Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 18, 2012

Lyin’ eyes and newfound wealth


CNHI

— By Don McNay

CNHI News Service

“City girls just seem to find out early

How to open doors with just a smile

A rich old man

And she won’t have to worry…”

-The Eagles (Don Henley and Glenn Frey)

A friend recently lost her husband at a young age. She told me that men started coming on to her at the funeral.

I see it all the time.

Someone new to the romantic scene, be it by death or divorce, seems to be open prey. Especially if they appear to have available wealth.

Answering the question of why people run through large sums of money is my passion and profession. It is also one with complicated answers.

The first thing I tell lottery winners, widows, widowers or others who come into large sums of money is to watch out for their family and especially for newfound “friends.”

The line in The Godfather II about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer works the opposite for people with sudden money. People are usually smart enough to keep their enemies at bay, but it’s often the friends who are grabbing for their wallet.

It happens to every age, demographic and income level. Dr. Thomas Stanley, who wrote The Millionaire Next Door and several other books about wealth, noted that well-educated professionals, like doctors and lawyers, spend much of their income on lifestyle. They often don’t have the net worth of plumbers who are less interested in impressing the neighbors and more interested in saving.

Things get really complicated when someone is going through a life change. I hit the trifecta several years ago when, within six months, my mother and sister died suddenly and my first marriage ended.

Life was out of balance and I made a lot of silly mistakes, especially when I went back into the dating pool.

Everyone thought I would fall for someone who only wanted my money. I had lots of bad experiences, but having someone take me for money was not one of them.

Some of it was luck. My first relationships were with well-educated professionals with plenty of family wealth. They were looking for someone who wasn’t trying to get to THEIR money.

The primary factor that kept me in check was watching hundreds of people walk into my office with lots of money only to come back broke a few years later.

Family and friends were the downfall almost every time.

I’ve never figured out if family and friends have an “ouch” mark. In other words, they can stay moral and ethical if the “loved one” does not have much disposable income, but “re-evaluate” their ethics if said person comes into a lot of cash.

Most people have friends and companions who are within 15 percent of their own income. When that number gets out of whack, the temptation for the person who has money to use it as a source of control increases and the temptation of the poorer person to justify being subsidized increases as well.

To quote another Glenn Frey track, “the lure of easy money has a very strong appeal.”

I suspect there is an evil side to some people that turns on whenever they see someone is vulnerable. A law of the jungle that comes forth in humans.

Someone going through a death, divorce or injury is as vulnerable as they come.

My friend has always handled herself and her money well. It took a 15-minute review to tell her to stand pat and keep the fortune hunters away. I have no doubt that if she ever marries again, it will be for love and compatibility. Money will only be one part of the puzzle, not the entire game.

I tell every widow and widower they have the most difficult job in the world when it comes to finding a new mate. Potential spouses have to compare to someone who they truly loved.

A friend called it “the Goldilocks stage.” Finding someone who is “not too hot, not too cold, but just right” is a difficult process.

My friend is luckier than a lot of men and women I know.

Although the song says that, “there ain’t no way to hide those lying eyes,” when someone is going through a life change, they may not see lying eyes so clearly.

Or not until their money is long gone.

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Don McNay is a columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at don@mcnay.com.