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Fools and their money

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

A few weeks ago it was announced that the Houston mattress king, Jim McIngvale, bet $3.5 million dollars on the Houston Astros to win the world series of baseball. Should he lose, he would be out that amount of money. Should he win, he would win $11 million but he would give millions in giveaways at his store. The baseball gods were not kind to Mr. McIngvale. In an improbable series where the home team lost every game, the Washington Nationals brought back the World Series championship to DC for the first time in 95 years. The mattress king had lost a fortune.

Now I can think of better ways to spend $3.5 million. With that amount of money, imagine how many poor people could be fed. Imagine how many books could be bought to help a poor school. Imagine how many doctors or nurses could be hired. Even if I was to be less altruistic, after buying a house, taking a dream trip or two, and helping my family, I am sure there are many charities that I could help with a spare $3.5 million. Certainly I would not waste the money on a bet.

Money. Some of us have too much. Some of us do not have enough. Some of us are frugal. Some of us are spendthrifts. But each time we spend money, we make a choice. Even if we don't think we have a choice, we do. Some expenditures are forced in our life. Take rent or mortgage for instance. Each month we have to pay for shelter. We have no choice. One has to pay for shelter but we do have a choice in where we live or who we live with. I could live in a studio apartment or a bungalow- wherever my budget might allow me. One can choose to live a lone, with family, or with roommates. Some people have very limited resources and have many fewer choices. But for the vast majority of us we have a choice in where we live.

At the grocery store we make money choices by deciding what brand to buy. Those of us with cars decide which gas we will get- Petrocan, Shell, etc. We choose clothes based on brands- I am wearing Mitch O'Dowd socks, Tommy Hilfiger pants, and a Brooks Brothers shirt for instance. Everything we buy is a choice.

And it is also true that the amount of things we buy is a choice. Some people are happy with 7 pairs of socks and underwear. Others need more. Some people need their closets full to bursting with choice. Others are happy with just a couple of shirts and pants. What we buy says a lot about our choices.

So Mr. McIngvale, your choice to bet $3.5 million on the Astros says a lot about you. You are a sports fan obviously. You have done very well in your mattress business (well enough that you can think of spending $3.5 million on gambling). It says you think more of your own pocket and your business that you can gamble that kind of money and not think of the poor in your city or supporting local hospitals or schools or what have you. If that sounds quite hard on Mr. McIngvale, it is. But I point the same kind of finger at all of us- how do our consumer choices neglect the needs of the poor, social services, and our community. We may not have $3.5 million dollars to waste, but our choices do affect others. Blessings

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