I have a very wealthy aunt who is in the top 1% of the top 1%. I see her every couple of weeks, when she invites me down to accompany her out to dinner or perform work around the house for her. Long story short, I’m an entrepreneur launching a very exciting and possibly *extremely* profitable business online.
In this process my biggest problem is more cash for expansion. I honestly work very, very hard and am dedicated 110%, but so much advancement could be made overnight had I been blessed with the cash to do so.
Anyway, one day I was driving my aunt to the airport (I am basically her personal assistant when she summons me to be), and she told me how nice money is to have because you therefore never have to worry about it. Without thinking, she blurted out that she donates about $150,000 a year to various and always changing organizations. Upon saying this, I saw her face immediately switch to a bright red “WHOOPS” expression.
Now I know I have absolutely zero claim to her money at all, but am I wrong to feel somewhat unloved by her now that I realize she’s pumping mind-blowing amounts of money into a multitude of other directions and rejecting mine – all the while acting like my best friend, biggest ally, and cheerleader?
Also let me just mention that when I do work around her house she will throw me $20 – $40 bucks or so, but when I subtract the gasoline I spend traveling 40 minutes each way to her house, is not as great as it first appears.
I don’t want to seem selfish or entitled – I’ve been maintaining being a good nephew and just smiling and helping her in every way she asks – but at the same time I can’t help but realize that a very minuscule percent of the money/lifeblood she is constantly spreading elsewhere, to complete strangers, would vastly advance my business, and ultimately the quality of my entire life in exponential proportions.
Deep down I feel like she might simply be using me to be her little helper when needed, and doesn’t actually want to see me succeed because then she’d lose me as such – and that’s why she doesn’t actually help financially. This is the only reason I can find for her decision not to donate to my business because she gives so much away to others. Could she be putting up a front that she is “rooting for me” and “wants to see me succeed” but really just wants to keep me where I am and benefit from my younger ignorance and desire to be a good nephew? Am I playing the fool right into her hands and advantage? Could I be experiencing a form of “all talk and no walk” by her? I really hope you answer this Rabbi and Susan as this has been a mind ripping situation for me. I sure could use your wisdom!
We found your question quite intriguing, partially because you show great maturity by recognizing that you are not entitled to your aunt’s wealth but that, since she is an older member of the family, you actually have a responsibility towards her.
At the same time, you are struggling to build a business and see how effortlessly she could solve what you see as your greatest problem. That makes you suspect that she actually doesn’t want you to succeed and leaves you with hurt feelings. You now see her as “throwing” money at you when you help her, but we’re willing to bet that she politely hands it to you and the word throw reflects your incipient resentment rather than her actions.
We, of course, do not know your aunt nor do we know you. However, we did pick up certain clues in your letter (which we needed to shorten but we retained both the meaning and the flavor). It seems to us that you have not yet developed a full understanding of business. This is imperative in order for you to succeed.
You explained that you could think of only one reason for your aunt’s decision not to donate to your business.
We are struck by your use of the word donate. One donates to charity but one invests in a business. Your aunt seems to be a very charitable woman. She may or may not be a savvy businesswoman and she may or may not invest her money in start-ups. Either way, it seems to us that you would like her to invest in you or help you, not to give you charity.
This means that you need to approach her as a businessman, not as a nephew, though obviously your relationship gives you the opening. If she does evaluate investments, she may have valuable feedback for you. If she is indeed in the top one-hundredth of the top 1% she most definitely employs the professional services of financial advisors and money managers.
We’d advise you to ask your aunt if she’d be willing to ask her advisors to look over your business plan. If you do not yet have a formal, professional business plan you might want to approach your aunt and ask if she will help you (now we are talking about a donation or gift) take classes or hire a professional to guide you on how to turn an idea into a viable business. Very few new businesses succeed and she would be doing you a greater kindness by helping you get off on the right foot (or realize that your idea, as is, is not viable) than by blindly giving you money.
We don’t want to discourage you from being a good nephew, but it is possible that being at her beck and call makes your aunt think of you as an aimless boy rather than as a busy man ready to embark on a seriously successful business career. Even your description of the money she gives you being used up in buying gas suggests that you are thinking in a smaller way than a successful businessman must.
You might want to show her a more proactive face and initiate contact instead of waiting to be summoned. Let her know that you have a tightly scheduled month coming up because you are working so hard but want to be available if she needs you so could you and she please plan out your schedules in advance. Call her just to say hi and see how she is rather than waiting for her to call you.
Investors seldom put their money into enterprises run by those they see as their “little helper” as you put it. Once you see yourself in a different and more serious light, your aunt will most likely also start seeing you differently.
You cannot dictate your aunt’s actions but you can control your own. We encourage you to think, act and present yourself as a business professional and we are sure that this will help move you onto the path of becoming one. We do want to bring our books, Thou Shall Prosper: The Ten Commandments for Making Money and Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance to your attention as we think the practical guidance they give could be helpful in reshaping your vision of yourself.
Wishing you a prosperous and family-friendly future,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin