'Simple Abundance' Author Loses All, Finds Peace in Money Memoir

How did a New York Times bestselling author lose a fortune?

October 27, 2010, 12:01 PM

March 2, 2011— -- In the 90s, Sarah Ban Breathnach was the toast of the town.

A New York Times best-selling author sharing the simple wisdom of gratitude that even talk show queen Oprah Winfrey could co-sign. After 25 years of freelancing, Ban Breathnach found her calling: inspiring women to express their gratitude.

But, that was years ago.

"I lost my heart, I lost my home, I lost my bearings, and I lost my way," Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of "Simple Abundance" said in an interview with ABCNews.com.

Despite talk show appearances and heaps of financial success, the author who once received 40,000 letters from women inspired by her book of essays, was broke when she was inspired to write a memoir detailing how she finally learned to become comfortable with money.

"I was a darling millionaire. I thought I could solve everybody's problems, and my own, by writing a check," says Ban Breathnach, borrowing from a popular Dorothy Parker quote.

At the height of her success, the author says she assisted more than 100 nonprofits and gave away more than $1 million. Instead of seeking outside investors, the author took her newfound fortune and developed an online magazine based on the book.

But, the dot.com bubble burst and the author says she lost around $1 million on her venture.

Then there were the splurges like the chapel she had to have after a British newspaper called the 63-year-old author "the Isaac Newton of the simplicity movement."

During a visit to England for an assignment, Breathnach purchased the 900-year-old, two-room chapel once owned by the 17th century mathematician on the spot.

"I developed a crush on Sir Isaac Newton. I was in the airport and there was a newspaper that said his private chapel was for sale," Ban Breathnach said.

Those were the days when the author flew the Concorde and wore fancy footwear.

"I had a wonderful Manolo Blahnik collection, but I have learned no woman can wear more than 12 pairs of shoes," Ban Breathnach said.

A series of debts and setbacks left Ban Breathnach holed up in her sister's apartment, writing "Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity."

The woman who had it all and lost it all said, "You don't take anything for granted when you've lost everything ... that's priceless knowledge. I don't have to do that lesson again."

Ban Breathnach says she acquired the financial knowledge that women aren't often afforded.

"Women aren't taught the man-made laws of money," Ban Breathnach said. "My generation and my mother's generation, we were not taught business. Money for us was home economics, which is a terrific basis for money, but I do think it's different."

The author said she wasn't prepared for the responsibility that came with success and had to come to terms with some of the shame and label them as mistakes.

The author who has since left her sister's home less had a cathartic experience on the pages of "Peace and Plenty."

"I wrote the book to save my own life," she says.

But, don't refer to her book as another personal finance tome. She's no Suze Orman or Jim Cramer.

"I don't call it a personal finance book. I call it a money memoir," says Ban Breathnach. "This is not a book to tell you how to do it. This is a personal book on how I started to become comfortable with money."

It's a book about the lessons that Ban Breathnach has learned and things she would do differently, including hiring the right advisors and delaying the hiring of her former nine-member team.

"I know the value as well as the price of things now," Ban Breathnach said.

"It's only a true fool who doesn't ask for advice," she said. "As a journalist if I didn't understand something I'd constantly ask questions, but I thought I couldn't as a businesswoman."

Another thing worth changing: "I would pay myself first. I know that it's important to help other people but you must be on your own list."

The true lesson, she said: "We can't handle our money until we can handle our emotions. I'm ready for money and I'm ready to begin again."

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