The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

November 25, 2012

Friends and your money: Hanging onto both of them

McNay's Musings

RICHMOND — Being taken by those supposedly close to someone with money is a universal problem.

I know many people of extreme wealth, and many keep it by being constantly mistrusting those around them. Living life in constant suspicion of your family and friends doesn’t sound like fun.

Some simple rules for friendship need to prevail:

1. Never lend money to anyone. You are a person, not a bank.

Follow the advice of William Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Lord Polonius said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

In modern terms, “Friends don’t borrow money from friends. That is what banks are for.”

In a world of banks, automobile financing, mortgage brokers, credit cards, payday lenders, pawn shops and “buy here/pay here” car lots, someone intent on borrowing money can find a professional lender willing to give them money at a rate suitable to their credit history.

They don’t need to borrow from their friends.

Most of the time, the friend subconsciously (or even consciously) considers the loan a “gift” and, as Shakespeare noted, it usually ends the friendship.

Like most people, I’ve been burned on lending money. The last person I lent money to (several years ago) was a very close friend who makes big money. This person also had big issues I did not know about. I lent an amount I could afford. I thought it was on a short-term basis. I’ve never seen a dime in repayment and rarely see the friend anymore.

We all make that mistake once or twice in our lives. Anyone who has not done it, please jump up and do a cartwheel. You are a distinct minority.

The key is to learn from mistakes. I did. People will make you think you are a jerk when you turn them down. Actually the opposite is true. Not lending money is more likely to prolong a friendship than lending it.

2. If someone needs an expensive gift to be your friend, they are not actually your friend.

I felt sorry for Michael Jackson. He was a star from early childhood and never got to meet normal people. He was always surrounded by a large entourage, but always had to pay for them to go places. Or pay them a salary.

I have friends in all walks of life. Some possess genius level IQs and some don’t. Some are multi-millionaires and some have to save up to go to lunch at a fast food restaurant. The key is that, for whatever reason, we enjoy each other’s company.

It can be tough for people with money to make friends. Money as a measure of control makes it tempting for wealthy people to “buy” people to hang out with.

On the other hand, if you have to buy your friends, you are getting what you pay for.

3. If you like hanging out with wealthy people, pick up the check when you dine with them.

My father made good money, but when he died in 1993, he was not a man of great wealth. The average net worth of his pallbearers went well into the millions. Dad’s close friend, Hall of Fame disc jockey Jim LaBarbara, said that “Big Joe McNay was bigger than life. He was friends with everyone from (Johnny) Bench and Pete (Rose) to the big politicians. I think he introduced me to half the people in town (Cincinnati), everyone seemed to like him.”

Dad was always the first to grab a check and never forgot his friends’ birthdays. Many people expect to be “treated” when they are dining with a wealthy person. I’ve actually seen people order the most expensive things on a menu when they think someone with more income is paying. It’s amazing how some can have “short arm disease” when the check arrives.

Dad was the opposite. He found that wealth was one byproduct for people living interesting lives. He was the kind of friend a wealthy person wants to have. Thus, his world was filled with them.

4. Friendship is a lifelong journey, not a drive-by experience.

I meet people who seem to trade in their friends for a new group every year or so. They try to be with the “in crowd” or never get too deep into getting to know someone.

All relationships require trust, love, giving, commitment and flexibility. People who have totally invested in their relationships are less likely to fall prey to an “entourage” or “posse” wanting their money.

Since family and friends are the primary reasons that people blow a lump sum, if you can invest in good quality relationships, you can go a long way toward maintaining financial success as well.

Don McNay is a best selling author. His new book, “Life Lessons from the Lottery: Protecting Your Money in a Scary World,” was released on Amazon last week.

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