A Message from Tiffany Bass Bukow, Founder of
Throughout my life, I have enjoyed significant financial
success and endured surprising financial failure. Dealing
with the success was easy. Dealing with the failure
was not, especially when it was unexpected. I have had
to challenge my values and work hard to continue to
succeed while learning from failure. And I discovered
that friends who had been in similar circumstances were
my greatest source of motivation.
I hope that MsMoney.com's Success Stories provide
you with the same inspiration I received from my friends.
Each week, we will profile a remarkable woman who has
confronted financial obstacles and overcome challenges
to lead a happy, financially secure, and meaningful
If you'd like to share your success story, please e-mail
us at email@example.com.
On Being Rich
By Dr. Judith Briles
the arrival of the new Millennium, it was impossible to avoid
the feelings of many that this was a good time to look forward,
learn from the past and truly plan the rest of your life.
Most likely, you probably reflected back to the previous months/years
and weighed whether they were great…good…so-so…or dismal.
Usually that measurement entails how much money you have--more
than before? Because we are in a new century, I would like
to challenge you to probe deeper, asking yourself instead,
"Are you rich?"
The Past Changes the Future
To help set the tone, let me probe into my own past decade
or two. I had great years…good years…so-so years…and absolutely
dismal ones. My own answer to "What does being rich mean?"
started with a phone call in November of 1981. Back then,
my family "had it all." A beautiful home (including pool and
hot tub) in an exclusive section of Northern California, two
Mercedes, investments, kids in private schools, a vacation
condo at Lake Tahoe, a prosperous business, the respect of
our community, and a huge circle of friends. Life couldn't
be better. . .or so we thought. That phone call was from one
of the banks I worked with in San Francisco. It was a call
that would change our lives overnight.
In the old days--the great, good ones--I used to raise money
for various ventures, usually in the millions. I loved old
buildings, buying and restoring them gave me immense pleasure.
One of my favorite projects was the restoration of an old
laundry. It was going to enjoy a new life as a small European
style hotel. The financial projections looked terrific. All
the partners would get tax deductions, annual cash flow, and
a handsome profit when the project was projected to sell in
5 years. What more could we want?
The November phone call came from the bank that had underwritten
the construction loan, and I was summoned to a meeting and
told to "Bring your most recent net worth statement." It was
a horrible meeting, quickly followed by a series of other
meetings. I discovered that my partner of two years and her
partners had taken on another partner. Unfortunately, she
didn't advise me of the relationship, and I was too naive
and trusting to see all the warning signals. My partner and
friend was deeply involved in drugs. The other investor partners
and I had unknowingly paid for them.
After an audit, we determined that over $450,000 was missing
from a construction loan that I had personally guaranteed.
The loan officer (at what was quickly becoming my least favorite
bank) wanted to know how I was going to pay off the discrepancy--could
I write a check to cover it? The only answer he wanted to
hear was, "Of course." I was stunned. Stunned and angry, incredibly
angry. My husband walked around in a cloud, not fully comprehending
what "paying off the loan" meant to us.
No Time for Wasting Time
A family "pow-wow" was called. Everything was laid out for
all to see and hear. Our three teens had no idea how much
their life style would change in the coming months. They were
told that there was a very high probability that we would
lose everything--the house in the elite neighborhood, the
resort condo, private schools, expensive vacations. And they
were told, "We don't want any BS from any of you. No demands--we
are fighting for our lives."
Where did the fight take us? On an incredible journey. In
the end, we lost everything that we had worked for. The home,
the condo, both cars, jewelry, antiques, artwork, the business,
private schooling, investments, savings--everything. Over
$1,000,000! Our comfortable net worth was now in the red.
We even lost many of our "friends." In the middle of it all,
my health took a nosedive, landing me in the hospital for
three surgeries, including cancer. I felt that my life was
a mess, that I would never be able to make the money I had
in the past, that my reputation would always be mud, and that
I was a total loser.
Truth be told, I certainly didn't feel rich. I felt homeless,
lonely, betrayed, hurt, angry, and sick. Did I recover? Yes.
Did I become rich? You bet. Next week, I'll tell you how.