It’s Not Easy Being Filthy Rich

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Ever wondered what makes the super rich lose sleep at night? A new, uniquely intimate survey conducted by Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy reveals the most personal fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams of America’s affluent, reports Graeme Wood in The Atlantic.

The evocative survey questionnaire–which asks questions like, “How would you describe the ultimate goal or deepest aspiration for your life?”–was completed by 165 respondents with an average net worth of $78 million. Among them were jet-setting world travelers, super-yacht owners, and family-fortune beneficiaries who have never, ever had to worry about making rent.

Even so, one respondent noted that “he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion dollars in the bank,” writes Wood.

Such complaints sound, on their face, preposterous. But just as the human body didn’t evolve to deal well with today’s easy access to abundant fat and sugars, and will crave an extra cheeseburger when it shouldn’t, the human mind, apparently, didn’t evolve to deal with excess money, and will desire more long after wealth has become a burden rather than a comfort.

Just as money fails to provide a sense of financial security, the survey also suggests it fails to provide emotional well-being. The respondents listed a host of wealth-related anxieties: that many of their relationships hinge on their wealth; that they’ll be perceived as shallow and ungrateful if they dare to bellyache about their lives; and–most commonly–that their kids will grow up to be spoiled trust-fund brats.

While the study is skewed to reveal the emotional innerworkings of only the people who took time to answer a computer survey, the results hint that those of us with less money in our wallets enjoy some things the wealthy don’t have–including the delusion that next year’s raise or winning lottery ticket just might buy us greater joy. The very rich already suspect that wealth isn’t the answer, Wood concludes:

If anything, the rich stare into the abyss a bit more starkly than the rest of us. We can always indulge in the thought that a little more money would make our lives happier–and in many cases it’s true. But the truly wealthy know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated. No yacht is so super, nor any wine so expensive, that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one’s children won’t grow up to be creeps.

Source: The Atlantic

Image by Tracy O, licensed under Creative Commons.

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