Monthly Archives: October 2013

Over Changed

Story contributed by Bruce Helmer.


“Excuse me, ma’am, but I think you over-changed me,” I confessed, placing four dollars back on the counter.

My two kids looked at me like I was crazy.  The lady at the counter did too.

I’d just bought four corn dogs at four bucks apiece.  Change from a $20 should be four dollars; she gave me back eight.

“Oh, thank you sir!  Sorry about that,” she replied.

On the way back to our seats, my kids asked why I gave back the “free money.”

“After the game tonight,” I said, “the cashier will total her drawer. If it doesn’t match sales, it might be deducted from her paycheck. Also, it’s stealing.”

My kids were 10 and 13 at the time, but they got the message.

Recently, my daughter (now grown) was over-changed at a convenience store on her way to work. She was in a hurry, it wasn’t much money, and the line of customers was long.

Still, she got back in line to give back the extra change.

Later she proudly called me to relay what happened. She recalled that corn dog “concession lesson” at that Twins’ game years before.

Our team didn’t win that night, but it was certainly a victory for me as a dad.

The “concession lesson” for today?

Our kids become a reflection of all that we do.

Our actions – good and bad – are like ripples in their pond.

multiple ripples


In addition to being a very savvy dad to his two kids, BrBruceHelmeruce Helmer has been in the financial services industry since 1983 and co-founded the financial advisory firm Wealth Enhancement Group in 1997. His new book, Real Wealth, is receiving great reviews.  You can check it out here:



The Ripple Effect

by Greg Hague

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.


Perkins Pancake House . . . a sunny, Saturday morning.

“Dad,” I asked. “Why did you do that?”

“Do what?” Chubby replied.

“Buy those people breakfast,” I answered. “We don’t know them.”

“The ripple effect,” Chubby explained.

“The ripple effect?” I asked. “What’s that?”

“Greg, everything you do creates ripples. Every word. Every act. When people see you do good things, they’re more likely to do the same. It works the other way too . . . bad ripples spread.”

The best ripples come from doing what others don’t expect. The surprise factor adds to the size of the ripple. Today, I started a ripple of good.”

“Never thought about that,” I said. “So if I do surprising good things, people who see me are more likely to do the same?”

“Exactly!” Chubby exclaimed.

“The more good people see, the more they do. You have little to lose. At worst, you make someone feel good, yourself too. At best, you just might make a tidal wave.”

My lesson from Chubby that day?

Surprise someone. Make ripples. If everyone did?  A tidal wave!

tidal wave

Bully the Billy

by Greg Hague

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.

stop being afraid

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”

– Christian Nestell Bovee

The fear was beyond comprehension. I could hardly breathe. Why was Dad making me do this? Life was already bad enough. He was being incredibly mean.

The past few months had been utter misery. Billy Rogers, a kid in my class, made it his life’s mission to torture, taunt, insult, injure and embarrass me every day. I was his prey. A bully extraordinaire, he made my life hell in every way. He recruited other kids to join in.

I dreaded weekday mornings. I knew Billy was waiting for me at school. YOU probably used to look forward to recess. Not ME! Back then teachers rarely supervised the playground. Billy had full reign over me. He never let up.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

-Harvey Fierstein

So there we were. A gray, icy cold winter morning in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dad and I had left the house early.

We sat in the car, ice on the hood, engine idling, parked in the circular drive in front of Miami Hills Elementary School.

This was Dad’s plan, not mine. We’d wait for the bus with Billy on board. When the door swung open, I’d be standing on the curb, poised and ready to beat him up bad.

Chubby had given me strict instructions. When Billy stepped off that bus I’d punch him in the face as hard as I could. I’d knock him to the ground, jump on top, and keep flailing until I was dragged off.

Have you ever been so afraid that your body seemed to act on its own? Where you felt like you were looking at yourself from afar – wondering what would happen, how bad it would be?

That was me! It was surreal. I felt a combination of fear, numbness and mental fog as I sat next to Dad in the car that morning. I’d never known terror like this.

I remember hoping Billy missed the bus, had gotten up late, was home in bed sick . . . anything to prevent what was about to be.

Then my nightmare appeared. Bus number 12, Billy’s. I quickly climbed out of Dad’s car and hurried over to the bus door.

The kids started to file out. Then Billy appeared, looking down on me from the top of the steps. His face turned ugly and mean. He paused, looked with scorn into my eyes, and said something like, “Hey fat boy, what did ya’ eat so much breakfast you couldn’t waddle fast enough to make the bus?”

Little did Billy know, he had just made an egregious mistake. My fear disappeared. Billy stepped off the bus right into my fist. He hit the ground. I jumped on, flailing as hard as I could. The rest is a blur.

I remember kids gathered ‘round, cheering . . . for me? Go Hague, get him! Within seconds the bus driver jumped down and pulled me off. It was over in a flash.

As promised, Dad was right there. He grabbed my hand, ignoring the bus driver. He seemed oblivious to the commotion as he walked me to the principal’s office.

I sat outside for probably an hour while Dad and the principal had a rather aggressive exchange. When Chubby walked out, he told me I would be staying at school that day.

The principal apologized for what I’d been through.  He walked me to class to let my teacher know it was OK that I was late.

As I walked to my desk, a girl smiled; I remember a boy gave me a “good for you” nod. When I sat down, the kid at the next desk whispered, “Way to go, Hague!”  And one more thing . . . Billy never bothered me again.

Did Chubby do the right thing? Politically correct? Not today.

But that was over 45 years ago. My father could see how devastated I was, the terrible effect bullying had on his son.

This story isn’t meant to be just about the horribleness of bullying. And, it’s certainly not an endorsement of violence as a problem solver. Heck, I’m a lawyer who even discourages lawsuits. I believe sensible people should be sensible enough to solve problems in sensible ways.

So what’s the point, the big lesson I learned that icy cold day?

I need to take responsibility for anything that affects ME.

Not Dad. Not school. Not society. If it affects me, I’m responsible.

And one other thing.

Don’t let fear keep me from doing what needs to be done. Billy needed a fist in the face. He deserved it 10X. That’s what he got.

bullying stops here


Billy the Bully

by Greg Hague

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.


Age 13 – A tough time in my life. Overweight. Oodles of freckles. Pimples galore.

The kids were incessant, brutal, day after day. The worst?

Billy Rogers. Big bully. He never let up.

Billy smacked the back of my head whenever he walked by my desk. One day he jabbed a pencil so deep into my arm I had to go to the school nurse to have the lead dug out.

Billy’s favorite taunt?  I heard it thousands of times and recall the words to this day – “Fatty, fatty two by four, can’t get through the bathroom door.” Often, he’d recruit others to chime in.

Today’s schools wouldn’t let Billy get away with this stuff. Things were different back then.

Of course Dad knew, and how awful he must have felt. As a caring father myself, my boys’ pain is like a lance in my heart.

One Saturday he finally asked,

“Greg, the kids are giving you a hard time at school, aren’t they?”

(I remember how embarrassed I was. This was not something I wanted to discuss with my father.)

“Yeah Dad, they tease me sometimes, but it’s no big deal,” I replied.

(Of course the “no big deal” part was a ridiculous lie.)

What Chubby said next changed the course of my life.

“Greg,” he said sternly, “you need to send a message to every kid in that school…and Billy Rogers – you need to beat him up BAD.”

Beat him up bad??? Like physically bad? Words from my dad?

“You want me to beat up Billy Rogers?” I said in utter surprise.

“Yes,” answered Chubby. “And I want you to do it Monday morning.  I’ll drive you to school before the school bus arrives.  When the bus pulls up, you’ll hurry over to the door as it opens. When Billy steps off, hit him as hard as you can right in the face.

Knock him down.  Jump on top.  Keep swinging.

Don’t stop until someone pulls you off.”

“But Dad!” I exclaimed (with a trembling voice). “I’ll get punished…I’ll be thrown out of school!”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Chubby assured. “I’ll take over from there.”

“We’ll go to the principal’s office together. I’ll give her a piece of my mind. There’s no excuse for letting that brat pick on you.”

“Can’t we just go to the principal first?” I pleaded.

“Absolutely not!” Chubby angrily replied. “On Monday, Billy the Bully will bully no more…”

Tomorrow, as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”Kids Boxing


The Lure of the Distant and Difficult

by Greg Hague

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.


“Greg,” Chubby advised. “The smartest thing you’ll ever do is surround yourself with people smarter than you.”

When I met Bruce, I knew Dad was right.

The definition of smart? Bruce.

A few years ago I was talking with Bruce about one of my entrepreneurial visions. BOLD. AUDACIOUS. A game changer, for sure.

Bruce listened with intensity, a glow in his eye. Excited? No doubt. Then he spoke up, “Greg, I think your idea is remarkable. But why?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Why is this something you want to do?” he answered.

I didn’t get it. What did he mean? Bruce said he thought the idea was remarkable.

Bruce continued. A different perspective. And he was 100% right, “Greg, the lure of the distant and difficult is often deceptive. Your idea is bold, audacious, maybe even a game changer. But you missed one thing, IT’S REALLY HARD!”

Bruce was right. The project would be very difficult. It would take a huge investment of time, money and drive.

Bruce continued, “Greg, I know you LOVE challenges. You have a burning desire to conquer, to prove yourself. I respect that. Just be careful that your ‘go for it’ attitude doesn’t make you travel far to find hard when easy is right at your feet.”

What did I learn from Bruce that day?

The lure of the distant and difficult is often deceptive.

Look for great opportunities where you are now.

easy way hard way

A Tip of The Cap

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.

risk reward

“Cap rate?” I asked. “What the heck is that?”

Chubby laughed. “Greg, it stands for capitalization rate. It’s a way to value rental real estate.”

“But Dad,” I said. “You once told me real estate values were determined by comparing sales of similar properties.”

“That’s true with homes,” Dad answered. “But with apartment buildings, office buildings, and other income producing properties, cap rate is more commonly used.”

“Can you explain?” I asked.

“Greg, suppose you are choosing between an older apartment building in a high-crime area or a newer building in a nicer area. You would certainly want a higher return on your investment as an incentive to buy the older building. That means the price would have to be lower or the rent higher.”

Dad could see the perplexed look on my face. He continued,

“Presume that each building generated the same $20,000 a year in rental income. You might be willing to pay $200,000 (10% return) for the newer building but only $100,000 (20% return) for the older building. Those percentages are cap rates – the return you demand based on the desirability and risk associated with the property. As you can see, when the cap rate goes up, the property value goes down.”


What did I learn from Chubby that day?

Capitalization rate is the percentage return buyers expect based on the desirability of the investment…. a lower return on nicer properties, a higher return on less desirable properties.


To determine the value of a property, divide this percentage (i.e.10%) into the annual net rent of the building (i.e. $20,000) to arrive at market value (i.e. $200,000).


Don’t feel bad if you have to read this again.



High Finance and Me

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.

financial statements

My first car. I needed a loan. Who did I ask? Chubby, my dad.

“Financials,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“I need your financial statements,” Dad replied in a matter of fact tone.

“Why?” I responded. “I’m your son. It’s not a big loan.”

“That’s not the point,” Chubby replied. “Greg, you need to learn about loans. Your lender won’t always be me.”

“OK,” I said with a touch of chagrin. “What do you want?”

“That’s what I thought,” Dad said while nodding his head. “You don’t understand financial statements, do you?”

Chubby was right about that. I vaguely knew, which to Dad meant I didn’t have a clue.

“Greg,” Chubby explained. “When lenders ask for financial statements they want two things; a balance sheet and an income statement. Let me explain:

A BALANCE SHEET is a picture of your financial condition at a moment in time, generally a specific date.

For example, if today you have $400 in the bank, $100 cash in pocket, $300 in clothes, and $200 in other stuff, your total assets would be $1000.  If you owe $550 in credit card debt and $25 to your sister, your total liabilities would be $575. That means your assets minus your liabilities equal $425. A balance sheet shows your net equity in all that you own, your total net worth at that moment.

But if tonight you go out to dinner and spend $40, your assets would decrease by that amount, and so would your net worth – so your balance sheet would look different tomorrow.

An INCOME STATEMENT is very different. It shows how much you earned and how much you spent over a specific length of time, often a year.

So, if last year you earned $3500, this would be your gross income for that period. If you spent $600 in advertising and other expenses to earn that $3500, your net income totaled $2900. Because this is a picture of what you earned last year, not where you are today, spending $40 for dinner tonight would have no effect on the numbers.

“Greg,” Chubby concluded. “Lenders look at your BALANCE SHEET to understand what you have that they can take away if you don’t pay the debt.

They look at your INCOME STATEMENT to see your cash flow- the likelihood you’ll be able to repay the debt. Do you understand?”

The lesson I learned from Chubby that day?

I had a lot to learn.