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A millionaire who gave up everything to lead a simple life

In my previous article Work Life Balance Gets More Difficult Once You are on the Top, I’ve written how difficult it gets to achieve that elusive work-life balance the higher you climb the corporate ladder.

Today, I want to share about a story that I’ve read in the Woman’s Weekly March 2012 (Malaysian edition). Karl Rabeder grew up in a poor family and his grandparents had ingrained in him that success is measured by wealth. He came up and build an interior design and furniture business worth RM45 million. 2 years ago, he gave it all up to charity because his wealth had made him miserable.

Here is an excerpt of the article which is very motivating and I want to share with you:

For a long time, I believed more wealth automatically meant more happiness. I followed that rule but was rarely really happy and relaxed. My wealth isolated me. Some people saw me as a “walking loan machine”. And I was permanently afrraid of losing what I had. I began thinking I needed to live a different way. But the thought of shedding my wealth frightened me… because change is daunting and poverty was a distant memory. I just didn’t have the courage to give up everything”, he explains.

The tipping point came in 1998 during a 3 week luxury vacation to Hawaii with his then wife. “We did everything! Chartered helicopters, went island hopping, stayed in 5-star hotels. I should have enjoyed it, but I felt horrible, empty and cold. I felt like we didn’t meet a single genuine person in the entire trip- they were just actors, playing a part. I realized our money was keeping us from regular, authentic people. I realized I wanted to be free from my wealth.”

His wife then dumped him. He sold everything and donated to MyMicro Credit- an organization that provides small loans and business advice to poor people in South America and Asia. He now makes a quiet living giving motivational speeches on subjects such as “Happiness can be learned”. He does not earn large sums but he still donates any excess to his MyMicroCredit foundation.

He said, “I do not regret sheeding my wealth at all. I tell people money can be helpful because it offers you a certain amount of freedom.”

“In my case, it allowed me to study, build my company and pursue my passion for flying. Money is not the enemy, but it is a mistake to believe having 10 times more money makes you 10 times happier.”

The same magazine also covered a story about a vegetarian stall owner, Mdm Hong Eng who rose from rags to richness when she won the jackpot at the casino. At first, the casino had refused to pay her but after a legal tassle, they finally agreed to pay her the amount stated on the machine.

And she donated the entire proceeds to charity.  At first she had wanted to donate only half but because so many people wanted a piece of the pie and refused to leave her alone, she had decided to donate it so that she could be free once and for all.

When you are rich, you never know who your ‘real’ friends were.  If you ask yourself why you want more money, is because you want to be more happy. But there are ways to be more happy- if you are a real friend or you are sincere, you would attract like-minded people.

I tend to go around wearing shabby clothes and driving a shabby car- well, not because I have low self-esteem but because make-up and appearence are quite low in my priority list. Perhaps I am turning into a computer geek who is more comfortable in tshirts and slippers. And why buy a new car to tie myself down? Yet, I have real friends- whom we could share our happiness, fears and sadness with one another. These are the people who still kept in contact during the period when I am jobless as well as the time when I took a paycut. I count myself very fortunate.

Recently, I bumped into a friend whom I’ve not met for a long time. She had gotten to be quite well-to-do, from what I’ve heard. Even though we had been close friends in the past, I could see that she had eyed me with a guarded look because she was probably worried that I am only interested in her money and wealth. I was not, but I am not going to tire myself trying to convience her otherwise. But I can’t help but feel that caution that she always had to have would do nothing but isolate her.

In life, friends come into your life during certain period and they leave….and then a new set of friends would come along.  Everything is good while it still last. When the time is over, the best is to move on rather than get stuck in the past.

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  • allen ng April 10, 2012, 8:39 pm

    I think people do need some money to survive in order to attain a balance of spiritual, personal and material well-being. However beyond the point where you can happily say to yourself that I may not have everything that I ever wanted but I certainly have everything that I ever needed to sustain myself in a simple lifestyle, then mindlessly pursuing wealth, status, power, fame, etc beyond that point can lead to lots of miseries and sufferings, not only to yourself but to others around you.

    • Yin April 10, 2012, 10:54 pm

      Well said Allen. Well said. Profound observation

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