finances, negatively affect your way of living, or interfere with your financial goals. With more money in your pocket, those leisurely Sunday drives will have you smiling.


Boost Your Energy Account

A student approaches his meditation teacher and says, “My meditation is horrible! My mind is bouncing from one thought to the next, my back hurts, and I’m straining just to stay awake.”

“It will pass,” the teacher responds calmly.

One week later, the student returns to his teacher. “I can’t believe the change! My meditation practice is wonderful! I feel so aware, peaceful, and focused!”

“It will pass,” the teacher responds calmly.

Little Story, Big Message

I love this little story with the big message: throughout our life, we experience all sorts of feelings and thoughts that constantly change, sometimes from moment to moment.

And once moments pass, they cannot be recaptured or experienced again the same way. Sure, that may be obvious to you now as you’re reading this post. But sometimes, when our self-awareness is, um, let’s say compromised, we forget. Sometimes we try to hold on to good times, wanting to extend our experience indefinitely into the future. But in a world where change is the only constant, life doesn’t work that way.

Instead, events and circumstances go our way … until they don’t. And when they don’t, we might feel frustrated, irritable, confused or disappointed. Then we might start struggling for solutions because we want these feelings to go away. And we think that the only way for these feelings to recede is to adjust the external world, have it conform to our wishes. But a funny thing happens on the way to struggling for solutions: the more we ‘want’, the more entrenched becomes the struggle.

Consider it this way: you know when you’re trying to think of a particular word, and you’re certain that the word is there but for whatever reason it remains hidden, teasing you, resting on the proverbial tip of your tongue? And the more you try to coax out the word, the deeper it goes into hiding and the more aggravated you become?

Eventually, you give up. Your mind stops searching. You forget about the word. You let it go. Then, other thoughts drift through your mind. And soon, without trying one itty bit, the word suddenly appears. And you smile, say the word out loud, repeat it more than once, and with great self-satisfaction say to your self, ‘yes, I knew it was in there!’


Relax, Come To It

Energy is our natural currency. When we squander our energy reserves through stress, worry, envy, judgment, and greed, we’re less able to think clearly. And cloudy thinking leads to poor decision-making, leads to undesirable outcomes, leads to stress and compounding negative energy.

It’s not like we actively, consciously, search for negativity or want to waste our energy. Still, darkness comes and goes. Largely because we want to control external circumstances and have not learned to accept that which we cannot change.

So … how do we experience inner contentment, happiness, blue skies, for extended periods of time regardless of which way our external world is turning?

Ahhh, well now, I suppose this is the $64 question. This is where my duty to you is one of introducing the magic elixir, revealing to you ingredients guaranteed to swell your energy account with positive ions, leading to feelings of ease and satisfaction, feelings conducive to excellent decision-making, decisions that benefit your spiritual, psychological and financial well-being.

And the answer is … Yoga.

No, wait. Let me back up. It’s not that easy. It never is because it’s not supposed to be. The thing is, there’s nothing at all magical about yoga. Rather, what I’m getting at, what the practice of yoga allows you to get at if you’re open to it, is a healthy, serene, sense of balance.

How so? Well, um, really, I don’t exactly know. I mean, I could blather on about studies detailing the many beneficial physiological effects of yoga practice, or I could tell you about my personal experiences, tell you how amazing I feel after every single yoga class and how I wish I could bottle up those good and scrumptious feelings to use at my whim. Still, the only way to truly understand the benefits of yoga is to practice yoga.

That said, here’s what I do know: start your day with a bit of yoga, a sprinkling of laughter, a dose of fun … and that in itself is magic. Call it magical reality. Call it an amazing form of medicine, one that acts as a powerful antidote to stress, pain, conflict and any other form of negativity.

Want to feel physically stronger, mentally alert, emotionally balanced? Get your self to yoga class. Want to bring more light in? Laugh! Want to keep the light around permanently? Laugh more! Play! Have fun!

Yes, yes, we have responsibilities, we have bills to pay, investments to make, debts to repay, budgets to draft, research to undertake, retirement to prepare for, BuddhaMoney blog posts to read … of course we do. Still, when we lighten our duties, responsibilities and burdens with a hearty guffaw, a gut busting chortle, a relaxed smile, playtime, then we’re healthier. And our good health leads to a calm perspective, a broader outlook, a sense of grounding, focus and alertness. All of which doesn’t just smooth out your time on planet Earth, it also leads to you becoming a better investor, and a wealthier person.


If You Want It, Here It Is, Come And Get It

I know, yoga is trendy, it’s all the rage. But don’t let this turn you off. Look past the trivial, superficial, North American marketed aspect of yoga, the Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) tight tops, check-out-my-butt pants and hotty hot (actual name) shorts, and you’ll find a more than 5,000 year old practice that offers participants the opportunity to grow their positive energy reserves partly through learning to be self-aware and responsible for our feelings and happiness.

You want a buff body? Sure, yoga will take you there. But that’s not what yoga is all about. Not at all. Rather, yoga practitioners seek awareness of their deepest nature. Because through self-awareness, through learning to be present for every sensation in every moment, we learn to be responsible for who and what we are.

And we learn to understand that, to a large degree, we have the power to make our self. When this is understood, then we know that happiness is a choice; that we are responsible for our own happiness. Because our happiness, our contentment, is unrelated to external circumstances. Happiness, you see, is an inside job.

And it’s kinda, sort of, really excellent when you’ve done the inner work, and bring peace to your daily life, including money matters. Because money management, saving and investing can be fraught with emotion and confusion. So if you’re coming at it from a peaceful place, with a clear mind, where you’re able to tune out noise then, sure as Buddha is sitting cross-legged, smiling by the Bodhi tree, you increase your likelihood of finding balance, wealth and success.