One of the most powerful examples I know from that time is a gentleman named Adolf Merckle. In 2007 he was the 94th richest man in the world, and the richest man in Germany, with a net worth of $12 billion. He owned the largest pharmaceutical company in Europe, and then he expanded his empire into manufacturing and construction. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. He was also something of a speculator.
In 2008 he decided to make a bet in the stock market. He was so certain that Volkswagen was going down, he decided to short the company. Just one problem: Porsche made a move to buy Volkswagen, and the stock price shot up, not down. Almost overnight, Merckle lost nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars on that single gamble.
To make matters worse, he desperately needed some cash to pay off a huge loan. But in 2008, banks weren’t loaning money to anyone: not you, not me, not billionaires—not even other banks.
So what did Merckle do? Search for new financing? Cut his expenses? Sell some companies at a loss? No. When he realized he’d lost a total of $3 billion and was no longer the richest man in Germany, that he had failed his family, he wrote a suicide note and walked in front of a speeding train.
That’s right. He killed himself.
In a tragic irony, his family discovered only a few days later that the loans he sought had come through, and his companies were saved.
Did Adolf Merckle die because of money? Or did he die because of what money meant to him? For Merckle, money was an identity. It was a source of significance. The loss of his status as the richest man in Germany was too much to bear, and he felt like a failure—even though there was still $9 billion left in his pocket!
You might be thinking, “What a waste.” But it may be a little too easy for us to judge this man. How often have we attached our identity—or our future prospects—to money at some level? Probably more than we’d[…]”
Excerpt From: Robbins, Tony. “MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.”