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What do the 'super-rich' worry about

Last updated on: March 10, 2011 17:07 IST

What do the 'super-rich' worry about

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Yoshita Singh in Boston

They may have the moolah, and millions of it, but that does not necessarily make them happy, according to a new study that finds that super-wealthy people feel isolated and worry the most about love, work and future of their children.

The study titled 'The Joys and Dilemmas of Wealth' by the Boston College's Centre on Wealth and Philanthropy, and co-funded by the Gates Foundation finds that the rich are brimming with anxieties and "turn out to be a generally dissatisfied lot, whose money has contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work and family."

The super rich are "indeed frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes.

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Most of them still do not consider themselves financially secure; for that, they say, they would require on average one-quarter more wealth than they currently possess," the study said.

Among other woes, the survey respondents said they feel they have lost the right to complain about anything "for fear of sounding - or being - ungrateful."

Those with children, worry that their children will become "trust-fund brats" if their inheritances are too large or will be forever resentful if those inheritances are instead given to charity.

Apart from making the children less ambitious, who may feel assured in their financial well-being, money "runs the danger of giving them a perverted view of the world. Money could mess them up - give them a sense of entitlement, prevent them from developing a strong sense of empathy and compassion."

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As one respondent pointed out, "We try to get our kids to do chores but it is hard to get them to mow the lawn when we have an almost full-time gardener."

Psychologist and one of the survey's architects Robert Kenny said it appears that the "only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are very wealthy. They worry about losing it, they worry about how it is invested, they worry about the effect it is going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger."

Kenny said extreme wealth can take away some of the basic joys of living. Some wealthy people do not look forward to the holidays "because they were always expected to give really good presents."

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The study, published in magazine The Atlantic, questioned roughly 165 households, 120 of which had fortunes in excess of USD 25 million, about how prosperity has shaped their lives and those of their children.

The respondents' average net worth is USD 78 million and two were billionaires.

Through the study, the Gates Foundation and the Boston College Centre set out to encourage the wealthy to be better and more effective philanthropists.

Despite the financial security, a fortune affords, issues related to money cause the failure of many marriages and relationships.

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Wealthy people of both genders are wary of gold diggers and fear that this wariness might make them mistrustful of genuine affection.

The respondents also said they feel their outside relationships have been altered by, and in some cases become contingent on, their wealth.

"Very few people know the level of my wealth, and if they did, in most cases I believe it would change our relationship," one respondent said.

Another added, "I start to wonder how many people we know would cut us off if they did not think they could get something from us."

A millionaire mother said she worries that men in her daughters' lives could feel "powerless", and "their role as provider has been usurped".

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Another respondent said his rich father "never wanted to give up control of his business but kept taunting me with the opportunity to step into his shoes."

One respondent, heir to an enormous fortune, said that he would not feel financially secure until he had a billion dollars in the bank.

Other people "glorify wealth and think that it means that the wealthy are smarter, wiser, more 'blessed' or some other such crock," one respondent said.

Respondents said they feared some of their friends might disappear, wealth can be a barrier to connecting with other people and bring about a "sense of isolation."

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Photographs: Mick Tsikas/Reuters
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The study further added that a life of worklessness, no matter how financially comfortable, can easily become one of "aimlessness", of estrangement from the world.

"Financial freedom can produce anxiety and hesitancy," one respondent said. "In my own life, I have been intimidated about my abilities because I inherited money."

If the rich do take jobs, they sometimes find that co-workers resent them on the grounds that they are "taking away the jobs of people who need them".

 


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