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The Trailer Park Test for Personal Finance

Recently, an accomplished professional woman told me she had wanted to marry a rich man at one point in her life. My response was why?

"Yeah life here in the trailer park is fine, you know that we've been living it every day, I got me a good looking woman, I got me some indoor plumbing, and I wouldn't have it any other way" -- Pat Green

My daughter, Angela Luhys, now has a first-rate fiancé, but when she was dating she developed a concept that she called the "trailer park test." When a man tried to impress her with material possessions, she always imagined if she would still like him if he lived in a trailer park instead of a nice house.

If she decided that she would still like the guy if he lived in a trailer park, he stayed. If she decided that his money played into how she viewed him, he went.

Not a bad system.

Angela, who wants (and deserves) full and total credit for coining the phrase "trailer park test," works with me at the McNay Group, where we deal with injured people, lottery winners and others who come into sudden money.

We realized that the "trailer park test" is not just a dating tool; it is a way to measure how people interact with anyone with money.

You frequently see professional athletes and lottery winners develop a group called "the posse." In Elvis's case, it was called the Memphis Mafia. The posse is a group of hangers-on who tell the wealthy person what they want to hear and hope to have money and reflected glory.

The posse is also the reason that an estimated 90 percent of lottery winners and the majority of professional athletes are broke within five years of earning their money.

The person who gets a large sum of money should do a "reverse trailer park test" on their potential posse. Ask themselves if the "friends" or new "romantic interest" would still be in their life if they lived in a trailer park.

Probably not.

Some people have a healthy relationship with money. They view it as a tool to provide for themselves and their families and live a comfortable life. They are not interested, like Will Rogers used to say, "in spending money they don't have to impress people they don't know."

Recently, an accomplished professional woman told me she had wanted to marry a rich man at one point in her life.

My response was why?

She makes a high income and made the money herself. She put herself through years of school doing menial jobs and has a strong sense of independence. She has a balanced life, no material needs or wants and no desire to show off.

I told her that she would never give up her independence for any amount of money. The money would make her less happy, not more.

She would rather live in a trailer park with someone she loves than a mansion with someone who brought angst, unhappiness and complication.

Angela is hoping that the "trailer park test" becomes a national standard on how people relate to those who have more income or possessions than they do.

It won't solve all the world's problems, but the "trailer park test" is a pretty good place to start.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is owner of McNay Consulting.

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