a year ago, I inherited a significant sum of money. I've
now moved to a new area of the country where no one knows
me at all. I like it this way because it lets me make all
kinds of choices about how public to be about my wealth
one step at a time. I'm very careful about letting people
know I'm rich. I want them to know me for myself first and
not look at me for my money.
big question that always comes up is, "Did you move here
for your job? What kind of work do you do?" I have prepared
lines that I say, like, "I can do my work anywhere." Or
"I used to make money building houses. I'm on a temporary
sabbatical and I'm changing careers." All those things are
true, they're just tailored to give an acceptable impression
without revealing too much information. They're like a press
release. I tell people what I want them to know.
found that if I don't have lines prepared ahead of time
I can get thrown off guard. Once someone asked me, "How
do you spend your days?" I felt put on the spot and I handled
it poorly. What I could have said was, "Every day is different,"
because it is. If someone asks me point blank, "Are you
rich?" I answer differently depending on who is asking.
To my former wife, I said, "Yep," since she already knew
my mother had been wealthy. To someone I didn't know very
well, I once said, "That depends on who you compare me to."
But I felt stupid-I'm pretty sure that person walked away
thinking I was rich.
I meet women, I don't tell them right away. I usually let
them figure it out. When they put two and two together,
I can see a little light go on. I'm a short man and I can
tell I just grew about five inches in their eyes. For a
middle-aged man like myself, of course the more money you
have, the more attractive you are.
that I'm giving away power if I reveal my wealth status
to the wrong person. They may try to take advantage of me.
If people say, "I need money for such and such," their knowing
I'm wealthy makes it awkward. I don't like to give if I'm
not doing it from the goodness of my heart, but it's difficult
to say no. I want to help people. For example, a woman who
knows I'm rich asked if I could sponsor her to go to a workshop.
I could have done it-it wasn't the money that was the barrier.
What stopped me was that because she asked me, instead of
allowing me to offer freely or to work it out so an anonymous
person were providing the money, I felt that my option of
doing it out of the goodness of my heart had been taken
away. If she hadn't known I was rich, I wouldn't have been
in that situation.
way I decide what to say to others is by asking myself,
"If I reveal this piece of information, will it be beneficial---
either to me or to others, or both? My parents were extremely
secretive about their wealth. My father could have driven
any kind of car he wanted, but he drove a Rambler. I know
people who go too far in the other direction. They're too
showy and that attracts the wrong kind of attention. I try
to be in the middle. I could drive a flashy sports car,
but instead I drive an older sports sedan-it's a nice car,
but not too showy. I am very open with my daughters but
also expect them to use discretion in revealing confidences
on an interview with Pamela Gerloff
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