Opinion: Rich or Poor

Opinion: Rich or Poor

I subscribe to James Altucher’s monthly newsletter. I get more than my money’s worth as he also sends me multiple e-mails a week with various promotions with clever concepts and other ideas.

This month he discussed who will be rich and who will be poor. I agree with his analysis and have more thoughts that go in a different direction on the subject.

I think there are different definitions of rich and poor. If I lived in a poor country, a third world country, the definition of rich might be having a government job, being in the military or a shop owner on the street. I have the basics of shelter, food, and clothes. My needs might be small, but compared to the high population that is in poverty, I am rich.

If I am a lawyer living in Beverly Hills, I work many hours and make tons of money. I worship money and would do anything, legal or in the grey areas of the Law to make it. I never see my kids and cheat on my wife. I have a multi-million dollar house, stocks and bonds, retirement account and real estate for investments. Am I richer than the shopkeeper?

Rich is a state of mind, not a bank account or a collection of degrees hung on a wall, a popular celebrity with millions of fans, a person of labor, construction worker, or a  fisherman. Each can be rich or poor pending their approach to life. Their life.

To be truly rich, a person must love themselves first. To do that, they need the basics. Shelter, food, some stability. Second, sharing their blessings with family, business associates, and friends. They may need a relationship with their G-d or spiritual following. Since I believe in G-d, and that has been a very strong influence in my life, my relationship with G-d brings me an inner peace; with that said, I wrote “may” as this might have no influence on many other people and they can also be rich or poor.

In our modern western society, having wealth, money, property, fine things are all good and very important. Having a life of meaning, purpose, and goals with good character are equally important to me if not more. What good is having wealth without the opportunity to share? A well-balanced mind is important to be a whole well-rounded person. What good is being rich if you are not happy?

Photograph by Charlotte Acevedo

A rich person could be found in the character of a single-family mom raising children by herself. She may be a successful career person or a labor worker with multiple jobs. Her peace of mind comes from the effort to help her kids become successful in life based upon her projections of those goals she has dreamed for them. Her happiness can be deemed a success or disappointment based upon the children’s performance of her expectations. Was she living in a fantasy reality or did the kids strive to achieve the goals outlined for them?

Twenty-five years ago I had a meeting with a friend and client, Avi Cohen. Avi had bought a few properties from me over the years and in the meeting, I asked Avi an interesting question: Are you rich? Avi said, “Brad, I am happily married and I have 4 beautiful children. We are all healthy. I have a good income each month from the properties you sold me. I could never spend the money I have. I have a great import/export business of candy as you know. I am rich.” But then Avi continued, “Now take Donald Trump. He will never be rich. Him, with all his buildings and deals etc. will never be happy, it will never be enough!”

So, 25 years ago, my friend Avi predicted that before “The Apprentice” and all the other business deals that Donald Trump had done, he would never have enough. Now, he is President of the United States. Was Avi a time-traveler or just observant of a personality that we had a glimpse of back then? Remember this was pre-internet, cell phones, and other technology.

Now just to be clear, I have a strong appreciation for President Trump and that might be contrary to you, who is reading this. I believe he is a very good President. He is making an amazing sacrifice to build this country and secure it. I support the President of the United States. You and I do not have to agree and I respect all other opinions with class and the ability to listen. I do not believe in Socialism.

Most of us are not ever going to be billionaires, nor President of the United States of America or dictators in Venezuela for that matter. My point is not to determine where you fit on the “scorecard of wealth.” The single-family mom, the businessman, or the mega-rich can all be rich or poor. It is determined by your character. Who makes you feel rich? You, or, the people that you have no control over what they think, their prejudgments, and prejudice?

Photography by Charlotte Acevedo

If your kids don’t achieve the success you have laid out for them, they marry outside of your faith, race or discover they are gay and follow their path for happiness: Are you poor? Are you less rich?

What defines being rich to you? This is the happiness that needs to be found. Without it, yes you can make money, become financially rich and be morally, or mentally bankrupt!

I know families that disown their own kids if they don’t marry in the faith to the right family approved by the parents. A shonda! What would the family, the community think?

If material things: collecting cars, boats, money, real estate, keeping a scorecard and having others validate your importance determine your life, that is ok, but I submit to you that you are morally bankrupt and in need of therapy. Each of us needs to be the final judge of our richness. It is our dreams, fears, and character that will matter.

To conclude my version of “richness,” in regard to all the mothers raising kids on their own, I admire you and I have a word of advice. Take a moment each day to do something for yourself. Join a book club or movie club. Take a walk in the park or on the beach. Take in nature and appreciate that G-d made this beautiful world for you, too. Take a class in a language or art at a junior college. Or a business class to develop potential skills that you can use in the future. Find time for being you and explore. This can apply to everyone, not just mom’s.

To the Avi’s of the world. Keep doing what you are doing to have meaningful, important rich lives. I challenge you to expand your success by sharing your formula with others less fortunate. Teach a class at a high school or junior college. Become a mentor, take in an apprentice or an intern even though you don’t need one and share your business attributes. Pay it forward.

To the Super rich, I say bring balance into your life. Also, get out of your comfort box and share your success by leading by example. All rich people can make a difference in the world from business people to actors and professional athletes. Find a place to fit in and make a difference. Don’t worry about what others do or don’t do: Just do it!

Here are some ideas:

  • Build affordable housing for your employees, for the community that your business is in
  • Create internship programs to help up and coming kids
  • Start a business and fund start-ups
  • Create a community bank to fund low-income business
  • Create a business to support emancipated youth and/or formerly incarcerated populations to have a job. How about a janitorial business or security business in the City you’re in?
  • Make a little less and pay a bonus to your employees or create a pension for them
  • Create scholarships for kids to go to college

If you expand your influence, take on challenges and ask yourself what you can do to improve the world every day by a little bit, in 25 years you might not wake up and be the President of the United States, but you will have the peace of mind knowing that you did leave the world a better place than when you got here. Or carried on a meaningful tradition of helping others. The rewards that you will get, I promise, will amaze you.


Bradley Luster

A seasoned real estate professional, Bradley Luster has been a consistent Top Producer for Major Properties for 33 years. Mr. Luster joined Major Properties as a sales agent in 1986. In 1992, he and his brother Jeff became owners of the firm started by their father, Arnold Luster, in 1964. Mr. Luster is the President of the firm and has literally sold millions of square feet in the Downtown Los Angeles real estate market.

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