long time, I wasn't even "out" to myself about our wealth.
Our money grew gradually, so it seemed normal. My husband
has worked for more than a decade at Microsoft and we have
wealth through stock options. Many of the people we associate
with also work there and have significant wealth. We don't
feel different among these friends. But when I first read
the statistics in
More Than Money Journal
wealthiest one percent, that caught my attention. I often
think of it now when, for instance, I go to Costco. Knowing
I have more resources, on average, than most of those people
milling around - yet I blend right in, standing there in my
jeans…it's mind boggling.
The responsibility of being in that top
one percent is what has helped me start to overcome my fears
of being public. Most people we know well realize we are
wealthy. The part we haven't been "out" about is a million-dollar
donation we made to a local organization. We are deciding
whether or not to go public about it. Our main motivation
would be to inspire more donations to this charity.
My husband and I are very private people.
It's a big step for me to say, "This might help someone
else so I'm going to share my story." Feeling that I have
a responsibility to use my wealth well and to be an example
for others is making me increasingly willing to grow beyond
One fear I have is that extended family
members may resent the fact that we have not helped them
more. Our family knows we're wealthy, but no one knows our
net worth. They have never been noticeably judgmental about
our wealth, even those who struggle making ends meet. However,
I still worry what they might think. It was a big step for
me to tell my mom that I made such a large donation. The
humbling part was that she gave almost no outward reaction.
She had already figured it out!
But it's not just a fear of being judged
by other people. I second- guess myself. Sometimes I think,
"Oh my God, I spent this on someone other than my extended
family." There's a guilt factor there for me. We have helped
them in many ways financially, but there is always more
we could do, right?
I also have a fear of the general public
finding out that I'm wealthy. I remember my mother telling
me as a child about a wealthy woman in the community being
kidnapped. Although that's a highly unlikely occurrence,
this fear for the safety of my immediate family is there.
Also, since I have the "disease to please," the idea of
many people and organizations asking for money sounds especially
daunting. I am learning how to say no-I am practicing that.
I've started making a giving plan that more closely aligns
with my own interests.1 This helps me say no
to requests I don't truly want to support.
At parties we attend, conversations often
revolve around people's new homes or cars. I've never been
in a conversation about philanthropy. I recently did something
bold. I wrote an unobtrusive letter about More Than Money
and sent it with a couple of
More Than Money Journals
to fifteen of my wealthy friends. I've already heard back
from a few of them. They wrote me long emails about some
of their thoughts and experiences. I've opened up a valuable
line of communication!2
The organization I donated to had a fundraising
event. I asked the executive director if I could speak to
the audience of 700 people. I had zero public speaking experience!
I was going to talk about the donation, but realized I wasn't
ready to do that yet; so instead, I did a funny, inspirational
speech. The whole thing was out of character for me, but
I received great feedback. I'm continuing to do things that
are out of character- things I feel I'm called to do in
order to make a difference. I keep asking myself what the
right course of action is, in terms of my deeper purpose.
Being public or not is becoming less about what are my fears
and what's my personality, and more about what can I do
with my wealth to make more of a difference? The more I
approach it that way, the more what I'm doing on the outside
and what I feel on the inside are aligned. I've changed
so much from what I was a year ago-because I'm allowing
myself to change.
--based on an interview with Pamela Gerloff
1 Creating a Giving Plan: A Workbook
by Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner offers a step-by-step approach
to developing a personal giving plan. It is available for
2 Read Jackie's letter to her
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