Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Trouble With Being Rich!

Most of us have at least occasional thoughts and dreams about being insanely rich and how we might spend our lives with unlimited wealth, right? Wouldn't it be nice not to set an alarm clock and show up at some crappy job every day? Wouldn't it be fun to travel and see the world?

Some of us are already on the path to accumulating wealth to make these very dreams come true. But in the back of our minds there's this nagging question about what responsibilities are involved in managing all that money and the lifestyles that go along with it - not to mention what would we do with ourselves once we're free from the struggle?

Since writing this blog I've had many, many questions about how the rich live; where do they go, what do they eat, what do they do with all their free time? And there's about 90 million Google inquiries asking "Are Rich People Happy?"

Most definitely there's unseen burdens and untold obligations associated with being super rich, and there's many opinions on the subject of course. But one of the most insightful I've read in a long time is an article in the BBC News by Angela Henshall, entitled "The Trouble With Being a Billionaire".

Among her many pearls of wisdom, Henshall quotes Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

To cite an example, in one of the topics about how rich people raise their kids, Mezrich writes: "The children of the supremely wealthy have lots of issues because they never had to struggle - and struggle makes us strong. Struggle is the human condition, the key to evolution, the reason we adapt. If you don't have to struggle, you don't really have to get smart or strong, you just drift along." 

Personally I wouldn't mind drifting along for a few weeks or months, dilly dallying on an exotic beach somewhere in the Caribbean or hopping around the Greek islands. But that gets boring pretty quick, doesn't it?

Then we're faced with the age-old question that all rich people must ultimately deal with, most poetically described when Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby forlornly mused"What will we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?" 

Before going, here's a link to Angela Henshall's fascinating article in the BBC News: "The Trouble With Being a Billionaire".

Thanks from dropping in this evening,


  1. Hey Andrew,
    I think this post really gets to the heart of what your blog is about for most people (ok me, at least), and the public's fascination with the rich in general. I know I grew up thinking getting rich was the obvious goal, but it seems less and less attractive to just accumulate money or stuff. Your insights help fuel that perspective.

    It's a luxury, I recognize, to at least have enough to allow for wondering whether it's worth it to get more, but it seems very few explore that chance when they have it. If the task of the wealthy is to enjoy life, I can definitely recognize it's still a challenge.

    1. Ben, in your career there's no doubt you're going to accumulate a degree of wealth in your lifetime. But you have a healthy perspective on how to use money for freedom and pleasure without getting caught up in the traps and trappings of the rich and super rich.

      From my point of view their self-inflicted burdens, obligations and ladder-climbing goals not only reduces their freedom but apparently their peace and tranquility as well. (Trust me on that point, ha!)

    2. You are very kind. I often think about how whether goals are a crutch, or if we just need them like we need water. Maybe the ultimate skill is the ability to set the right goal for your given circumstances. Some people are great at aiming high, but don't know when to bring the nose down when they're above the clouds. Others never bother to try and rise above the storm.

    3. Well said, Ben. Accomplishing goals seems to be part of our DNA, even if it's just completing the daily To-Do list. But for any chance of happiness, long term goals need to be realistic.

  2. I think the key word in all of this is self-inflicted. I will not deny that the very rich have issues that none of us will ever have. Very few of the lower 99% will understand the need of having kidnapping insurance or even umbrella policies. However, Biggie Smalls was wrong. It's not "mo money mo problems". It's "mo money different problems".

    You can be rich and still teach your child the value of hard (menial) work. A spoilt child is an issue with parenting, not wealth. Want to know if friends value you or your money? Stop paying for everything, say no to their investment ideas and see who still wants to spend time with you. Worried about losing your money? Don't spend more than you take in and don't invest more than you can afford to lose.

    Keeping moochers around for the sake of making them happy is a self-inflicted issue. Worrying about losing one's wealth when all one has to do is stick to a budget and have a financial safety net in place is a self-inflicted problem.

    Those seemed to be the biggest concerns and I don't find them to be nearly as stressful as what being with less money causes. Money trouble is worrying about keeping a roof over your head. It's not going to the doctor or dentist because you can't afford it. It's trying to figure out if you should buy groceries OR fill a prescription. It's worrying about having to work forever because you can't save for retirement. Trust me, I'd trade my problems with theirs in a heartbeat. I've been financially comfortable and I've been broke. Having money is WAY better.

    1. Thanks for this reply Stacy. You should open a website or counseling center to guide the new rich through their sudden wealth and confusion as to what to do with themselves and all their money.

    2. Hmmm, there's a career idea. LOL. Maybe not. I used to manage a medical practice and one of the things I found out about myself is that I have very little tolerance for stupidity. In those cases I defined stupidity as someone not doing what I told them to do. Thought I was a fairly patient person but after about the 100th "serenity now" chant, I'm guessing I'm not. "Why would you not take the antibiotics I called in for you?" "I told you you couldn't drive after surgery" "No I'm not writing you a doctor's note for work because you chose to be hungover".

      Case in point...TLC used to have a series called The Lottery Changed My Life, almost every episode had a lottery winner showing off all the things they bought after winning. I may have seen two stories about a winner actually meeting with/hiring a lawyer/financial advisor/accountant. It got to the point where I could glimpse-and-tell who would be broke and who was going to have family or legal drama. I was always right. If I had one of those people as clients I'd probably burst a blood vessel.

      But the one really good thing about those shows is they teach you what NOT to do with a lot of money. The great thing about living in these times rather than 80 years ago is people do talk willingly and openly about money. A depression, a recession and a Madoff have occurred so one can see warning signs if one cares to look.

  3. Hi again, Andrew, I thought you'd like to see this article:

    1. An excellent article, Stacy. But as you see, unfortunately links don't work in comments. (Anyone interested, however, can cut and paste the URL).