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Being at peace, for many, is a state of mind. If you appreciate what you have, rather than focusing on what you don't have, you are more likely to sleep well at night, have a positive outlook, and have a more peaceful life. In that respect, assuming you live in a safe, stable environment, and are otherwise healthy, I would suggest that everyone viewing this can take the position that he or she is effectively a multi-millionaire. Some of you may already be millionaires based on your financial assets, and I hope this book will help many others become millionaires in the future, but I am suggesting a proof that you may not have thought about before.
A common definition of a millionaire is a person whose assets (net of liabilities) are worth one million dollars or more. Wikipedia describes a millionaire is an individual whose net worth or wealth is equal to or exceeds one million units of currency and Mirriam-Webster defines a millionaire as "one whose wealth is estimated at a million or more (as of dollars, or pounds)."1. The proof that everyone reading this is a multi-millionaire is quite simple since every single one of you has assets worth many millions of dollars. Consider the following.
- On December 7, 2011, Amanda Velasquez of Brooklyn New York was blessed to give birth to a son. But tragically, she couldn't see her newborn son. She was diagnosed with glaucoma several weeks later. During her pregnancy she complained about blurred vision and pressure around her eyes. Apparently her symptoms were misdiagnosed as related to the pregnancy. On September 27, 2018, after a three week trial, jurors awarded Velasquez $15 million for medical malpractice for the loss of her vision, which could have been prevented.2
- In 2016 a Texas jury awarded a man $6 million in damages for the permanent blindness resulting from a complication of heart surgery treatment at a hospital.3
- In 2016 a New Hampshire jury awarded a 67 year-old woman $5 million for her malpractice caused blindness.4
- In 2015 a Florida jury came to a $5 million damage award resulting from an injury causing permanent blindness and other facial injuries (for a plaintiff that was already blind in his other eye).5
These sad and frightening cases are terrible circumstances for those that have experienced them. But perhaps they can allow the rest of us to reflect on the realization that the blessings and gifts that we have are extraordinarily valuable. The point is that if the loss of your eyesight is determined by judges and juries to be worth millions of dollars, anyone with healthy vision is therefore effectively a millionaire.
Similarly, consider how much your freedom is worth. Multi-million dollar settlements are commonly awarded for those that were wrongly convicted and jailed. For instance, on November 16, 2018 a jury awarded $5 million each to Eugene Johnson, Derrick Wheatt and Laurese Glover of Cleveland. They spent two decades in prison for a murder they didnít commit.6 In 2012 Marvin Seales of Detroit was arrested and jailed for two weeks before a victim informed police they had the wrong person. In July of 2018 a jury awarded Seales $3.5 million for the injustice he suffered in a case of mistaken identity7.
Being able to see clearly and having freedom (not being jailed or being a slave) are just two examples of blessings with extraordinary value. Of course, these are not original ideas. Discussions about damages and awards for bodily injuries go back thousands of years. For instance, the Old Testament includes several discussions, one typically translated into English as follows.8If men fight and they collide with a pregnant woman and she miscarries, but there will be no fatality, he shall surely be punished as the husband of the woman shall cause to be assessed against him, and he shall pay it by order of the judges. But if there shall be a fatality, then you shall award a life for a life; an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.Commentators explain that the responsible party must pay the monetary value for an eye, in restitution for the blinded eye (not to remove the other person's eye, as is sometimes misinterpreted).
We all have gifts that have extraordinary value, but we don't necessarily take time to be thankful for those gifts on a regular basis. We can all wake up every morning, look in the mirror, or look outside our windows, and that ability itself is worth millions of dollars. The same applies to other senses and body parts, where juries and judges regularly award millions of dollars to individuals from those responsible for damages and losses. People work for decades to save enough money to retire, to help others, to travel, or whatever it is that motivates them to work and make money. Yet, some don't stop often enough to think and to appreciate the gifts they already have.
The ability to see, smell, taste, to love, be loved, to pursue your dreams, having the free will to decide to go left or right, do whatever you please, or even to just relax are all invaluable gifts. These are separate discussions from the topic of estimates of the value of life. Several sources9 derive an estimate of approximately $9 million in the United States.10 While these are U.S. focused sources, the same discussion applies to those outside the U.S. and Wikipedia includes figures for several other countries. There are many additional follow-up questions and directions this argument can lead to, but for this discussion, the focus is on the value of physical gifts that we have.
Similarly, you can debate the value of citizenship11 or putting a value on being in a committed relationship (inspired by the movie "Indecent Proposal"). According to several surveys, close to one out of three people would take a million dollars if offered to go to bed with a stranger, which implies for others it is more valuable.12
An argument can be made that our physical assets are not liquid, meaning they canít actually be sold for millions of dollars. But that does not change the fact that you can add-up the value of virtually any healthy persons assets to at least several million dollars based on damage and loss valuations. The primary point of this argument is to remind people of the importance of good health and freedom and that there are more important things than money. That said, this is a book about investing and achieving financial piece of mind, so letís move on to how people think about money.
Notes - The Footnotes in the Book are sequential and for this chapter start at #47 and end at #58.
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millionaire https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/millionaire
4. http://www.unionleader.com/health/verdict-awards-couple-5m-after-procedures-leave-woman-legally-blind-20161210 https://www.marylandmedicalmalpracticelawyerblog.com/2016/12/botched-procedure-results-blindness-5-million-jury-verdict.html
7. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2018/07/30/wrongfully-jailed-millions-jury-award/853374002/ (see also 4 other $ multi-million jury awards summarized in the article) http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-wrongful-settlement-payouts-20170118-story.html https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/nyregion/wrongful-conviction-amaury-villalobos-william-vasquez.html https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/illinois/articles/2017-04-12/man-receives-13-million-in-lawsuit-over-wrongful-conviction
8. Exodus 21:22-25 (Artscroll translation)
10. See also ďThe Economist Who Realized How Crazy We AreĒ by Michael Lewis, which is an article about Richard Thaler, who set out to determine how to value a human life http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-29/richard-thaler-the-economist-who-realized-how-crazy-we-are (5/29/2015)
12. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/sleeping-stranger-1-million-not-indecent-proposal-people-article-1.177790 https://www.tellwut.com/surveys/lifestyle/love-relationships/4621-indecent-proposal-do-you-have-a-breaking-point-.html
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Gary Karz, CFA
Author of The Peaceful Investor and Publisher of InvestorHome.com