Dr. Paulaha received B.S. and M.A. degrees in economics from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington. As a college and university professor, he taught macroeconomic and microeconomic theory at the principles, intermediate, advanced, and graduate level, monetary theory and policy, environmental economics, and special issues courses.
In the real world, he wrote economic/investment newsletters with as many as 70,000 paid subscribers and was vice president of research for a national brokerage company.
WILLIAM J. ULRICH
A REDEMPTION STORY
The life I believe I was destined to live began when I walked through the doors of a prison where I would spend the next 40 months of my life.
Until that moment, I kept telling myself I hadn’t done anything wrong, that I was being bullied again, as I was as a child, and that my lawyers would save me. But they couldn’t, because I had done something wrong. And now I had to pay for it.
Until then, my life seemed to parallel that of a Dickens novel. I was like Scrooge, bullied and laughed at as a child, and then, as an adult, bullying others, as I devoted myself to running successful businesses and making a lot of money, while big parts of life seemed to pass me by. I made tens of millions of dollars thinking business success and money were all I would need to be happy. I was wrong, of course. But, like many other successful businessmen, I did not take the time to look up and see what I was missing.
I pushed so hard for success that I made mistakes. The worst was selling collectible coins as investments and not realizing there is a law that says, anything sold, as an investment must have a disclaimer that warns investors of the risks. When the government investigators showed up, they also decided I had overcharged customers on three percent of the coins I sold. Although neither the missing disclaimer nor my prices would have been illegal if I had been selling coins as collectibles instead of investments, that is no excuse for what I did. I thought I could make more money selling to investors and the price I paid for what I had done ended up being 40 months in prison.
After leaving prison, I started a new business that bought coins, precious metals, and collectibles from people at temporary events held all across the country. And I decided that in my new life, the life I was truly destined to live, I would never again break any laws, either written or unwritten.
I soon had 125 people working with me, and we crisscrossed the country, traveling 42 weeks a year, setting up in hotels in almost every major city in America, and whenever the local media found out about my past, they wrote terrible articles about me and the business, calling me a con man and claiming we weren’t paying as much as our local competitors, even though we often paid more, and even though after 20 years in business and spending more than a billion dollars buying from more than half a million customers, there was not one complaint made to the Better Business Bureau or any other consumer protection agency. The bad part was that during that time on the road, I had affairs, some with women who worked for me, which was another big mistake.
I had been a successful businessman. I made millions of dollars in two separate businesses. I employed 375 people in one, and 125 in the other. In one business, I helped people invest in hard assets as protection against inflation. In the other, I made a lot of people happy by giving them an opportunity to sell things they no longer wanted. And I made mistakes. After I closed the buying business, because of falling precious metals prices, my wife divorced me and my children turned their backs on me.
That's when I moved to Florida. I had money and a great home, but it wasn’t enough. I had lost my wife and I wanted to make up with my children, but I didn’t know how. The only thing I could think of was to start a business they might want to be part of, because starting and running businesses is all I knew. But they weren’t interested, maybe because I had hurt them so much when they were growing up by putting business ahead of family, but also because they have their own lives to live.
Then, on the afternoon of July 3, 2017, while I was sitting on my balcony looking out over the river I live on, thinking about all I had missed, all I had lost, all the mistakes I had made, where my life had gone, and what I should do next, I experienced my own personal miracle; a miracle that finally changed my life. I was now 69 years old, and across the river, miles away, was a huge, complete rainbow. It was unbelievable, and as I watched, it moved towards me, finally stopping less two-hundred feet away.
I couldn’t believe it. It stayed there, right in front of me, in the river, for minutes. I didn’t know what to think. I felt I was being sent a message, but I had no idea what it was.
It was not until the next day that I realized the message of the rainbow was that I was to devote my life to making the world better—to use my time and money to help others.
I now felt like the Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol—the Scrooge who finally sees the true meaning of life.
I cannot change the past, I cannot get back what I lost, but I can do everything I can to make a better future, a future where the true purpose of my life is simply to do good things in the world.
It is a new journey for me, and I hope it will eventually lead to reconciliation with my daughters. If it does, I hope I will be able to forgive myself for everything I regret in my past.
But the true journey is not about me; it is about what we can all do to make the world better and to help others.
Maybe more important than anything, I hope my granddaughter will be able to see what I did and be proud of her grandfather.