It is Hard to be Both Poor and Beloved (Goodwill)


“Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most.”
-American Proverb

Once, in a manic delusion ( aka a normal delusion), I had thought that it would be a nice simple goal to become the worlds richest person twice over (to show it wasn’t a fluke). And so, after the first time, I’d have to give away my money to start from scratch for the second go around, all of it. I began to imagine what giving away all my money would like. Sure large sums of money could go on large checks to large charitable organizations and the few remaining dollars and cents to a homeless stranger, but what after that? I figured it would be the shirt off your back. So I’d have to have a big tv stunt, where I’m naked on a beach somewhere without any worldly possessions. And then I’ve officially given away all my money, clothes, valuables etc…

Now, what do I do next to become the world’s richest again?  As I’m totally penniless naked on a beach. You see, I’d probably fly away in some helicopter, not mine of course, but by then I’d probably have plenty of friends with helicopters, many of whom would like me to work for them, people would want me to write a book they could sell, others may want to hear me speak.  No doubt with my high public reputation, many people would be more than willing to lend me money, perhaps even give it to me.

But business ventures, helicopters, and book deals don’t sound too poor. That’s because you can have no money and still not be poor in the life you live.

a sunset

“And with the sun in the morning, and the moon in the evening, I’m alright” – Irving Berlin

Consider those you know, fairly well. Those well enough to give you say, “the shirt off their back” (It makes one wonder if shirts were much more expensive when that expression arose). Would your family and friends not give you a crust of bread from their table? Perhaps a floor to rest your head upon for a night? A cell phone charger to borrow?

So there is extractable value there. However, out society frowns upon exchanging a social standing for currency. Who likes being asked for $10, or to buy the next round of drinks? There are people in your life who likely will give you those things, but you may drop a few rungs in their eyes on the relationship ladder.  Of course, there are differing levels or prices one can buy with these “social points”; Mooching off a pizza is a minor irritant compared to the strain on a relationship that asking someone to invest $10,000 into your new business idea would cause. I’m not saying that viewing the world this way is recommendedly (new word) healthy, but it is one possible way of viewing the world. So why don’t we take stock of these relational favors that way have built up with those we are close to?

Companies do, it’s called goodwill. On the accounting books, in any major company, you will find they have a large asset which is intangible. Their goodwill includes all sorts of things like their brand, customer and employee relationships, processes, technology etc. Amazon/Microsoft, Nike and General Electric, all these companies have some extra umph in their value because of who they are, what they represent to people, what sway they have. And it’s completely invisible, you can’t find it in their factories or in their inventory in a warehouse somewhere. Yet, they count it as something they own worth millions. Their goodwill.

Just look at me as an example. I am one of the poorest people I know. I owe thousands of dollars to thousands of people (i.e. the citizens of the United States of America). And if not in the single, my bank account is in the double digits ( excluding the two to the right of the decmal point, i.e. change). Yet compared to millions of human beings and yes millions ( actually billions: Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day), in countries like Bangladesh and Nigeria, compared to them I live like a king. In part because I’m such a sweet little boy, so that my parents let me use their hot shower whenever I please, and they buy me Brie cheese or lend me their metal horse (car).

You don’t have to ever cash-in your personal goodwill, it’s a rewarding thing to have just as a social human being. To have people who support you and would pick you up if your car broke down, or comfort you if your pet goldfish Nerbert dies. However it doesn’t mean you can’t take stock of it. Assign and tally up the uncalled-in monetary value of your relationships. You might just find:

Your life is richer than your bank account suggests.

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