What Sam Walton Teaches Us About Money, Success, and Family

by Jason on October 27, 2010

Recently I came across an article about Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.  It was a very interesting read, and I found some things I never knew.

After doing a little further digging about Wal-Mart I found an article quoting George Will, who had this to say about the company:

“[They] are the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector.  It has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel.

A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.

Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart save at least 17 percent.”

Wal-Mart is a huge and powerful corporation that was built from the ground up.

Sam Walton Had it All

Sam Walton got his start in the retail business by operating a Ben Franklin variety retail store.

With a $20,000 loan from his Father-in-Law and $5,000 of his own savings, Walton started the store and used concepts that no one was employing at the time, which made him wildly successful.

He constantly kept the shelves stocked with low-priced goods, stayed open later hours – especially around the holidays, and would buy in large volumes so he could get discounts on his cost of goods, which tranlsated to lower prices for his customers.

The first Wal-Mart was opened in 1962, and Walton went on to become one of the most well-known entrepreneurs of our modern age.

He was always  battling for one of the top spots on the Forbes Rich List (He was the richest man in the United States from 1982-1988).

By the world’s standards, this man had it all!

He started the largest-retail chain in America from the ground up.  He was rich.  He wanted to help people by creating stores that served the lower-income population.

He could buy anything in the world any time he wanted and yet…

Sam Walton’s Biggest Regret

Sam Walton, on his death bed, admitted something very frightening that should send shivers down our spines.

He admitted that he had blown it.

What exactly had he blown?

Was it not taking advantage of opening more stores?  Or maybe he could’ve made even more money had he tried some different tactics?  Maybe there was a big scandal that he kept secret for years.

No, it wasn’t any of those things.  Instead, Walton was referring to the fact that he blew it with his family!

Walton – one of the richest men in America – admitted that he barely knew his youngest son and that he even neglected his grandchildren.  His wife stayed with him out of commitment.  He admitted he spent way too much time investing into his business rather than spending time with those who mattered most – his own family!

Can you imagine?

An American tycoon, a business genius – admitting that he wasted his life!

Perhaps he should’ve detached himself from his money.

Instead, he wasted precious moments that could’ve been spent with his wife and children.  He wasted opportunities to build memories and leave a legacy worth far more than his multi-billion dollar empire!

And for what?  Money, conquest, success?

Walton realized, as he approached those final days, none of that mattered now.  None of it was as important as his family.

What This Means For Us

You may not create a business empire, but you will have plenty of opportunity to sacrifice time with your families to pursue wealth, build a business, make money from a blog, improve your golf game, work on your hobbies, climb the corporate ladder or whatever else it is that ends up draining time away from your family.

Are any of those things wrong in and of themselves?  NO!

Was Sam Walton’s business and his empire wrong in and of itself?  No.

What was wrong with Walton, sadly, is that he didn’t realize until it was too late that the quality of your close relationships is what matters most.

As Christians we know that the quality of our relationships, pursuing our passions by using the gifts God has given to us, and living out the mission He has for us are the most important things in life!

In other words, pursuing True Wealth is key.

So, I have to ask you – just like I’m asking myself:

  • Do you think money is the answer to all your problems?
  • Are you spending too much time at the office?
  • Are you wasting your life?
  • Are you spending quality and quantity time with your wife, your kids, your loved ones, and those in need?
  • If not, why not.  What is more important to you than that?

Don’t wait til you are on your deathbed to realize what Sam Walton realized!

Make your life count today and leave a legacy that is worth more than any trust fund you’ll leave your children!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

This was a post I wrote for ChristianPF.com, you can view the original here.

This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories hosted by Live Real, Now, and also the Baby Boomers Blog Carnival hosted at Baby Boomer U.S.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Plemon October 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Jason,
This is an eye opening post. I never knew that Sam Walton shared those death bed regrets, but I have heard it said that no one, at the end of their life, regrets that they didn’t spend more time at the office. Once more, you have challenged us to think about what is really important. Thanks.

Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for the kind words Joe. I was surprised when I came across those articles as well.

We need to definitely live with no regrets about spending time with our family and loved ones and helping those in need.

Evan@MyJourneytoMillions October 30, 2010 at 5:36 am

Sam Walton also took care of his estate taxes implementing (and his estate eventually defending and winning) short term rolling GRATs to bring down the federal estate tax owed

Credit Cards November 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

This proves work life balance at any level is important, in-fact that gives you a sense of satisfaction. It is not money of success that counts it your relationship with people that you need to earn before you leave this world.

Money Reasons November 3, 2010 at 3:35 am

Actually, it makes me kind of sad… I feel sorry for Sam!

That why I’ll live my life much more balanced than Sam!

Thanks for the great story, it’s a side that I’ve never heard before about Sam!

A Citizen November 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Think of Rosebud …

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