Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Do something great with your wealth

Being rich is a beautiful thing when it means making a difference to other's lives

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

It’s not about the money; it’s about what the money does.

This is the sort of line reeled off by people selling you a course or business blueprint that promises to make you rich — very rich. They temper down the greed aspect, and invite you to feel at ease about wanting to go for their moneymaking magical formula.

They entice you with success stories: Deborah’s husband suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but with the money they made from the programme, she helps him recover in a safe haven — their new plush home. Mary made so much money her husband stopped working and they’re travelling the world while home schooling their five children. You get the picture.

I used to dismiss this line. But now I take note. Why? Because I have seen people do amazing things with their wealth — things that go beyond themselves and their singular, or insular lives.

To be clear: I take note of the notion of ‘it’s not about the money; it’s about what the money does’ — and not get-rich quick offerings. Being affluent, solvent and having more money than you need means you can do great things.

For example, a Dubai-based billionaire I know is just back from his quarterly trips to Lebanon — visiting the numerous orphans he is providing shelter, education and a life for. His significant wealth enables him to do this, and he is sure to build a relationship with them by visiting often.

Oprah Winfrey is known for using her affluence to spread education. It has been a busy time for her as she celebrates those she put through school and college — like the women who, as young girls, were fortunate enough to attend the school in South Africa founded by her, or the hundreds living in the US who have received scholarships provided by her.

In fact, the spark for this article comes from a photograph posted on Oprah’s Instagram feed at the end of last month, showing her with an exultant graduate and the caption: “I don't know who this guy is but he sure is happy to graduate! I shook hands with all 571 members of @coloradocollege's Class of 2019 and gave them a copy of The Path Made Clear.”

A comment below the photo stated that Oprah should have paid off his student debt instead. Oprah’s reply: “already paid 13 million in scholarships. Have put over 400 men through Morehouse College.” Morehouse was where the young man was graduating from — it’s a US university that Winfrey has been supporting for decades.

The Instagram comment was in reference to a billionaire investor, Robert F. Smith pledging to pay the student loans of 2019's entire graduating class at Morehouse College. The comment was likely meant to urge Oprah to do the same — the person possibly didn’t know what the media queen has done for generations of graduates.

It is fantastic that these wealthy individuals are able to give the gift of knowledge and decision-making to the many. Of course, the household names of philanthropy and the generous friend I know can afford to live as they wish, even after they gift most of their wealth. The point is this: money gives you options and you can give others options as a result.

The idea that it is a good thing to build sizeable wealth has been a tough one for me to embrace, having come from a stoic reverse snobbery upbringing where one looks down on those who have more, because, well, surely, it’s ill-gotten or they only spend it on themselves.

It’s OK to be well off. It’s OK to have wealth. My hope is that the way it is accumulated is legal, that you get to hang out with loved ones while on that path, and then, when you realise you can live without ever having to worry about being able to afford your life, that you do something great with it — both your life, and your wealth.

It’s not about the money; it’s about what the money does.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com

Updated: June 20, 2019 11:42 AM

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