Inside the lives of America’s anxious wealthy people

They don't think they're rich.

caption
They don’t think they’re rich.
source
Martin Hunter/Getty Images

It’s not always easy being in the 1%.

Rachel Sherman’s book “Uneasy Street” highlights the lives of America’s top earners and the anxieties they face, including guilt and comparing themselves to their wealthy friends.

The New York Times also highlighted the anxiety of rich people in a recent article, saying “wealth frequently comes with a bundle of expectations.”

Here are some surprising insights into the anxiety of being rich.


Rich people claim they’re part of the “middle class” and lead “simple lives.”

caption
Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you feel that way.
source
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

“These people sometimes characterized themselves explicitly as ‘in the middle’ when referring to those above them,” Sherman writes.

“Here ‘middle-income’ signals a spending style, not a dollar amount.”

One woman with a household income of $3 million told Sherman her family is “just normal.”

“I live modestly, I mean, I don’t have jewels. . . . There’s no flash. We’re just normal. I mean, in my world, it’s not flashy. To somebody that lives in a trailer park, I don’t know. But we live a fairly simple life,” she said.

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


The 1% doesn’t believe they’re wealthy unless they have a full-time driver and private plane.

caption
Rich people think flying commercial is a sign of being in the middle class.
source
Emirates

Sherman profiles Helen, a stay-at-home mom with household income of $2 million and assets of $8 million who says she doesn’t feel rich compared to others.

“They have private planes. They have drivers. They have all these things … You know, money makes everything easier. It makes it easier for you to do much more, actually. And, you know, we don’t have that luxury in that way,” she said.

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


Rich people hide housekeepers, chefs, and nannies out of guilt and embarrassment.

caption
Wealthy people are often embarrassed of their chefs.
source
Vivien Killilea/Getty

Sherman interviewed a stay-at-home mom who described how she hid her hired help, a common practice for the 1%.

“The chef definitely feels like something I don’t talk about a lot, because it’s almost embarrassing,” she said. “With the moms at school, I find it embarrassing.”

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


Millionaires still worry about money and retirement.

caption
Rich people also worry about saving enough for retirement.
source
Getty/Antony Jones

Thomas Gallagher, a multimillionaire quoted by The New York Times, reveals his anxiety about money.

“I still feel, to some extent, that I don’t have enough money,” Gallagher told the Times. “Emotionally, I don’t come from money; I got very lucky on Wall Street. I’ve been dealing with a myriad of psychological issues since I retired. I have more money than I had ever imagined, but I still worry – do I have enough, if I live longer than I thought?”


Many rich people say paying taxes means they don’t have to give to charity.

caption
Paying taxes is often used to justify not giving to charity.
source
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Sherman writes that many people that she interviewed justified not giving to charity with the amount of taxes they pay.

“Yeah, we don’t give a lot of money straight away. I do pay a s—load of federal income tax. It’s seemingly endless,” one man interviewed by Sherman said.


Wealthy married people still fight about shopping and credit card bills.

caption
Millionaires can have a “shopping problem” too.
source
Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

One woman told Sherman how her husband was angry about their credit card bills.

“I wish I could be better at saving more money. That’s the one thing we really fight about. And, like, the credit card bills,” she said. Sherman continued: “She admitted sheepishly that her husband was right, saying, ‘I do have a shopping problem.'”


Stay-at-home moms in the 1% complain they struggle to get it all done.

caption
Wealthy stay-at-home moms claim they’re just as busy as their middle-class counterparts.
source
Shutterstock

Many stay-at-home moms in Sherman’s book describe the difficulty of keeping up with their various properties, renovations, and social commitments.

One woman described lying to her husband about hiring a babysitter.

“Sometimes I lie about how much – because he doesn’t really – like, I pay – like, he doesn’t really know all the time how much help I’m having,” the woman said haltingly. “It just makes me happier. Because I can get things done. I don’t like [it] when my life backs up.”

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


Rich people experience a ‘luxury creep’ that alters their sense of reality.

caption
Vacation homes stop being a big deal to the 1%.
source
Flickr / Bart Speelman

Rich people get used to having money – and they stop perceiving themselves as rich in the process, Sherman writes.

“As they get older, they spend more and more on dresses, sofas, or homes,” Sherman writes. “They gain practice carrying out large consumption projects such as renovations and become comfortable spending the amounts of money required for these.”

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


Wealthy people worry their kids will be spoiled.

caption
Parents of kids who grow up with wealth still worry about their futures.
source
Graham Denholm/Getty Images for the VRC

Many wealthy people worry their kids will be spoiled.

That doesn’t mean they make them work, however.

“As their children get older, parents turn away from the possibility of giving them sustained exposure to paid work in order to give them other kinds of opportunities,” Sherman writes. “Even those who have been most uncomfortable with affluent lifestyles grow accustomed to their advantages.”

Source: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence


Wealthy people eventually realize money doesn’t mean happiness.

caption
Being rich doesn’t always equal being happy.
source
Neilson Barnard/Getty

Psychotherapist Olivia Mellan tells The New York Times that rich people are complicated psychologically because they eventually realize money isn’t everything.

“If someone doesn’t have that money growing up, it’s like being shot through with too much energy,” Mellan said. “There’s this undercurrent that money equals love, power, security, control, self-worth, self-love, freedom, self-esteem – all those loaded things that money supposedly can do, but doesn’t.”


Many rich people are terrified of actually spending money.

caption
Spending money can scary for the 1%.
source
Marc Piscotty/Getty

Wealth adviser Eric Bailey tells The New York Times that many of his clients are terrified of spending money.

“They don’t take it for granted,” he said. “They never do feel they have enough. It takes some coaxing to get them to spend money.”


Many people in the 1% worry they have a target on their back and people will take advantage of them.

caption
Appearing wealthy can lead to problems.
source
REUTERS/Toby Melville

“Another worry is that if you are rich, you have a target on your back, and people are always going to hit you up for loans and gifts,” writes Kerry Hannon at The New York Times. “There is the security and the stability and the success that wealth represents, but people just do not want the identity and the downside of what they associate with being rich.”


Wealthy people are taking classes to cope with the anxiety that comes with being rich.

caption
Money doesn’t always equal confidence.
source
Flickr/strelka

“The anxiety that comes with having acquired wealth is alleviated by having the confidence you can learn what you need to learn,” said Charlotte Beyer, founder of the Institute for Private Investors, tells The New York Times.

Her organization provides support and education to the mega-wealthy.