Money magnifies character | Inquirer Business

Money magnifies character

/ 05:16 AM December 23, 2021

I believe that money is the root of all evil,” says my 19-year-old student C (not her real name). “In the pandemic, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

“The pandemic indeed worsened inequality,” I say, “but is wealth really so bad? I thought you and your classmates want to be billionaires by age 30.”


“We still do,” C sighs. “I am so confused. Many people lost their jobs and cannot feed their families, but lots of clueless people post about their beach houses and gourmet food. Many wealthy businesspeople require their employees to risk their lives while going to work every day.

“Why don’t the rich help the poor?” she cries.


“Many of them do,” I say. “Bill Gates and his ex-wife Melinda’s foundation helps developing countries in health, education, microfinance. They are funding tons of vaccination efforts now. In the past, David Packard, cofounder of HP, whose printers you use, built community hospitals in the US. Oil magnate John Rockefeller opened schools for public health in the US and came up with the vaccine for yellow fever.”

I tell C about steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who established libraries in the United States, and carmaker Henry Ford, whose foundation aids in community and economic development.

“Closer to home, think about the Gokongwei family,” I tell C. “In Ateneo, they enabled the establishment of the John Gokongwei School of Management, your and your coursemates’ college, and the Gokongwei Brothers School of Education and Learning Design.”

I rattle off a slew of names: motel king Angelo King, whose foundation built hundreds of schools, orphanages, old-age homes, drug rehabilitation centers, around the country; Enrique Razon, whose foundation is actively procuring vaccines for the Philippines; the late George Ty and his family, whose Metrobank Foundation honors exemplars in education, the military, the police and the arts; Erramon Aboitiz, whose foundation focuses on education, business, health; Ramon Ang, whose San Miguel Foundation helped in the rebuilding of Marawi; Tony and Grace Tan Caktiong, and the late Ricardo Po and his family, whose Jollibee and Century Pacific foundations, respectively, organize feeding programs and disaster relief.

In our book “Called to Serve,” my student Raquel Lucas and I discuss what inspires Filipinos like Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, the late Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation, Mark Ruiz of Hapinoy, to help others. I encourage C to get a copy from Anvil Publishing and reflect on how money can be wisely used to improve the lives of others.

“But what about those who don’t care?” C asks. “Many of my classmates come from wealthy families. They cheat in online exams and blame their mental health, their parents, their profs if they don’t get the grades they want.”

“Ignore them,” I say. “Focus on what you can do. You are young and idealistic, and your heart is in the right place. But avoid making hasty generalizations or projecting your anger and dismay onto others. Instead, hone your skills, stop comparing yourself to others, learn and grow as much as you can.


“Money by itself is neutral, but it magnifies your true character. Rich people who are sensible will use their money positively, while those who are not will waste it. The same principle holds for those who are not so wealthy, either. If you make more money than you have ever dreamed, then take pride in it, and use it wisely, so you can truly make a difference.”

“Some will grouse that a poor man sacrifices more when he gives $10 than Gates and Buffett do when they donate $10 billion,” says investment advisor Alexander Green in his book “Beyond Wealth.”

“And I won’t argue the point. But these men are doing a lot [of] good while providing an inspiring example. They don’t just know how to make money. They know how to give it away.”

Have a blessed Yuletide.

Get my book “Called to Serve” (coauthored with Raquel Lucas) at Anvil or Amazon.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada, or the ebook version via Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: All in the Family, character, money
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