Why You Shouldn’t Want to be Rich
The temptation of wealth is present and inherent in every human being’s insatiable nature. When money is scarce, people want it; when it becomes abundant, everyone wants to scale back to the simple life. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Richard Watts, founder and president of Family Business Office and author of the book “Fables of Fortune: What Rich People Have That You Don’t Want,” talks to Urbanette about financial aspirations: why the super-rich are still wanting, and the differences between men and women when it comes to responding to the promiscuous lure of wealth.
Urbanette: Based on your experience, how intoxicating is wealth, really? Is there a specific event that led to writing this book?
Richard Watts: Wealth is more than intoxicating; it’s seductive. Wealth — particularly obscene amounts of wealth — whispers its promise of rescue from everyday frustrations and our egg shell, lackluster experiences. We don’t ask how or why we would leave our own lives to the unknown embrace of this temptress, but like a man or woman on the verge of an affair, we believe wealth is better than what we have.
We fail to recognize what we are leaving behind will never be available again. This is a departure and substantial change without a round trip ticket. Once imbibed, it will fill every void — for a while — and then you become reacquainted with the same issues you struggled with in your previous life. The man for whom a woman leaves her husband will not have the same idiosyncrasies but will most certainly have his own. Flirting with wealth, an occasional splurge on something you worked hard for and deserve is satisfying and rewarding. It leaves you wanting more. But when more is always available, you can lose your appetite for anything.
The article, The Promiscuous Lure of Wealth, and my book Fables of Fortune; What Rich People Have That You Don’t Want, were created to dispel a myth. A fiction the world continues to embrace as an instrument of self-deprecation to provide ourselves an excuse for not having the confidence to overcome our own fear of being proud of who we are, and being willing to sincerely proclaim: “What I have is enough!”
As the insider to the super-rich, my everyday life is in what we all consider the Promised Land. It’s no picnic. The lines of reality get blurred. The rules change. The game never ends, and has no winner. And most must play, even if they prefer not to. The drive that propelled one to this destination stimulates a desire to press on for more. It is the ultimate religious experience; we believe without proof, and if one is lucky enough to arrive on the other side of our hope, they don’t report back to the believers. If they were truthful, they would confirm that after a while, things don’t satisfy, and working hard for something you may not ever achieve is a joy nonetheless, even if you fail.
My passion for writing is to instill people of ordinary means with the knowledge their life confirms the quintessential ethic that hard work and being grateful for what we have is the self-pride that birthed America. When the middle class resolves to engage again, and reclaims its once philosophical prominence, our country will return to the path of personal freedom and spiritual individuality.
Urbanette: Would you say there is a gender difference when it comes to being “lured” by wealth? Is one gender more prone to being hooked than the other?
Richard: This question is most intriguing. It isn’t a matter of more or less prone, but rather men and women generally are attracted to wealth for different reasons. Men tend to be foraging for power and competition. The ingredients for a male financial climber are: smart, competitive, controlling, has ADD, and a healthy dose of low self-esteem.
Ask any financially successful man (who didn’t inherit) what his greatest fear is, and he will expose the root of his low self-esteem. And because he can never outrun it, his conquest continues…higher and higher. More than the money, he seeks the checkered flag. A woman has a more emotional approach to wealth. Not to say she isn’t just as competitive, smart, and willing to wield power, but perhaps her underlying demon is security. Somewhere in her history, people she thought would provide didn’t. Or perhaps the man she had been convinced would raise her up on a white horse and ride into the sunset, took her car and rode out of town without the kids. Wealth does provide security.
When more is always available, you can lose your appetite for anything.
Both however, are drawn to wealth by imagery…albeit propaganda. The man sees the statue of Rocky Balboa, hands raised to the sky, a constant reminder of man against the odds. In addition to security, women perceive wealth buying youth, independence, and admiration. Who wants to be rich more, a man or woman? Consider what would a man give up — and what would a woman give up — to be super rich? What would you give up? Now ask yourself: Can you get it back once you’re rich?
Urbanette: Given all the female clients that you’ve had, what would you say were the primary pitfalls to the quest toward achieving a desired state of wealth? What do wealthy women still want?
Richard: The most visible pitfall for women in the quest for super wealth is the loss of companionship. Women can occupy different stations in the quest for wealth. They can be single alpha females, married to an under-achieving husband, the hands-on spouse of a family business that goes nuclear, or a homemaker that raises the next generation. Where men might have relatively similar experiences (both positive and negative), the experience will vary for women depending on what role they play in obtaining super wealth.
But the common thread in all three is the difficulty of companionship. And when they arrive at super rich, women still want the same. Most husbands that achieve wealth status are super driven. The climb can replace the love and the hours that might otherwise be spent with a spouse. Wealth with single women tends to creep into the void of wanting a companion and family. Once they obtain the security they sought, yearning sets in for what was left behind. Women who crave wealth may have a more difficult road than men. Women place a significant measure on the value of having a family and staying youthful and energetic. The quest for more can take both.
Super-rich women want to be forty, adored by a less-than-hideous-looking man, and loved for anything other than their money. Their pursuit of youth displays like a billboard. Hence we witness the bodyworks of Beverly Hills; the super-rich woman with a twenty-year-old’s breasts, a thirty-year-old’s figure, a seventy-year-old’s hands, and the face of all three!
Urbanette: Where do you think the middle class should focus to achieve a state of wealth? To what do you think should the super wealthy pay attention to in order to fill the happiness void?
Richard: [Members of] the middle class would benefit from accepting their own journey instead of fixating on an imaginary destination. This doesn’t mean that things can’t and shouldn’t improve with effort. But wasting a life wishing one was wealthy because it would make life perfect is pure fantasy, and not very smart, especially when the evidence indicates you may be less content than you are now if you got your wish.
Since when did we decide the finish line in life is all that counts? What people forget is the finish line of life is a box buried six feet under, not an imagined state of euphoria. We’ll all get there soon enough. In the meantime, let’s lose the champagne wishes and caviar dreams, and hit the beach for a beer, a laugh, and an overcooked hotdog on a bun.