ad astra per alia porci

a caveat for wealth seekers
July 2, 2007, 1:34 am
Filed under: investments/finance/economics, Lifeskills

I found John Train’s essay on wealth at the end of his book Money Masters of Our Time to be extremely well-written and insightful. The essay is blessed by the wisdom of a man whose career in money management has probably instilled him with a seasoned and informed perspective on wealth. I will transcribe the entire essay here, for the benefit of all.

Envoi: Midas 

This book is a guide to investment success. But my last message to the reader is this: Understand the process, the way you should understand medicine and government, but don’t try too hard yourself. The people who suffer the worst losses are usually those who overreach. And it’s not necessary: Steady, moderate gains will get you where you want to go.

Furthermore, trying to achieve great wealth- far more than you need- is in fact irrational. You have to give up too much getting there, and having done it, you’re often worse off than before. Midas is ruined by the gold he craves.

Our nature, says Shakespeare, is subdued to what it works in, like the dyer’s hand, and in pursuing great wealth you become a money person. You see the world through dollar-sign binoculars.

Then, the exaggeration of any principle becomes its undoing, as the excess of stimulant becomes a poison, and changing greed from a sin into a commandment dissolves the soul of a family. The children of excessive privilege are often purposeless and morose.

And great wealth spoils human contacts. Everybody wants something. Of the Rothschilds it was said that they had no friends, only clients. The hurly-burly of humanity, from which great wealth fences itself-off- its joys and trials, the texture of everyday life- is what we’re designed for.

Philanthropy, while meritorious, on a large scale becomes a political act: a tycoon who extracts a fortune from the public to build a museum in one place rather than another has not created new beauty, only imposed his priorities on society.

The rational and virtuous approach is to trust in a sufficiency of wealth as a by-product of a useful life. Happy are those who find fulfillment in their families, their work, and their civic duties, and hope for the best.


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