Bernie Sanders, everyone’s favorite socialist running for the American Presidency, has stated he does not hang out with people like me. Sanders says “I do not have millionaire or billionaire friends.” Well, I am a millionaire and I take personal offense to his statement. Let me tell you why by telling how I became a millionaire.
I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. My parents separated when I was 10 years old and we soon began a desperate struggle to survive. My older brothers starting delivering papers and kicking that money into the family kitty to help pay the rent. When I was 11 years old I started helping them and I have not stopped working since. My friends were very well off, but I never begrudged them their trips or nice clothes. I never counted what others had; just what I had. Things got a little better as my mother got a steady job and my father began to kick in some money to help.
In 1969, my mother moved us to Los Angeles. I took a short break from working, but as soon as I turned 16 years old I started again. I never neglected school and was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the finest schools in the nation. Since I had to pay my own way through college, I stayed near home and went to community college. I worked 30 hours a week and a had a full class load.
I soon moved on to San Diego State. There I was elected to the school-wide student council which launched me being elected President of the School of Business. While doing that and working various odd jobs, I was first in my class in the accounting department. My friend, Larry Burdt, and I studied very hard and passed the four parts of the CPA exam on our first try; something accomplished by a mere 3% of test takers. We both went to work for the largest accounting firm in the world.
After that experience I worked a couple other jobs, including being the Controller for Jet Records and tour accountant for ELO (my boss was Sharon Arden, later to marry Ozzy Osborne and become world renown on her own). I did not see personal growth in what I was doing. When my brothers asked me to join their business in Reno, NV, I did just that in November 1979.
I stayed in Reno for 39 months building my skills and getting involved in politics. I worked my first presidential campaign (Ronald Reagan) and then in 1982 I was put forth to run for the State Assembly, but lost in the primary. After the election that fall, I decided it was time to return to Los Angeles.
I arrived in Los Angeles with some savings and decided to build my own CPA business. It was a tough road. Scrimping and taking on whatever I could to helped build my business, brick by brick. I got involved in community activities to network and garner new clients.
In late 1985, I met the beautiful Teri Michaels. In no time flat we got engaged, married and this August, we look forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary. We both worked hard and bought our first home in 1987, using a loan from a friend to help with the down payment. We lived there until 1990, when we used the profits from our first house to buy another home. We have lived in that house for 25 years. Both of our children grew to adulthood in our home.
Yes, while we were busy building our businesses we stopped to have two children, Sam and Hannah. They are now adults that we sacrificed to put through Jewish day school and then paid their way through college. We never stopped working.
In 1999, Teri transitioned from employee to business owner in the printing industry. Of course, she was aided by her financial advisor (me). We shared offices and have ever since. We worked hard every day, paid our taxes, put our kids through school and still saved. We always maxed out our pension plans so we would have a retirement fund. That came first after the kids and the house.
I became more involved in politics and, in on my birthday in 2004 (October 7th), I received a call from the White House. President Bush wanted to nominate me to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. After I got off the phone, I sat with Teri and cried. It was so humbling to have the President want to nominate me to serve our country.
I am now 62 years old. I have worked for 50 years. I have been a CPA for 40 years. I have taken care of my family, I have helped my community. And I have saved. No one gave me anything. One day I realized we had become millionaires.
I tell this story for one reason. I don’t think it is unique. Maybe different in some ways, but not unique. There are an estimated 10,100,000 households in America that are worth more than $1 million. They are millionaires. I have met many of them. Most every one of them has a similar story of struggle and sacrifice. For the most part few were handed anything. They worked longer and harder than the next guy. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So is financial success.
I never begrudged anybody who had more success than I. We had someone over for a kids’ birthday party about 20 years ago. They started railing against Bill Gates. I asked them why. Bill Gates helped to create a revolution in personal computers. Nobody put a gun to anyone’s head to buy his products. What did he ever do wrong? Twenty years later he and his wife are doing more to make the world right than just about anybody.
Mr. Sanders, I am glad you don’t want to associate with me. Frankly, the feeling is mutual. You have no clue what being an American is all about. I want everybody to be able to have the same success I have had. You want to tell everyone that people that I, and others like me, are stealing from them and dash their hopes. You are nothing more than a demagogue, not only offering false hopes, but crippling the dreams of the young people of this country.
Here is a dirty little secret -- Bernie is a millionaire also. The difference between he and I is how we acquired our pensions. My pension was acquired through my hard work and diligent savings from my contributions. His has been given to him on top of his rich salary as a U.S. Senator. If his pension rights were included on his financial statement he would be a millionaire many times over, but he does not tell anyone that.
After working my butt off for all these years I am proud to say that I have achieved what most Americans dream of doing – becoming a millionaire. It was something to look at as a major achievement and a sign of how our country provides opportunity for all. Don’t let Sanders and his Leftist friends make it a dirty word.