Handle Your Money and Heed Its Lessons

Physician's Money Digest, July15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 13

Sometimes the answer to a nagging questionis right under your nose. Take the question ofhow best to manage your money. Open yourwallet and check out the pictures of famous mencontained therein. These famous Americans weregiven the supreme honor of getting their likenessesplastered on billions of bills, in indelible,non-counterfeitable ink, kept in a treasuredspot by a large part of the world'spopulation (ie, their wallets).

Let's review the figures who most frequentlyshow up in a doc's wallet andwhy we should look to them for clues asto how to handle our finances.


First, there's George Washington, the"father of our country," on the $1 bill.Not as brilliant as the other foundingfathers, he was a simple military man.He didn't think great philosophicalthoughts or contemplate the purpose ofgovernment. He did 1 thing and 1 thingwell: He beat the British. Granted, itwasn't easy. The Brits were the predominantmilitary superpower of their day.

Washington had to overcome many obstaclesbefore he could emerge victorious. He had to arguewith skeptics who insisted, "It can't be done," withpoliticians who boasted, "My friend can do a betterjob than this Washington guy," and wannabes whoclaimed, "It's simple, just use my sure-fire militaryapproach." Once he got past them, he had to actuallyfight the British, who repeatedly defeated himin open combat. They forced him to deplete hisforces during a long winter in Valley Forge. But hepersevered until he had his 1 great chance, and hewas courageous enough to jump at it, defeatingthem at Yorktown. With that 1 victory, he saved theRevolution and ensured his place in history.

Abraham Lincoln, the "savior of our country,"shows up on the $5 bill. Raised in a primitive logcabin in a frontier outpost state, he was a self-mademan. He could have allowed the South to secede,but instead he mobilized the country to fight a long,incredibly bloody war to do the 1 thinghe wanted—save the Union.

Knowing that only a military defeatcould extinguish the secessionist passionof millions of Southerners, he wasdetermined to have that military victoryif it meant turning the countryupside down. He was widely regardedby the sophisticated Washington, DC,in-crowd as a lightweight president ofno great merit, but he showed them allby staying focused for 4 long years and,at long last, succeeding.


Federalist Papers

Next, Alexander Hamilton shows upon the $10 bill. A banker before the Revolution,he became Washington's aidede-camp, helping him organize his army.After the war, he became the new country's firstSecretary of the Treasury. His brilliant writing of thesuccessfully argued for the constitutionalform of government we now enjoy. He wascertainly knowledgeable about money, in additionto being disciplined and organized—good traits tohave if you're in charge of the nation's wallet.

Fourth is Andrew Jackson, on the $20 bill.Thisfrontier general gathered a ragtag army to deliverthe British their only land defeat during the War of1812. Although his subsequent presidency waswidely regarded as a disaster, he is remembered asa man of courage, resourcefulness, fortitude, andself-reliance—all noble American qualities.

There's a reason why these men who weregenerals or otherwise heavily involved in militaryaffairs grace our currency. War has a way offocusing attention on what is important. We maybe dead in the morning, so we'd better get itright tonight. The lessons they learned and livedduring their greatest days can help people in anyhuman endeavor, including managing money.Consider the following:

• Devise a plan. It should be simple, so thatyou can remember it when the bullets start to fly.For example: "Buy low/sell high," or, "Diversify,diversify, diversify," or, "Invest regularly usingdollar-cost averaging." Since you don't have thetime and energy to review a complex plan whenyour investments suffer reversals, create a planthat's simple. If Lincoln could end the Civil Warwith a simple plan, you ought to be able to useone for your endeavors.

• Be resilient. Don't let a single defeat stopyou. Insist, "I'm not retreating; I'm advancing inanother direction. I have not yet begun to fight."Look forward to the next battle, and learn fromdefeat the secrets of victory.

• Stay focused on the goal.When naysayerstry to confuse you with their doubts, stick to yourplan. During the Gulf War, the retired generalsembedded in the news stations argued that ourcombat generals were headed to a defeat. Ourcombat generals calmly ignored their criticisms,stayed focused on their plan, and implementedit, eventually winning the war.

• Activate your intelligence. Engage yourdetermination and apply your resourcefulness tothe best of your abilities.

So the next time you have questions aboutyour financial future, pull out your wallet, considerwhat these great Americans did, and learnthe lessons they learned.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physician

in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the Saginaw County Medical

Society Bulletin and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes questions

or comments at 3350 Shattuck Road,

Saginaw, MI 48603; 517-792-1895; or louisconstan@hotmail.com.