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Testimonials

In the various roles he has undertaken through the years, Val J. Halamandaris has been a singular driving force behind the policy and program initiatives resulting in the recognition of home health care as a viable alternative to institutionalization. His dedication to consumer advocacy, which enhances the quality of life and dignity of those receiving home health care, merits VNA HealthCare Group’s highest recognition and deepest respect. 

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VNA HealthCare Group

I have the highest respect for them, especially for the nurses, aides and therapists, who devote their lives to caring for people with disabilities, the infirm and dying Americans.  There are few more noble professions.

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President Barack Obama

Home health care agencies do such a wonderful job in this country helping people to be able to remain at home and allowing them to receive services

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U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chair, Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Home care is a combination of compassion and efficiency.  It is less expensive than institutional care...but at the same time it is a more caring, human, intimate experience, and therefore it has a greater human element...it’s a big mistake not to try to maximize it and find ways to give people the home care option over either nursing homes, hospitals or other institutions

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Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

Medicaid covers long-term care, but only for low-income families.  And Medicare only pays for care that is connected to a hospital discharge....our health care system must cover these vital services...[and] we should promote home-based care, which most people prefer, instead of the institutional care that we emphasize now.

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Former U.S. Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-CD)

We need incentives to...keep people in home health care settings...It’s dramatically less expensive than long term care.

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U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

 

Home care is clearly the wave of the future. It’s clearly where patients want to be cared for. I come from an ethnic family and when a member of our family is severely ill, we would never consider taking them to get institutional care. That’s true of many families for both cultural and financial reasons. If patients have a choice of where they want to be cared for, where it’s done the right way, they choose home.

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Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services

A couple of years ago, I spent a little bit of time with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and its president, Val J. Halamandaris, and I was just blown away. What impressed me so much was that they talked about what they do as opposed to just the strategies of how to deal with Washington or Sacramento or Albany or whatever the case may be. Val is a fanatic about care, and it comes through in every way known to mankind. It comes through in the speakers he invites to their events; it comes through in all the stuff he shares.

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Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

Val’s home care organization brings thousands of caregivers together into a dynamic organization that provides them with valuable resources and tools to be even better in their important work. He helps them build self-esteem, which leads to self-motivation.

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Mike Vance, former Dean of Disney and author of Think Out of the Box

Val is one of the greatest advocates for seniors in America. He goes beyond the call of duty every time.

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Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Val has brought the problems, the challenges, and the opportunities out in the open for everyone to look at. He is a visionary pointing the direction for us. 

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Margaret (Peg) Cushman, Professor of Nursing and former President of the Visiting Nurses Association

Although Val has chosen to stay in the background, he deserves much of the credit for what was accomplished both at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he was closely associated with me and at the House Select Committee on Aging, where he was Congressman Claude Pepper’s senior counsel and closest advisor. He put together more hearings on the subject of aging, wrote more reports, drafted more bills, and had more influence on the direction of events than anyone before him or since.

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Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Val’s most important contribution is pulling together all elements of home health care and being able to organize and energize the people involved in the industry.

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Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Anyone working on health care issues in Congress knows the name Val J. Halamandaris.

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Kathleen Gardner Cravedi, former Staff Director of the House Select Committee on Aging

Without your untiring support and active participation, the voices of people advocating meaningful and compassionate health care reform may not have been heard by national leaders.

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Michael Sullivan, Former Executive Director, Indiana Association for Home Care

All of us have been members of many organizations and NAHC is simply the best there is. NAHC aspires to excellence in every respect; its staff has been repeatedly honored as the best in Washington; the organization lives by the highest values and has demonstrated a passionate interest in the well-being of patients and providers.

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Elaine Stephens, Director of Home Care of Steward Home Care/Steward Health Systems and former NAHC C

Home care increasingly is one of the basic building blocks in the developing system of long-term care.  On both economic and recuperative bases, home health care will continue to grow as an essential service for individuals, for families and for the community as a whole.

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Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

NCOA is excited to be part of this great event and honored to have such influential award winners in the field of aging.

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National Council of Aging

Health care at home…is something we need more of, not less of.  Let us make a commitment to preventive and long-term care.  Let us encourage home care as an alternative to nursing homes and give folks a little help to have their parents there.

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Former President Bill Clinton

13-CARING_MAST

Ric Edelman: Investing in the Public Good

By Val J. Halamandaris

14CAR_Tech

Ric Edelman has been named several times by Barron’s as the nation’s top independent financial advisor. Perhaps it’s because he puts so much stock in serving others. “It takes a strong ego,” Ric says, “to tell a stranger who you just met what to do with their life savings. So it’s a pretty important responsibility that we have,” one he’s fulfilled in the fields of both philanthropy and finance. Sadly, many financial advisors are too concerned with sales, as Ric points out. “Most of the industry is focused on how we can make more money, how to reduce the regulatory burden, and how we can make our lives easier. There doesn’t seem to be much of a focus on our obligation to serve the community, employees, clients, and the nation. This selfish focus is why many consumers don’t like our industry.”

Ric is an exception because his focus is on service, with an eye more on Main Street than on Wall Street. This approach has made Edelman Financial Services one of the nation’s largest independent financial planning firms. The firm has 36 offices nationwide, serving more than 25,000 people and managing $13.6 billion. Unlike the majority of advisors, Ric’s firm doesn’t work primarily with the high-net-worth market. Instead they cater to middle-class families who want to achieve financial security, since Ric believes in “not leaving behind the 99 percent of America that very much wants to participate.” And he tells them the truth about money as a radio and TV host whose programs have aired for 23 years. His radio program reaches 68 markets with more than 1 million listeners weekly, and his TV show airs on more than 200 Public TV stations nationwide. His knack for explaining investing in everyday language has led millions to read his eight personal finance books, including his first bestseller, The Truth About Money.

Ric serves the masses, instead of the upper classes, because he thinks “consumers have too few opportunities to get the independent, objective financial advice they need. It’s astonishing that people with less than $500,000 in savings are often ignored by professional financial advisors. It’s absurd and obscene, like a doctor who says he’ll only treat healthy rich people.” That’s not the key to success, as Ric points out. Granted, “if you can’t run your business profitably, then you don’t have a business worth engaging in. But if you are getting into this business solely to make money, you can be virtually certain you won’t succeed. Your focus must be entirely on your customers and your employees.”

This belief guided Ric 26 years ago when he and his wife, Jean, decided to found their own firm. By then Ric had worked as a financial journalist and financial planner at a small brokerage firm whose advisors seemed more concerned with their own commissions than with their clients’ needs. This experience led them to embrace the everyday investor by putting a focus on financial education and long-term strategies that reflect the clients’ own goals. “We’re talking about helping Americans become financially successful, financially secure — getting their kids through college, retiring on their own, and caring for aging relatives for the good of our nation,” Ric says. So he’s disturbed that so many financial advisors think in the context, “I’ll only do it if I can make a buck.”

Ric has bucked his profession’s selfish trend by advising anyone who needs help and by investing heavily in the public good. Over the years, Ric and Jean have donated time and money to countless organizations and served on boards for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the United Way. They have made generous donations to the Inova Edelman Center for Nursing, the Inova Health Foundation, and the Edelman Planetarium at Rowan University. In addition, the couple donated $250,000 to the American Astronomical Society to distribute 15,000 telescopes to elementary schools across the U.S. to foster interest in astronomy.

Ric urges people to study the stars because it helps us see that “we have a larger purpose,” he says in an interview with Val J. Halamandaris. They discuss how companies build caring cultures, the tremendous value of nurses, and why Ric thinks more about the public good than his own portfolio of stocks. “We look to help others and we do it because of our belief in a higher power,” a conviction that leads Ric to give this advice to others in his field: “Be proud of the work you are doing, for you are impacting people’s lives in a profound way. Make sure others are equally proud, therefore, of the way you are conducting yourself. The more you help people and the more you place their interests first, the more success you will enjoy for yourself.”

Ric has used his tremendous success to help others succeed, too. He and his wife have a particular affinity for nurses, especially home care and hospice nurses, so their firm gives nurses financial advice at no charge. This is among the reasons Ric and Jean have been nominated for a National Caring Award from the Caring Institute in Washington, DC. Learn more about their contributions to both the community and their clients by reading the interview that follows.

Val J. Halamandaris (VJH): I want to thank you for coming to visit us here at what was Frederick Douglass’s home, located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. As you know, we helped to save it, undertook its renovation, and turned it into the Caring Hall of Fame. It is a very unusual and special place, and it is an honor to have you here.

Ric Edelman (RE): Thank you. I really feel as though this is hallowed ground. It’s an honor to be here.

VJH: I want to commend you for the manner in which you have used your life to benefit others. You have exercised your profession and done it exceedingly well. You are a great teacher and, even more important, a great public servant.

RE: I appreciate that, although I have to add that my wife, Jean, is certainly more than 50 percent of the impetus for what I have achieved. We have had a true partnership all these years.

VJH: I would like to ask you questions about the lessons you have learned in your lifetime. First, what advice would you give to the young people of America?    

RE: There are probably two messages that I would give simultaneously. One is about the vital importance of caring for each other and looking out for those who are less fortunate. We have a tendency to focus inwardly and pay attention to our own needs and desires. Sometimes we forget that others don’t have what we already have, so it is critical to help others and lift them up to where we are.
The other message is to recognize how money works. If it is discussed at all, money is often a distasteful subject. However, it is fundamental to our way of life, here in America’s capitalist society. Too often kids grow up not knowing much of anything about money. It’s generally not taught in schools, Mom and Dad don’t talk about it much, and the only time kids learn about money is after they start to get a paycheck. By then it is often too late.

The most common thing my new clients tell me is “I wish I had learned how money works 20 years ago.” So I try to catch kids early and show them fundamental concepts of compound interest. If a 15-year-old understands that one simple concept, it will have a profound impact on their entire life. It will pay innumerable benefits to them, their families, and their communities.

VJH: Let me take you to the other end of the age spectrum. For the first time in history, we have a massive generation of people who are in their sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth decade. What would you say to them?

RE: First, thank you. We all know that we are addressing America’s “Greatest Generation.” They lived through the Great Depression, World War II, innumerable other conflicts, and massive amounts of political and social strife over the past century. So, thank you.

Second is a message that they may not all want to hear but which I think is important. Even though they made incredible contributions and sacrifices, our nation is now at a stage where we need to call upon them yet one more time

Our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid systems are crumbling. The fundamental economic assumptions that were used to create those programs in the 1930s and 1960s have all fallen apart because of our changing demographics. The aging of America was not anticipated 50 or 75 years ago. As a result, I feel that it is necessary for our older generation to once again stand up for the country as an act of patriotism and sacrifice. They need to voluntarily and willingly agree to delay, defer, or reduce benefits to which they are 100 percent entitled but which our nation, and especially our youth, are struggling to deliver.

I would offer our youth the similar message that they, too, need to engage in the type of self-sacrifices that their elders have made for the betterment of all. Our nation is at a crossroads because of our changing demographics, and this is a very pivotal, historical time.

VJH: Well, you put me in mind of President John F. Kennedy who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” We heard it in 1961, but I think the message is even more important today. We need the baby boom generation to volunteer to care for their peers who are less well off than
they are.

RE: I think you’re correct. Abraham Lincoln mused about that question, wondering if great men were born great or if greatness was thrust upon them. In the 1960s, we saw the movement toward equal rights and the elimination of discrimination. While very vital, it brought about growing pains, unavoidable growing pains.
We are now at the stage, once again, where many of our elders have the ability to help their nation. Those who have that ability should consider the issue very closely. If no one does, our elders will not be at risk of losing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but their children and grandchildren will. I believe many people are willing and happy to make needed sacrifices and they’re waiting for the leadership to call upon them to do it.

VJH: I want to ask you about advice I have received from our most respected corporate leaders. Whether we are talking about Bill Marriott, chairman of Marriott Hotels; James F. Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines; Ray Johnson, former chairman of Nordstrom’s; or Dick Nunis, former chairman of Disney, their organizations have been founded on the principle of taking very good care of their employees and taking even better care of their customers.

The single best example of that I can give you comes from Horst Schulze, former CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotels, who said, “I’ll give you several million dollars worth of research in 30 seconds. We have learned people want three things. First, they want to know that the product they are getting is of high quality. Second, they want timely service. Third, and most important, they want to know the employee across the desk from them cares about them as a person. It is all about developing a culture of caring. That is what we try to do at The Ritz-Carlton.” Based on this, maybe you can comment on the importance of caring.

RE: I subscribe to the fundamental philosophies of Ritz-Carlton’s leadership and also of the Walt Disney Company. We have sent our firm’s senior executives through training at The Ritz-Carlton, and we sent our entire company to go through training at the Disney Institute in Orlando. We wanted them to understand the “wow factor” and how to provide an experience for clients that is unequalled anywhere in the industry. Too often, we hear the stereotypes of big business: how they’re out to take advantage of customers and how they are only in it for the money. Yet we have found that the most effective way to achieve success, both short- and long-term, is to focus entirely on the client. If we focus on the client and not worry about ourselves, everything else will take care of itself.

I have also learned that the only way for us to deliver that outstanding client experience is to recognize that the staff is responsible for actually delivering it. Our clients are responsible for determining what the quality of that client experience is going to be: the quality of the advice, the responsiveness to their requests, the speed with which we’re able to perform, the fact that there are no errors, and if there is one it’s quickly rectified to the client’s satisfaction.

My job is to give my employees our vision and the tools they need to achieve it. As a result, I have a very happy roster of employees and also happy clients. If I take my eye off what matters to me, and focus instead on what matters to my employees and clients, I know I will be taken care of just fine.

VJH: I have never heard it put better.

RE: I may be failing to use the word “caring,” but I hope our organization’s efforts to help our employees, and, through our employees, our clients, show that caring is essential to all we do. Our genuine, sincere concern for the well-being of employees is reflected in genuine, sincere concern for the well-being of our clients. It is, in fact, all about caring.

VJH: One of the things that impressed me about your biography is the extent to which you have given back and the multiple charities that you have supported. Most of all, I appreciate how you feel about nurses, especially home care and hospice nurses who provide care for the sick and dying. I am happy to see you support the marvelous work they do. I wish more people would follow your good example.

RE: My wife, Jean, and I created our firm 26 years ago because we were looking for financial advice and couldn’t get it. We were in our twenties, young, and broke. We didn’t have any money, let alone the million plus dollars that financial advisors said they wanted in order to take us on as clients. Since no one was going to help us, we decided we were going to teach ourselves. After we learned, we decided to take the knowledge we had acquired and share it with others. We also realized that there was a greater need to share it with people who aren’t rich than with multimillionaires who are already rich.

We recognize the vital importance of sharing our knowledge and information with these people who ordinarily don’t have access to it. These people aren’t necessarily trying to become wealthy. They just want to get their kids through college and be able to buy a home. They want to be able to retire and enjoy financial security. We built our firm to help average people, and this makes us a little bit unusual. Ironically, most financial advisors require that you already be wealthy in order for them to accept you as a client.

On the other hand, we require that you have a desire to be financially secure. Whereas most of our competitors are dealing with high-net-worth individuals, we are dealing with those who are primarily interested in their personal financial security. That is why our investment account minimum is only $5,000. If you don’t have the $5,000, no problem, we will help you anyway. If you are willing to ask us for help, we are willing to provide the help to you. Although that is an expensive, cumbersome way to run a business, we consider it our moral obligation to serve the communities we are in, to help people who don’t otherwise have access to the advice and talent we can provide.

VJH: May I ask why you are such big fans of nurses?

RE: There are many people in what I would consider the caring professions: nurses, school teachers, firefighters, and police officers. All of them are clearly in selfless careers, but there’s one big difference between all of them and nurses. Members of the military, police, firefighters, and school teachers all get pensions when they retire. If they do a good job and stay employed throughout their career, they will receive a monthly check for the rest of their lives. Nurses don’t enjoy that privilege.

We all know that nurses are underpaid and overworked, like so many other people in America. However, unlike other caring professions, there is no one watching the backs of nurses. They spend their entire professional careers caring for others, and there’s really nobody looking out to provide care for them. So we wanted to specifically target nurses as beneficiaries of all our services, which is why we provide financial planning and advice to nurses at no cost. If you are a nurse, if you have a nurse in your family, or if you are married to a nurse, let us know and we’ll give you a financial plan for free. This is also one of the reasons we agreed to speak at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice this coming October. We will announce some very special plans to extend our services, specifically to hospice and home care nurses.

VJH: Very well put. I appreciate your dedication and commitment to our nurses. I have a question about change. How do you deal with the change that inevitably comes into your life?

RE: One of the most effective ways to deal with change is to recognize that change is constant. As others have said, there is nothing permanent in our lives. We are always developing, growing, and evolving. We are aging. Everything is altering on a constant basis. We often don’t notice because we have been living in the same house, driving the same car, and married to the same person for a period of time.

Once we recognize that change is a regular, routine, everyday part of life, it helps us cope when a major change — such as a change in income, career, health, or marital status — comes about. It helps us realize the importance of being willing to modify what we do.

Some things, however, must never change, and those include our fundamental values, morals, and beliefs about who we are and how we are going to lead our lives, how we’re going to interact with others, and what matters to us. One illustration that I have provided to my employees is the massive amount of change in financial markets that we have experienced over the past 26 years. We went through terrifically enjoyable times during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Beginning in 2001 the tech market blew up, followed by the disaster of 9/11 and the 2008 credit crisis. We have also experienced technological innovations that have led to major regulatory changes, competitive changes, and so on.

Every so often, members of my staff will say, “I’m having difficulty adapting to this change.” And when that happens, we’ve been able to demonstrate to them that it doesn’t matter if things ebb and flow, surface, or disappear for a while. The only thing that matters is the relationship between us and our clients, the type of client experience we deliver. Our commitment to the client never changes. Sure, we might use a new phone system, have different office hours, or open a new location, but what really matters never changes. The Ten Commandments haven’t changed, and they don’t need to change. We need to make sure we focus on what truly matters, and not on things that we think are important, but really aren’t.

VJH:  I want to ask you how you manage to keep your five equities in balance. I want to begin with physical equity.  How do you keep in such good shape?

RE: I work out with a trainer three times a week, and I’m physically active in other ways. There is no choice. There is no alternative to being fit. It not only helps you feel better but it’s a great stress reliever. It’s also an opportunity to socialize and have fun with others.     

VJH: Great. Let me go to intellectual equity. Do you have a favorite author? Do you have a favorite passage in the Bible or a favorite quotation? How, in Stephen Covey’s words, do you “sharpen the saw?”

RE: I’m a big fan of the Founding Fathers — we call them Founding Fathers but they were both men and women — who created our nation back in the 1700s. It’s hard to find a period of history when you had so many brilliant minds in a single location, unified on a single message, and what they accomplished is absolutely astonishing. Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton were absolutely unmatched in their intellectual capacity and understanding that what they were doing was important and unprecedented. So I enjoy early American history and the writings of our early patriots.

VJH: Well said. In terms of spiritual equity, what advice can you offer?

RE: It is essential for us to recognize that we are not IT. One way I like to demonstrate this is through astronomy. We encourage people to study the stars. It is impossible to study the heavens without being convinced that there is a greater power associated with them. It also helps us realize just how inconsequential we really are in the grand scheme of things. So it is really important to recognize that we have a larger purpose. We look to help others and we do it because of our belief in a higher power.

VJH: Great! Let me ask you about psychological equity. What is your take on the importance of positive thinking?

RE: People sometimes ask Jean and me why we created our own firm 26 years ago, and Jean’s answer is that it is because we recognized the vital importance of sharing our knowledge with others. My answer is a little simpler. I created my own firm because I’m, frankly, unemployable. By that, I mean that I tend to say what I think. If you are not doing it the way I think it ought to be done, I am going to let you know. If I think I have a better way, I am going to want to act on it.

What I have found is that many people are more passive. They are willing to simply do what they are told to do, without giving it any thought, without evaluating the validity of the approach or the assignment, in general. It is vital, I believe, for us to stand up and ask: “Why?” Once you ask that question, it will put you on a path to the answer. The result will be both intellectual and philosophical development that will continue to make you grow as a person, challenge your own suppositions and beliefs, verify and validate those that are true, and recognize those that are false. In the end, all this will make you a better person. We have to constantly develop ourselves because if we don’t, we are not going to be very much good at helping others

VJH: Can you comment on Thomas Pikkety’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century?

RE: Pikkety’s book is getting a lot of attention because of its focus on income inequality. We know that there has been financial inequality between men and women in the United States for a long time. I’m astonished that income inequality still exists in today’s workplace, with all of the advances we’ve achieved in civil and women’s rights. I am amazed that women still, job for job, are underpaid compared to men. I don’t know how this persists in our society. But now the notion of income inequality is broadening beyond the sexes to include rich versus poor, the premise being that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The book you mention offers commentary that this is wrong and provides some solutions.

Well, there are a couple of comments that I could make on this. First, there is nothing new here. There has always been the notion of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The gap is growing wider because of the compound growth curve. If I’ve got $1 billion and you have $100, we can both double our money, but the income inequality will grow in dollar terms because my $1 billion becomes $2 billion. So the difference is becoming more acute, and that’s why I think it’s becoming more of a conversation in political circles.

Second, the reason why the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is because the rich continue to do the things that got them rich in the first place and the poor are doing the things that have kept them poor. I will give you two illustrations. If you ask rich people, “What is the number-one place you put your money?” their answer will be stocks. If you ask the poor, “What is the number-one place you put your money?” they will answer lottery tickets. In fact, according to the federal government’s latest statistics, those with annual incomes below $15,000 a year use, on average, 10 percent of their income to buy lottery tickets.

They are trying to get rich the only way they know. They do not believe that investing a dollar is going to accomplish anything. They would rather put the dollar into a lottery ticket because their lack of financial education makes them fail to realize that if they take that dollar and put it into the stock market, and they do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and they do it every day from age 20 to age 65, guess what? They can have $1 million. They can become millionaires, but instead of doing it in a get-rich-quick environment, they will do it slowly, over time.

So I agree the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, but it isn’t because of public policy. It isn’t because of taxes. It isn’t because of unfairness in the corporate board room. It is because of a lack of financial literacy within the majority of the American public.

VJH: Very interesting. Let me ask you what is the greatest lesson you have learned in your lifetime?

RE: What I have found is that we learn far more from our failures than we do from our successes. Many people are afraid to attempt something out of fear of failing, fear of not excelling, or fear of looking foolish. Yet when I look back at my history from childhood to the present, I see I learned the most and developed the most from having tried and failed. It enables you to learn and do it that much better the next time. People who are afraid to fail are unlikely to achieve much in the way of success because success only comes after multiple attempts. So being willing to go through failure is one of the greatest ways to achieve success.

VJH: So it’s not being knocked down that matters, it’s getting up.

RE: Very much so.

VJH: I heartily agree with that. I have another question, which is in a similar vein. When I ask about your favorite quotations, what comes to mind?

RE: The one that comes to mind is: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It comes from Benjamin Franklin, who was perhaps the most prolific writer of the Revolutionary era, and the most quotable. Everything he said then is applicable today.

VJH: I agree with you about Franklin. He was wise and very eloquent. I’m fascinated by how you connect with young people, teaching them the importance of financial planning. How do you go about making a connection with young people and motivating them to do something about financial planning?

RE: Empathy. I think helping people relate to you begins with you being able to relate to them, so I try to think back to when I was their age. I try to remember the emotions and feelings that I experienced to put myself in their shoes, to understand their lives, to grasp the world they live in, and relate it to the future they’re going to have. Their lives are very different from ours. Society is different. Technology is different. Human interaction is different. But much of their future is going to have the same elements: the desire for relationships, home ownership, career successes, community support, and financial security. All of those things are going to be important to them.

These are absolutes, and they are unwavering, regardless of the economic, political, or social environment. So if we can impart to them what their future is likely to hold within the context of their feelings and emotions, it enables them to understand it, put things into terms they can appreciate, and get motivated to plan for the future.

VJH: That was great. I was going to ask you specifically, about home care and hospice nurses. These people are so loving and caring that they devote their lives fully to others and do not always take care of themselves. I always thought they would be burned out pretty quickly but many don’t. When I asked Mother Teresa to explain this, she said, “What matters is why you do it. If you do it out of duty or obligation, it will deplete you to be a caregiver. But if you do it out of love, it won’t. It will energize you. You will find that you have more energy than you know what to do with.” What advice would you give to the nurses who work in home care and hospice?

RE: It’s difficult to be a nurse, especially a nurse who works in hospice or home care, which to me means working with ill, elderly people in their own homes, or in nursing homes. They are dealing with chronic illness and people who are near the end of life. All this is a natural part of the aging process, but the level of care that is required — not just the physical support but also the emotional support that they must offer — can be extraordinarily draining for nurses. It should, therefore, be no surprise for us to learn about nurses who give their all to their patients, and have nothing left for themselves.

So our message is to remember that you matter, too, that your patient’s crisis isn’t your crisis, that you must not allow their crisis to become your crisis, and that at the end of the day you need to care for yourself so you’re able to provide care again tomorrow. You need to care for yourself as well so that you are there for your family and those who need you.

It is very difficult for nurses to do their job year after year, and this is why we find such high levels of stress, and so many medical issues among nurses. On top of the physical and emotional challenges of the job, society, for whatever reason, doesn’t value nursing the way it should. Let’s face it: we value professional basketball players more than we do nurses, at least if you measure in economic terms.
As a result, nurses need to understand that since there is no one looking out for them and giving them the level of care they give to others, they need to hold back a little bit in reserve, or carve out a little extra of the caring they give to others, for themselves. They need to give themselves permission to say, “It’s okay to focus on me for a little while. It’s okay to take care of my needs and my family’s needs.” Please recognize that this isn’t an abdication of your responsibility to patients. It is, in fact, an affirmation of your value and your self-worth. You deserve to have this kind of balance in your life and you shouldn’t deny it to yourself.

VJH: Excellent. It reminds me of something Maya Angelou, a past Caring Award winner, said: “We must first learn to take care of ourselves in order that we can take care of others.”

RE: If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will be of no value to others. Somebody once asked me, “What’s the best thing I can do to help poor people?” The simple answer is, “Don’t become one of them.” Poor people don’t have the resources to help other poor people. So if you really want to help poor people, become successful and you will be able to do a lot of good for poor people.

VJH: In America we believe that everybody ought to have the opportunity to do well and make a decent living. This should include the opportunity to make money in business or in the stock market. But the other side of the coin is that when you achieve some success, you need to send the ladder down to somebody else. With success comes a responsibility to give back.

In closing is there anything you’d like to add to this interview that is not particularly prompted by a question?

RE: The journey that my wife and I have been on over these past couple of decades has been very surprising to the two of us. We both had wonderful upbringings — suburban, middle-class families, wonderful parents in both cases, great environments — but when we graduated from college, we had nothing. We were typical young people — broke, all by ourselves, hundreds of miles from home — and we figured out our own path along the way.

It never occurred to us that we would be in a position to give back the way we now can, and we consider it not only our privilege and our honor but our obligation to do so. It provides us with the greatest joy, and we’re really thankful for the opportunity that we have been provided, mainly that we were lucky enough to be born in the United States of America.

VJH: Thank you. My last question is how would you like to be remembered?

RE: Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters so much that people remember me. I hope, instead, they remember that they can do it, too. If they remember only what we have tried to teach and pass it on to others, it would be more than sufficient. I don’t think that remembering me is terribly important.

VJH: I will take exception with you, if you don’t mind. I think it is important that you be remembered and honored as a role model for others and as a great example of what it means to be successful in America. One last question comes to mind, tell me about your socks?

RE: I’m known for wearing colorful socks. I guess everybody has a shtick of some kind, and I’ve always found it really boring to wear navy or black socks, so I enjoy wearing really colorful socks. I started to get a reputation for that. When I’d go to seminars and meet folks, they would often comment on the socks I was wearing.

Then, one day, about three years ago, the New York Times ran a big story about how socks are the new ties, and they talked about this as an emerging fashion trend. It used to be very difficult for me to find colorful socks. They were usually made for either children or women. All of a sudden, the Times talks about how major fashion designers are all coming out with these outrageously wonderfully colorful socks.

I got no credit from the Times for leading this fashion trend. So it occurred to me that I needed to do something else because now, all of a sudden, I’m not distinctive any more. If everybody is wearing colorful socks, then I am no longer a trendsetter. So the solution dawned on me. I’ll start to wear two different socks instead of the same pair at the same time.

Now when I go pretty much anywhere, certainly on stage in my seminars, the number-one question people ask is, “What is up with your socks?” People bring socks to me. They mail me socks, and they have suggested that I create my own line of socks. It’s an awful lot of fun, and shows how easy it is to demonstrate your individuality. I’ll also tell you it makes it so much easier to get dressed in the morning because I don’t have to worry about what socks I’m wearing. And, if I lose one sock, I can still wear the other one!

VJH: Thank you Ric. We very much appreciate you sharing your time and wisdom with us.

RE: Thank you Val. I appreciate the honor of being here with you and doing this interview in the Caring Hall of Fame which you created with help from volunteers and inspiration from Mother Teresa.

 











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