In the late 1800’s, Hetty Green was usually the only woman on a list of richest Americans but she could never be considered prosperous.
In New Thought, we say prosperity is the ability to do what you want when you want to do it. Hetty Green was so wrapped up in her money fears she couldn’t do much of anything.
When Hetty died in 1916 at the age of 81, her fortune was more than $100 million (over $17 billion in today’s dollars). Despite the money, the stories about her extreme lifestyle, show that she felt so poor that she could barely afford to breathe.
Hetty Green started a love affair with money at age six when she began tagging along with her father. She read him financial newspapers on their walks to work. When she turned 13 she began working as a bookkeeper in the family business.
She always invested her earnings conservatively because she believed she couldn’t afford a risk. All her life, she invested in railroads, property and stocks and bonds. She also loaned money for high rates. She even loaned money to the City of New York!
She inherited 7 ½ million at age 21. After her inheritance, there are many stories – apparently mostly true. She always lived in cheap rooms and got most of her meals in a place called “Pie Alley” where the main meal of the day cost 15 cents. Other than that, she ate cold oatmeal unless her rented room came with heat. Then she could warm her oatmeal on top of the radiator.
On her 21st birthday Hetty refused to light the candles on her birthday cake. The next day she wiped the cake off the candles and returned them to the store for a refund.
An aunt who promised to leave her $2 million died two weeks after her father but only willed Hetty $65,000. Hetty forged a new will and went to court for five years but she eventually lost.
When she was charged with forgery, she fled to England with a wealthy man, whom she married. They lived in London until the charges were dropped and then they returned to the U.S.
Hetty was 33 when she married. It took her until then to find someone rich enough. They quarreled about money and were divorced before the kids were grown.
Hetty was a poor and miserable housewife. She walked miles to buy broken cookies for the kids. She returned her berry boxes for a nickel. She always carried a small milk can to get the best price on milk for her cat. She got a free bone for her dog with her purchases.
Hetty Green was famous for arguing with tradesmen. She once spent half the night looking for a two cent stamp.
The most damning story is that her 14 year old son hurt his knee sledding. Hetty tried to treat the injury at home. When he didn’t recover, she dressed him in rags and visited charity clinics. Eventually, the boy’s leg was amputated.
She argued over every bill she received and her battery of lawyers routinely had to sue her to collect legal fees.
The Witch of Wall Street is an amazing true character. She got a free desk from banks where she kept her money. She stored all her furniture in a spare room in the bank every time she went out of town so she could give up her rented rooms.
She wore only black and traveled to her free desk in her bank every day. The bankers ridiculed her for her attire and eccentricities. They gave her the nickname ‘The Witch of Wall Street”.
She lived in grungy single rooms, spending as little as $5 a week for living expenses. She wore the same dress day after day until it was in tatters. When she absolutely had to wash the garment, she laundered the bottom skirt only where it showed dirt.
During her whole life, she never spent a penny for entertainment, Her one extravagance seemed to be her dog, who ate better than Hetty or her kids.
Hetty Green’s life is perfect proof that, “Money can’t buy happiness.” Despite her billions, poor Hetty never had enough. Money isn’t the villain in this story. The mistaken belief in lack and limitation is the culprit. True wealth should provide freedom.
How do we attain true wealth? We can begin by ignoring Hetty’s advice. Ideas about scarcity, caution, and fear are as limiting as chains and shackles. Money should create opportunity and the ability to stretch and grow.
I’ve never known anyone as extreme as Hetty Green but I have known people whose thrifty ways were out of control. They saved as though they were breaking rocks on a chain gang. They worked hard, postponing life in favor of the future and they were never happy. False beliefs can cripple.
We can be sensible money managers and live a good life. We can manage money with joy. We can design a rich life. Our life can include enough money but our life doesn’t need to be about money.
Our relationship to money should be healthy, wealthy and wise. We should have enough to be in healthy balance, and we should be wise in the ways we choose to spend or save it.
What does a healthy balance look like? That depends partly on your level of trust. If you trust that you are in the flow of prosperity, if you trust that God supports your dreams, if you trust that Life is for you, you don’t need huge amounts of money. You can manage your money and follow your dreams.
Building a healthy level of trust can start with clear assessment of your beliefs. Try some journaling about your early messages around money. You will find patterns easily and you will know where to start changing your thinking and changing your life.
If you find you need more trust and less fear, do something about it. I recommend reading Spiritgual Economics by Dr. Eric Butterworth. I also recommend the wonderful prosperity programs in your local New Thought center. Take prosperity steps.
I’m sure none of my readers ate cold oatmeal for lunch. Your beliefs are not as out of control as Hetty’s but check out your “saving ways”. If you are wearing tight shoes because “They’re still good” or you begrudge your tithe because “Times are uncertain,”pay attention.
Begin by taking a look at your actual situation. Make a list of your financial assets. Count your money. Then add your other prosperity assets. They include your good health, your achievements, your talents, and your good relationships. Your mental and emotional strengths are your true wealth. Make the list of them also and you will be amazed at how rich you are.
You’ already have so much prosperity. You also have unlimited potential. You’ve got God on your side. Don’t let false ideas defeat you. Remember that you can use your spiritual practice, including your prayers, to enhance your work.
Am I richer than Hetty?
How prosperous am I?