David Bruce: Anecdotes About Money

Jane Seymour is best known for starring in TV’s “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” a series that fell to her by luck — bad luck. She was going through a divorce with a man who she says both cheated on her and messed up her finances in a major way. She points out, “I lost everything — I lost my homes, everything. So I totally understand people now who are losing their homes to the banks because I was THERE. It’s devastating.” In desperation, she called her agent and said, “I need to work yesterday.” Her agent replied, “OK. That’s interesting. Anything?” She confirmed, “Anything.” A good agent, he started calling the television networks to let them know, “Jane will do anything but she’s got to do it NOW.” CBS replied, “We’ve got this movie called “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” We don’t think it’ll make it as a series, but in case it does, we need her to sign for five years. She has to start tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.” She loved the script, the audience loved the movie, and she did 180 hours of the series, solving her financial crisis in a major way.

A woman lost all the money she had in the marketplace. She started crying because she could not feed her children. R. Abraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt heard her crying and found out that she had lost a gold ruble. He and the woman started looking for the gold ruble, and the good Rebbe took one of his own gold rubles, dipped it in mud, and then he told the woman that he had found her gold ruble and handed it to her. She was joyful and used it to buy food to feed her children. A Hassid had noticed what the good Rebbe had done and congratulated him: “It was very fine, Rebbe, to give the ruble to the woman that way, and thus avoid making her feel that it was a gift.” The good Rebbe replied, “You are right, but there was another reason for doing it that way. Otherwise the woman would have gone on worrying about her lost ruble, even though she had received another in its place.”

When pitcher Greg Maddux was signed by the Chicago Cubs out of high school, he received a signing bonus of $82,000. Because of this, Mr. Maddux decided not to go to college; however, he was very careful with the money. He knew that if he did not make it in the major leagues, he could use the money to go to college, so he put it in the bank and lived on his small salary as a minor-league player, promising himself that he would not touch the $82,000 until he either left baseball after failing to make it or until he had made it into the major leagues. He did exactly what he had promised himself he would do; fortunately, he did not have to wait too long until he made it into the major leagues.

T-Bone Burnett has made music over 40 years, and he has found much success, including a 2002 Grammy win for Album of the Year for his “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Of course, his life wasn’t always easy. In 1970, he became a starving artist in Los Angeles. T-Bone says, “My roommate was a wedding musician, and he’d bring home wedding cake and we’d eat cake for three or four days.” Even though “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” sold 7 million copies, he is not a commercial artist, and he does not make a ton of money. He says, “Making money isn’t an appropriate goal for making music. If you want to print money, buy a printing press, not a guitar. The guitar is the wrong tool for that.”

When she was 22, Mellody Hobson, the President of Ariel Investments, learned from a very successful friend a lesson that has stayed with her: “No one ever got rich through earned income.” The friend explained, “Look at all the great wealthy families. From Carnegie to Rockefeller, it was never how much they made at work that made them wealthy — it was their investments.” She learned the lesson well. Today she says that the lesson “made me shift from thinking about a paycheck to thinking about building equity and long-term wealth. And it has helped me a lot. Instead of a raise, I ask for more stock.”

In the early days, professional marathon swimmers made little money competing in their sport. Professional marathon swimmer Diana Nyad once complained, “I once swam a 10-mile race and won $35.” Even worse, Ms. Nyad and other professional marathon swimmers went to a competition in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They had heard that the winner would receive $3,000, but when they arrived, they discovered that they were mistaken. The winner would receive 3,000 pesos, which at the time were worth about 12 cents.

Professional golfer Sam Snead once played Vice President Dan Quayle, who won $10 from him. Following the 18th hole, Mr. Snead paid up, but all he had was a $20 bill. Mr. Quayle didn’t have change, so he went to get change. While he was gone, a crowd gathered around Mr. Snead. When Mr. Quayle returned and handed $10 to Mr. Snead, a woman asked Mr. Snead, “You mean you won money from the Vice President?” Mr. Snead smiled and replied, “What does it look like?”

Often, we read about works of art being sold for millions of dollars, but of course artists often start by selling their works of art for much less. In 1957, art dealer Irving Blum bought a painting by Ellsworth Kelly, paying $75 for it — by making payments of $5 monthly. In an article about Mr. Kelly titled “Ellsworth Kelly is the king of colour,” arts reporter Mark Rappolt wrote, “These days $75 wouldn’t even get you his signature.”

When Barbara Kingsolver received a $300 check in 1982 from “The Virginia Quarterly Review,” which published her story “Rose-Johnny,” she celebrated by buying many, many reams of paper — as many as she could carry. She also wrote in her diary — in the center of a page that was blank except for these words — “I am a writer.”

© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

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One Response to David Bruce: Anecdotes About Money

  1. Rosa Jones says:

    It was nice to sit down, read these anecdotes and be amused. After a long, hard day at work the one about the not getting rich on earned income really struck a cord….touche’. Haha….great job!

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