Charity often pleases the giver and weakens the recipient, but gifts are another matter. The occasional gift (occasional, as for a birthday, Christmas, etc.) — even an extravagant one — can sometimes have a lasting positive effect. Such was the result of a gift my godmother, JK, gave me many years ago. It was my 15th birthday, I think.
She sent me a share of her latest Broadway play, “Poor Richard.” (Hmm … there’s Ben Franklin again.) It eventually provided me with an income of more than $500 dollars, a fortune in 1965. Some of that money, my dad reminds me, went to pay shop owners for awnings I had torn up in a fit of juvenile hooliganism. The rest went to Nat, the proprietor of the Rockville Center pool hall. The money was wasted, but the gift was not.
It got me thinking about what money can do. It was my first introduction to equity and my first chance to save (and then dissipate) a small fortune. It aroused in me a little flame for more money — not a bad thing, I think. And it made me wonder about how money works. Finally, it made me understand that such a thing as writing stage plays — a literary endeavor — can become a business and have positive financial repercussions on all sorts of people.
My godmother was a very-well-known author and playwright. One of her books, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” became a movie and then a sitcom on television. In addition to the gift I mentioned above, she gave me a brand-new bike one year when my old one was badly hobbling and a scholarship to a Saturday-morning painting class, a gift that led to a lifelong love affair with art.
Two of these three gifts had a profound impact on my life. That’s a pretty good record. My dad just called me to tell me she had died. He didn’t know from what. “I just figure people eventually die,” he told me. I’m thinking about the gifts I’ve been giving — and not giving — to my nieces and nephews. I think I could do a better job if I kept in mind the job JK did.
A goal: Give someone you care about a very special gift this year — something that will make him more (smarter, wiser, healthier, etc.) than he is today. And if you like that experience — and I promise you will — make it a habit. A gift of this sort — which I’ve mentioned several times before — is my brother’s “Seeds of Wealth,” a program that teaches your children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews in a fun way what it means to build a lifelong fortune by investing. If you’d like to know more about it, click on http://www.seedsofwealth.com/holiday3.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]