Image and video hosting by TinyPicIs there anything harder to have sympathy for than the burdens of the super rich? Yet I keep stumbling across articles about how the super rich have lots of anxieties and problems these days.

According to a recent survey by Fidelity of 1000 millionaires, 42% of them don’t feel wealthy. Because their investable assets total “only” $3.5 million, perhaps their anxiety is understandable, so surely the super rich (those with assets of $25 million or more) have it easier?

Not according to the article Secret Fears of the Super Rich in the current issue of The Atlantic.

A super rich person’s closet of anxieties is stuffed to the gills, according to this article, which analyzes a study of 165 super rich households, who average a net worth of $78 million.

Here are some of their anxieties:

They are frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes.

They do not consider themselves financially secure. I can’t resist quoting this example:

One respondent, the heir to an enormous fortune, says that what matters most to him is his Christianity, and that his greatest aspiration is “to love the Lord, my family, and my friends.” He also reports that he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion in the bank.

Consumption becomes so commonplace that it loses all psychological benefit.

They have lost the right to complain about anything for fear of sounding ungrateful.

They are expected to give really good presents.

They worry about screwing their kids up and that their kids will lack the motivation to work hard and will lack empathy. Their #1 anxiety is their children.

They know many despise them or envy them. According to one of the researchers:

Often the word rich becomes a pejorative. It rhymes with bitch. I’ve been in rooms and seen people stand up and say, ‘I’m Bob Kenny, and I’m rich.’ And then they burst into tears.”

Relationships with people with little wealth are difficult for them, and efforts to keep up with people even more rich than they are often leave them financially depleted.

Not having to work for a living is often a curse – their co-workers resent them for taking a job a less affluent person could have and if the don’t work their days have less meaning.

Then there’s all the complications of romantic relationships. “Does he only love me for my money?”

Are you going, “there, there you poor super rich people” yet? Neither am I.

The super rich have the option of giving away much of their money if it’s such a burden to them. The poor do not have such a quick fix for their problems.

It’s fun to imagine a reality show like those hoarding shows, except instead of the hoarding of household stuff, it would reveal how much money a particular person is hoarding and show what could be done with that excess money instead.

While accepting the Nobel Peace Prize ten years ago, former President Jimmy Carter said that the greatest problem of the 21st century is the growing gap between the richest and the poorest people on earth. Citizens of the ten wealthiest countries are now 75 times richer than those who live in the ten poorest ones (contrast that with the early 1800s when the gap between the wealthiest region of the world and the poorest was four to one).

The results of this disparity are root causes of most of the world’s unresolved problems, including starvation, illiteracy, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and unneccessary illnesses that range from Guinea worm to HIV/AIDS.


But tragically, in the industrialized world there is a terrible absence of understanding or concern about those who are enduring lives of despair and hopelessness. We have not yet made the commitment to share with others an appreciable part of our excessive wealth. This is a potentially rewarding burden that we should all be willing to assume.

Now that’s a burden worth carrying and one all of us can share, not just the super rich.


Filed under: AnxietyReflections


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