“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
—Michael Corelone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather Part II.
“Tell me who your friends are, I’ll tell you who you are.”
—Bingo Joe McNay (my father), a professional gambler and bookmaker.
A friend recently lost her husband at a young age. She told me that men started coming on to her at the funeral. I see it all the time.
The first thing I tell lottery winners, widows, widowers or others who come into large sums of money is to watch out for their family and especially for newfound “friends.”
The line in The Godfather II about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer works the opposite for people with sudden money. People are usually smart enough to keep their enemies at bay, but it’s often the friends who are grabbing for their wallet.
I see hundreds of people walk into my office with lots of money only to come back broke a few years later.
Family and friends were the downfall almost every time.
My father was a professional gambler who was the ultimate creature of the streets. Dad had a mantra: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”
Dad saw many people brought down by the people they befriended. One of my favorite movies on that theme is Al Pacino’s movie Carlito’s Way. Al Pacino stars as a man trying to break away from his “friends” who ultimately bring him down.
It is a struggle many face in life. The winner inside them can be brought down by friends, family and coworkers.
The worst instincts in people come out when there is money involved.
Selecting friends is a tricky concept.
When my daughter Angela Luhys was in the dating world, she developed a concept that she called the “trailer park test.”
When a man tried to impress her with material possessions, she always imagined if she would still like him if he lived in a trailer park instead of a nice house.
If she decided that she would still like the guy if he lived in a trailer park, he stayed. If she decided that his money played into how she viewed him, he went.
Angela, who wants (and deserves) full and total credit for coining the phrase “trailer park test,” works with me at the McNay Group, where we deal with injured people, lottery winners and others who come into sudden money.
We realized that the “trailer park test” is not just a dating tool; it is a way to measure how people interact with anyone with money.
The person who gets a large sum of money should do a “reverse trailer park test” on their potential posse. Ask themselves if the “friends” or new “romantic interest” would still be in their life if they lived in a trailer park.
Some simple rules for friendship to prevail:
1. Never lend money to anyone. You are a person, not a bank.
Follow the advice of William Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Lord Polonius said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
In modern terms, “Friends don’t borrow money from friends. That is what banks are for.”
Most of the time, the friend subconsciously (or even consciously) considers the loan a “gift” and, as Shakespeare noted, it usually ends the friendship.
2. If someone needs an expensive gift to be your friend, they are not actually your friend.
3. If you like hanging out with wealthy people, pick up the check when you dine with them.
My dad had many celebrity and wealthy friends and was always the first to grab a check. Many people expect to be “treated” when they are dining with a wealthy person. It’s amazing how some can have “short arm disease” when the check arrives.
Dad was the opposite. He found that wealth was one byproduct for people living interesting lives. He was glad to pick up the tab to be in their inner circle. He was the kind of friend a wealthy person wants to have. Thus, his world was filled with them.
4. Friendship is a lifelong journey, not a drive-by experience.
My new book is dedicated to my grandson and my friends who stood up for me at my wedding. The men have all had successful careers and are wonderful role models for children. They have also been my friends for many decades. I meet people who seem to trade in their friends for a new group every year or so. They try to be with the “in crowd” or never get too deep into getting to know someone.
All relationships require trust, love, giving, commitment and flexibility. People who have totally invested in their relationships are less likely to fall prey to an “entourage” or “posse” wanting their money.
Since family and friends are the primary reasons that people blow a lump sum, if you can invest in good quality relationships, you can go a long way toward maintaining financial success as well.
Don McNay, best-selling author and financial columnist, is a structured settlement consultant and one of the world’s leading authorities on how lottery winners handle their winnings.
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
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