Perhaps the only thing many Americans dig more than Big Macs is money.
But we’ve also heard how money can corrupt and destroy, or how its shameless adoration is the root of all evil.
That’s not the case at all with Tucsonan millionaire Ed Jenkins. We met him briefly last week when he and his wife, Kay, donated $1 million to Interfaith Community Services.
Ed was kind enough to answer a slew of questions and help bust some myths about what it’s like to be a millionaire.
As we also may have heard, money can’t buy you love. Sure, it could probably buy you all the dates you wanted, but not the love found by Ed and Kay, who have now been married 53 years.
Ed, 74, and Kay, whose age Ed said is a State secret, were childhood sweethearts even before they were financially well off. They have four married children, eight grandchildren and no more pets.
“You know that life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies,” Ed pointed out.
So what’s the millionaire life? No servants, no personal jets – no Pacific island or Irish castle ownership.
“Most, I believe, like us, live pretty ordinary lives in an unassuming manner,” he said. He even called it “very normal, unexciting and boring.”
They love the outdoors. Ed enjoys hiking, gardening, reading. Kay’s a skilled quilter. Both spend tons of time volunteering, with Ed’s duties at ICS at 25 hours each week.
Money doesn’t automatically make you selfish, self-centered or snobby. The $1 million donation kind of got rid of that myth, as does the couple’s penchant for giving back to the community.
“Unlike so many in Tucson who face crushing financial needs, Kay and I do not have that issue. For that we are very grateful,” Ed said. “But we don’t go around looking down our noses at others.”
Nor do you have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth or acquire wealth from a great aunt you never knew about who dies and leaves you a fortune.
When asked if he was born into wealth, Ed quickly replied, “Are you kidding?”
Both had dads who were civil servants. Ed’s mom was a substitute teacher while Kay’s was a homemaker.
“We lived normal middle class lives, growing up as the depression was ending and through the Second World War,” Ed said. “We have never received any significant inheritance.”
Instead Kay and Ed worked hard for the money. Kay was a domestic engineer while Ed spent more than 43 years in accounting. The couple is originally from Michigan, but his job kept them stationed in the Chicago area, where Ed would work excruciating hours and be shuttled on frequent business trips to various countries.
“(A) famous person once said: ‘Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ I did and I guess that makes me both lucky and lazy.”
Ed retired for the first time in 1996 – until he took a five-year “quasi public service position” in Connecticut. The Jenkins moved to Tucson in 2002.
“There are many fine organizations in Tucson,” Ed said. “In fact, for its size, Tucson has one of the most active and involved not-for-profit sectors I have ever experienced. We are blessed as a community for that.”
Even though Ed and Kay amassed their wealth from scratch and sweat, he cautioned that probably not just anyone could become a millionaire.
“Unfortunately, not all have the same opportunity because of education, innate abilities, environmental factors, etc.,” he said. “But all can have the opportunity to achieve a reasonable and self-sustaining life. Hard work can accomplish a lot.”
And being a millionaire was not his main goal in life – nor is it the main point of life.
“When I was growing up, a millionaire was really something,” Ed said. “Now, with inflation, not so much. I always strived to work hard and support my family in a comfortable way. I never set any specific goals. After all, I’m not Warren Buffett.
“I don’t think everyone has a goal to be a millionaire, and I didn’t either. Each person should be comfortable with the goals one sets and be satisfied with doing the best he or she can to achieve them.
”Just being a millionaire doesn’t mean you are free from all worries or issues. There are lots of other things to enjoy and be thankful for.
“A famous philosopher – I have forgotten who – once said: ‘When you die the only thing you hold in your hands is that which you have given away.’”
Other millionaire myths Ed busted
Own a yacht – No. We once had a canoe though.
Vacation often – About once a year we take a low key, small boat cruise involving some form of outdoor-nature related activity. Last year we went to the Galapagos Islands.
Eat caviar – No. Not a good value.
Wear designer clothing – No. I did just receive an order from L.L. Bean with a pair of jeans and a pair of new moccasins.
Have lots of jewelry – No. Where would we wear it? I have Timex watch, however.
Live in the Foothills – Yes. But that covers a lot of territory.
Collect antiques and medieval armor – No. Why would we want to have to dust all that? On second thought, a set of armor might come in handy from time to time.
Why the Jenkinses picked Interfaith Community Services:
Ed says: I pretty much fell into ICS by accident when we retired to Tucson and I was looking for some way to volunteer. I always have been attracted to organizations that help people and ICS certainly does that. Being actively involved provides an opportunity to get to know an organization and see how effectively they manage the resources available in helping people and ICS accomplishes that in spades.
I also believe that one should make significant financial contributions to organizations like ICS where you have enough involvement, or know someone with enough involvement, to be confident about how the funds will be used.
ICS measures up on all the above.
There are many, many opportunities to be philanthropic in Tucson. But, particularly in the very tough economic times we are facing, I believe those organizations, like ICS, that are serving the basic needs of humanity – food, clothing and shelter; those who concentrate on keeping seniors and disabled in their own homes and not on the street; rise to the top and should attract the top priority for our support.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who would love to own a set of medieval armor. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What other money myths could you bust?
What money myths hold true?