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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'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 life.

If you'd like to share your success story, please e-mail us at

On Being Rich

By Dr. Judith Briles

With 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.




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