The Promiscuous Lure of Wealth By: Richard Watts
Who would listen to someone who suggests being wealthy has drawbacks? Moreover, if you had the choice to become richer, would you be foolish enough to decline? Richer is always better, right? Wealth gives you greater convenience, greater quality, access to exclusivity, and it inclines you to think you live in a better world than those who don't have it (the "Have-Nots"). But be careful. Once you make this choice, if you are tempted to set a life course to opportune an entry into the world of wealth, there is no returning. Whatever this new life brings to you, your new residence is permanent. "Still," you say, "I am ready to take the leap of faith. No one will convince me my mediocre life is worth preserving." But do you know what you are really getting? Your only lens into the lives of the rich is what the media wants you to see and believe, and based on that alone, you spend most of your life chasing it. Suppose an advertisement offered you a pill guaranteed to make you look twenty years younger. You would be suspicious of the offer, right? Nonetheless, when television and magazines promise you wealth will bring freedom from all of life's troubles, that is a pill most will swallow. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
We occupy our daily routine with hopes and dreams of a better life. Those who want for basic necessities – food and shelter – are justified and deserving. But most of the middle class who have their basic needs met . . . want more. In fact, we often disparage our 'inadequate' lifestyles and blame ourselves for not having been smart enough or lucky enough to find our way to this opulent place of rest, reward, and recreation. Just a little more money would make things a little better. A lot more money would make everything a lot better!
But perhaps there's a catch.
Let me introduce myself. As family office counsel, I advise and manage the daily affairs of families who have exactly what you want: money. So much, in fact, there is no financial barrier to their every desire. If they can dream it, they can have it. Everything you want, they have . . . and more. My profession allows me a rare opportunity to report from both sides of the curtain regarding wealth. The results might surprise you.
"The middle class wish they had the perceived trouble-free lifestyle of the super-rich. The super-rich recognize that in their ascent they left behind a less complicated life and an appreciation for the simple pleasures which are present in the middle class."
The super-rich actually have all of the same problems in life you do; except money isn't one of them. "Have" or "Have-Not," you can only live in one house at a time, and Bentley or Beetle, they are both transportation. Beyond the conveniences and luxuries, the money fix begins to bog down. Wealth has an addictive quality much like alcohol and cocaine; it takes a little more each time to get the same effect. Money is its own master. Because money gives access to almost anything, before long many of the super-rich often don't recognize the difference between a want and a need. The acquisition of more satisfies less and less.
The super-rich don't wake up every morning cognizant of, and grateful for, living so much better than the rest of the world. Everything is relative. An old proverb quips: Wherever you find yourself that is where you are. In fact, most of the super-rich have significant stress (and moderate paranoia) focused on two issues: How do I keep from losing what I have, and how do I get to the next level of wealth where I can have the things I want but can't presently afford? The top rung of one ladder is always the bottom rung of another.
Learning to be content in the middle class is a choice; like driving in traffic and choosing not to swerve through the lanes to advance a couple of car lengths. Staying in one lane, you accept the car in front of you may not be advancing as quickly as one in the adjacent lane, and consequently you may arrive at your destination a few moments later. It is experiencing the journey instead of the destination . . . quite calming . . . an antidote for road rage! You reduce your stress level significantly by refusing to weave into every empty lane like a cat anxious to pounce on a mouse. Try it some time. You might see things you never recognized before.
On the other hand, seeking wealth is the lane-changer whose focused mindset is all about the destination and arriving faster. Darting in and out, the car in front is always moving too slowly, and the car behind, ready to pass. Seeing an open lane, the next move is determined by an instant reaction to momentary openings in traffic, all in an effort to arrive as soon as possible. But where? This hamster wheel has no finish line. For most of the world, wealth is seen as an ends instead of a means. The journey soon becomes obscured in the relentless desire for more, ultimately consuming the one thing the super-rich don't get more of...time. And time only spends once. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one."
Money can have heart-breaking consequences from expectant families and envious friends. The super-rich perceive no one has sympathy for their daily problems and their difficulties in managing wealth. And they are right! The world doesn't care. Why? Because the world believes a lot of money minimizes life's struggle. If you can have anything, what could you possibly want? And if you don't want anything you shouldn't be unhappy. The world isn't there to commiserate with the super-rich when they experience their normal pitfalls of everyday life; divorce, children of entitlement, financial disaster, and personal ruin. The world finds the super-rich entertaining. The Have-Nots are envious during their rise and ecstatic when they crash. The super-rich are the world's most watched reality show! One must ask what prompted one of our history's richest men, Andrew Carnegie at the end of his life to write; "I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar."
Wealth may have its benefits if the owner properly manages himself, but the requisite self-restraint resides only in a disciplined few. The paradox in successfully managing a lifestyle of the super-rich and avoiding the lure of materialism is . . . one must live as if the money doesn't exist. Warren Buffet may have successfully navigated the balance between wealth and normality, but most of the super-rich spend their entire life accumulating "extra."
How much of your time is spent thinking about money? And how much good has that done you? Perhaps it might be wise to invest in a few memories along the way. Instead of fantasizing how wealth might fill all of your wants, remember the richest person is not who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
Richard Watts, the founder and President of Family Business Office ("FBO"), was admitted to the California State Bar to practice law in 1982 and is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School with an undergraduate degree from UC San Diego School of Economics. FBO is a legal and consulting firm that manages the country's wealthiest families and their family office enterprises. Richard's families rely on him to oversee family operations and make decisions with them on a daily basis.
His book "Fables of Fortune" is currently available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the author's website www.fablesoffortune.com
Getting back to our SherpaReport coverage, the most meaningful part of his summary was the understated comment "Perhaps it might be wise to invest in a few memories along the way". This rings very true with the whole ethos of destination clubs and private residence clubs. When you join one of these clubs you're making a commitment to vacation with your friends and family. You're committing to create and build those memories. Maybe you're a successful entrepreneur or professional who has spent a lot of time growing your business and it's now time for some life rebalancing, to reap some of those rewards and create those memories. Joining a club is also a financial commitment, so don't overlook this, but your main reward is the time you'll spend with the ones you love.