Friday, July 31, 2009An Extraordinary Story
I am always fascinated by people who live outwardly very simple lives and yet die with extraordinary amounts of money. Of course some of them are just plain crazy, but other seem to have transcended the need for materiality. This, via NPR and DailyGood.org is one such story:
July 27, 2009
Every day on NPR, listeners hear funding credits — or, in other words, very short, simple commercials.
A few weeks ago, a new one made it to air:
"Support for NPR comes from the estate of Richard Leroy Walters, whose life was enriched by NPR, and whose bequest seeks to encourage others to discover public radio."
NPR's Robert Siegel wondered who Walters was. So Siegel Googled him.
An article in the online newsletter of a Catholic mission in Phoenix revealed that Walters died two years ago at the age of 76. He left an estate worth about $4 million. Along with the money he left for NPR, Walters also left money for the mission.
But something distinguished Walters from any number of solvent, well-to-do Americans with seven-figure estates: He was homeless.
Walters was a retired engineer from AlliedSignal Corp.; an honors graduate of Purdue with a master's degree; and a Marine. Walters never married, didn't have children and was estranged from his brother. But he wasn't friendless.
Rita Belle, a registered nurse, met Walters at a senior center 13 years ago.
"He always came in with a little backpack on and a cap on," Belle tells Siegel. "And always kind of looked at me, but [was] very reserved. And I'm very outgoing and outspoken. So I said to him, 'Hey, you got a minute can we sit down to visit?' And we'd have coffee there at the senior center."
Belle and Walters became friends. Belle stayed with Walters when he was ill. She became his nurse and ultimately the executor of his estate — as well as one of the beneficiaries — despite fundamental differences between them.
"He was an atheist and I'm a very profound practicing Catholic, and I'd never met an atheist," Belle says. "And that just blew my mind that somebody could not believe in the Lord."
Belle volunteers at the mission in Phoenix, which like NPR and several other nonprofits got about $400,000 from Walters.
Belle knew him as a very well-informed man who could fix her air conditioning — someone she just assumed had a place to live. Then he told her that he had no home. She heard that he slept on the grounds of the senior center. He told her he ate at the hospital and used a telephone there or at the center.
"And I'm sure that's when he was making his trades and so on," Belle says. "He was involved in investing; we talked investments a lot." Belle says Walters even did his own income taxes.
When Walters retired, he evidently retired from the world of material comforts. He didn't have a car.
"He just gave up all of the material things that we think we have to have," Belle says. "You know, I don't know how we gauge happiness. What's happy for you might not be happy for me. I never heard him complain."
Evidently, among his few possessions was a radio. Hence those announcements listeners hear now and again on NPR stations.
Monday, June 29, 2009The Madoff Lesson
From The Curious Capitalist:
If Madoff's clients had only put 5% or 10% of their assets in his Ponzi scheme, it just wouldn't have been that big a deal. Instead we have for months been hearing story after story about individuals and families and even foundations that put all their money with the guy. These weren't the kind of folks who spend much time reading Harry Markowitz or Burton Malkiel—instead, they didn't want to have to think about their investments at all. They wanted to leave their money with somebody they trusted, and get on with their lives. Which is a pretty reasonable desire. But, it turns out, a dangerous one.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008Security
Interesting convergence about security today. The Loving Each Day quote was:
Your allegiance to material things has been a fictional sense of security. Your true security is found in the freedom of the Soul.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, with Paul Kaye)
Meanwhile CharityFocus.Org in their Daily Good email of the day posted this:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” --Helen Keller
"I see this word, hear this word, feel this word everywhere. Real security. Security check. Security watch. Security clearance. Why has all this focus on security made me feel so much more insecure? What does anyone mean when they speak of security? In fact, security is essentially elusive, impossible. We all die. We all get sick. We all get old. People leave us. People surprise us. People change us. Nothing is secure. And this is the good news. But only if you are not seeking security as the point of your life. Here's what happens when security becomes the centre of your life. You can't travel very far or venture too far outside a certain circle." So begins this intriguing reflection by Eve Ensler.
We’ll let J-R have the final word:
The best approach is simply to live in the now, do the best you can with present abilities and talents and let your actions speak for themselves. That takes understanding. That takes awareness. It also takes love and respect for self. With it comes freedom, a sense of self-worth and an inner security and serenity that is worth everything. The only permanent solution to any dilemma is God. And God already IS.
(From: The Way Out Book by John-Roger, DSS)
Financial Quote of the Day
“As goes General Motors, so goes the nation." This has been attributed to several people but whoever said it, it sure seems true as GM sales and their share price tank and the company runs out of money and will need Government support to survive. Talk about a sign of the times.
Here’s what James Surowiecki says in his New Yorker blog:
Felix Salmon’s list of reasons to bail out General Motors is a very good one. I think the third item on his list—it may very well be cheaper to save G.M. than to pay for all the unemployment that will result—is especially important, as is a point he doesn’t mention: if G.M. goes under, so too will many of its suppliers, who do business not just with G.M. but with other car companies as well. That, in turn, will make it hard for those companies to keep the assembly lines going. So the ripple effects of a failure of G.M. or Ford are bigger than we might imagine.
The most important point Felix makes, though, comes at the end of his post when, arguing against Ryan Avent’s assertion that we can’t both “help the people and the cities of the Midwest and invest in G.M.,” he writes, “we can do both, especially considering the very low cost of U.S. government funds.” This is a crucial point, not just when it comes to the G.M. question but also when it comes the issue of fiscal stimulus: the U.S. is an incredibly rich country and will, eventually, be much richer. And it can currently borrow money long-term at remarkably cheap rates. With consumers and businesses embracing the new austerity, now is not the time for government to do the same.
My own point of view is that GM should have woken up years ago. Talk about arrogance on behalf of their management. I wouldn't buy a GM car simply because the majority of them are not well made. I buy Honda because I believe in reliability, good gas mileage, value, and something that is going to last. I think any Government help should be tied to GM making cars that sell—which to me means environmentally compatible cars. It won’t happen, but I can dream--and continue to drive my Honda.