How a Successful Entrepreneur Ended up Homeless and Why you should Start Saving Money Today
This is the story of Peter*. It happened to me quite unexpectedly this past summer and it was clearly an incident that was there to give me a message.
I have always had in the back on my mind that I should start with a serious savings/investments plan but I never really began to look into it seriously. We always tend to put off things like saving and investing, for later when things are better, when we will have made more money, when we will have enjoyed the good things in life, done enough traveling etc.
Last July my college friend Alexander* called me from the UK in a really stressed voice and said: ‘Pavlina, can you talk, I need your help with something. Remember Peter the Irish pub owner, my friend? You met him at my wedding, really nice guy. He is in Cyprus right now and is looking for a job urgently. I need you to call him right now and help him find a job, he is a very trustworthy and hardworking person, he knows everything about running a pub or restaurant successfully, he has been running the most successful pub in his town for 10 years, I can’t say more, please do it for me, call him’….
Peter was 43 years old, single, from Ireland and for the past 10 years he was running a very successful high profile pub in England. I had met him at my Alexander’s wedding in Cyprus and many heard stories of their adventures. My mind couldn’t connect on why Peter was in Cyprus looking for a job, but of course I agreed to meet him and help.
We sat down to have a coffee and he was crisp burned by the sun. Being July in Cyprus it’s very easy to get burned by the sun when you are a tourist, but I wasn’t expecting what about what I was about to find out. I had given Peter two contacts to see before we met but he said their offers were not good enough for a person of his experience. He was a proud man having run a very successful business for more than 10 years.
I asked him how he ended up in Cyprus and he said that he had sold his pub over a year ago and was supposed to start a new business in Ireland with a partner. He made a respectable profit from the pub, around 100,000 Euro, but he gave 60,000 to the partner who was supposed to invest a new business for both of them. He had 40,000 Euro left which he spend to take a year off to rest and travel, since he was very tired after 10 years in the nightlife as a pub owner. As it turns out, his prospective partner in the new business took the money and got into trouble, the new business didn’t happen and the money owed to Peter was gone.
Peter had ended up in the UK alone, without a business, without a job, cheated by his partner, and another friend had offered him a job as a restaurant manager in Cyprus. He jumped aboard and came to the island only to find out that the job was not was described to him. Disappointed and proud as he is, he took his suitcase and left to find something new. Our coffee meeting was 10 days later and after Alexander had called me.
‘So where are you staying now’? I asked. ‘Pavlina, don’t ask difficult questions. I will tell you as much as I can, but please understand I am in a very difficult position and I don’t want to say much, I am starting over again in my life at 43, I am starting from scratch’.
I left him 2 hours later, but I was clearly in shock, although I tried not to show him, I was trying to figure out what to do…. After a long discussion and ‘interrogation’ from me, he finally told me that he had no money on him and that he was sleeping on the beach for the past 10 days! He insisted that he didn’t want any other help from me than contacts for finding work. I invited him for lunch the next day as the least I could do, I was dreading the thought that he might not even have any money on him to eat! I called Alexander immediately and tried to work something out to help him.
The next day Peter came for lunch and told me that Alexander had put some money into his account as a loan, so that he would buy a ticket back to the UK and wanted me to help him buy a cheap one online. He had many friends there to stay with until he was back on his feet again. We arranged a ticket for 2 days later and convinced him to stay at our house and let us take care of him until he left Cyprus.
The next couple of days we talked more. I was wondering how he had let the 100,000 euro disappear in a year, why he hadn’t saved some and how he had ended up with zero money on his name and homeless, after having such a successful business for years….
He said that when the pub was doing well, he never saved money, instead he found 3 families that were very poor and with sick children and he was supporting them with a monthly salary. He was this kind of person. After he closed the pub, he kept supporting them because they were depended on him, so the money went fast. He never saved anything in his life; he always gave anything extra he made to others who needed it.
Then he trusted someone he shouldn’t have, he made a bad business decision, he gave the money to a partner who disappeared…. It can happen even after you have succeeded for many years in business, you can still make some bad business decisions. In the blink of an eye, all his money was gone and he was homeless.
‘I will be back on my feet again, I am a survivor, but you have to realize that at 43 I am starting over, it’s difficult even to talk about it. Last time I was in Cyprus I was staying in the most expensive five star hotel and was drinking the best scotch with Alexander before his wedding, I never thought life would turn out like this’ Peter told me. ‘I always gave to others when they needed me and I believe that you get back what you give. And this is the proof; you and Alexander showed up to help me, it really means a lot to me to know that there are still good hearted people in this world. I believe that good karma comes back’.
Dropping Peter off at the airport I made the decision that a long term savings plan was going to be high on my agenda from now on. And that I would be double careful about who I trust my money and business to.
All the expert financial consultants and wealth building experts, advice that you put away 10% of your income away, in an account where you cannot touch it or spend it unless there is a big emergency. I guess that was one of the emergencies they are referring too.
It’s obvious that the global economy as it is today, does not discriminate with anyone. No matter how successful you are today, you need long term financial planning and a solid savings account. We hear every day stories similar to Peter’s in the news; it’s becoming common reality around us.
I am sure Peter will be back on his feet pretty soon because he is business minded and hard working. Sometimes life gives us lessons we cannot understand at furst, so that we grow and improve. I don’t know what Peter’s lesson was out of all of this, but it’s clear in my mind
I 100% respect your ‘lesson’ and take away from all this, but I do not agree with it.
It’s logical, it’s what we all “should” do, but unfortunately, it’s not really … ‘human’.
Maybe for some of you, a long term savings account is okay. But for someone like me – everyday is a winding road. I want to help people and realize my potential and not be a 9 – 5 slave for 50 years and then retire in a home. There’s so much more to life. I know you’re more interesting than that, but … I hope there is clarity here somewhere.
I guess the main point is – we’re all different. Some people live in the moment. Some people live in the moment with compassion. I think ‘Peter’ is one of these in the moment & compassionate people. He’s the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back today, not knowing that tomorrow brings snow.
Or maybe he knows that snow is on its way, but feels that we should ‘all’ just deal with the situation as it occurs.
MONEY – is a flawed concept and our financial institutions are broken. MONEY – is the root of all evil.
Tell me, in a world without “MONEY” … would Peter have ended up homeless? I highly doubt it. I also don’t think he would have been a pub owner. But I can almost guarantee, that he’d be there to give a helping hand in any initiative, so long as it served community (which he is part of).
We’re not all the same, and so “one system” for everyone is just not going to work. Money is showing its age. We’ll get beyond it. But for those who have no place for it, it will be painful lives they live until the transition is complete.
Hi Nick, tthank you for your comment and I appreciate your point of view.
You are right about Peter’s character, he is the kind of person that you describe and I don’t think its bad, I believe he is a survivor and a giver and he believes within himself that as long as he gives he will get back when he is in need. Actually, I believe the most important thing in life is to be self-reliant, whatever happens to you to be able to get back on your feet again and build something new. Self-reliance is going to be more and more important in the next few years as the economy changes. People will need to be alert all the time about new ways of creating income and be flexible as situations change.
My point was that since Peter had earned this 100,000 euro when the business was sold, he could have put lets say 10% of it (10.000 Euro) in a safe investment that earns a decent interest and keep it there for emergencies… Its not about working all your life to save money so that we can retire one day, I don’t agree with that concept at all. But some money aside is always helpful in this volatile economy and as humans unpredicted events happen to us and its always good to have something aside to handle emergencies and plans gone wrong – even help our family when something goes wrong with them.
We should all count for emergencies and unpredicted situations and learn to put a little bit of our money aside each month and keep the rest to live, enjoy life and give to others. Its all about finding the balance, that’s my personal point of view and I am working on finding the balance myself :)..