No Gordon Gekko, greed is not good. As a matter of fact it’s the furthest thing from good. I just finished reading “The End of Normal”, written by Stephanie Madoff, the widow of Bernie Madoff’s son Mark. Mark commit suicide on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. Bernie Madoff defined greed and if you have a chance to read the book, you will see first hand that it is not and never will be good.
Once upon a time I was lured into a pyramid scheme. I was 23 and had just moved out of my parent’s home. My roommates had heard of these “secret” meetings that were going on around town. At these meetings, people each brought $500. It was simple. There was a poster with a pyramid drawn on it. Each box leading to the single one on the top had a name. At each meeting the more people that showed up, your name would move quicker to the top. All you had to do was come armed with $500 cash, get your name on the poster and watch it rise as people below you put in their share. It was so simple. By the time your name reached the top, you would be handed $8,000. I saw it happen.
It was simple for the people who had heard about it before me. By the time my name was inching closer to the top, the police had become aware of the meetings (which I did not know weren’t legal, my bad; how dumb could I be??) and broke them up. My greed was not good. It cost me all I had.
In ways I am glad that it happened as it taught me a hard lesson in trusting. It taught me that working hard was the best way to earn my money or as I got older to invest it wisely. I also learned that there are no get rich quick schemes that work or sweepstakes winnings that you have to pay for are real. I’m not interested in time shares either.
My mother in law once approached my husband and I about a sweepstakes winning phoning call she had received. She was prepared to send a large sum of money to this organization to “win”. We were shocked at her naivety. Had we not been there to guide her away from it, she would have lost much of her savings.
Recently my daughter called me from school very excited to tell me she had “won” a 2 night cruise. She had completed a survey and that was the prize. She had no idea that there would be a required time share viewing and the $500 extra dollars she was being charged for an “upgrade” was a scam. Innocence is sweet sometimes but not in this case. She had already shared my credit card with the company. I had her put us on a three way call and I let them know that if I saw a charge on my card there would be a fraud report. They hung up.
According to sources over $560 million dollars have been lost to internet scams alone. E bay and Craigslist scammers, investment scams, charity and disaster relief scams and many more. It’s hard to know who to trust nowadays so I have a suggestion: DON’T.
It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to go through life not trusting anyone but when it comes to your hard earned money, why would you? There are too many ways to be bilked out of your life savings. Even if it’s just a couple hundred dollars why risk it? There are so many sources to investigate people you are looking for trouble if you don’t. It begs the question why some of Madoff’s investors were so willing to take his word on everything. There were many red flags long before he was turned in by his own sons. Yet, up until no more than 10 days before his arrest, he took $250 million dollars from a life long friend. To invest. Right.
His thievery resulted in 4 suicides including his oldest son. He put dozens and dozens of people into financial ruin. Friends, family, it didn’t matter. And he is not alone. There are too many people out there only happy to help people part with their life savings. Or whatever they have.
Perhaps we should all adopt the attitude that if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t. It’s a cynical way to look at things but so what? Remember what I said early on. Greed is not good. Just ask Bernie. He’s got 150 years in prison to think about why.
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