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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.”
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“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.
The 1% doesn’t believe they’re wealthy unless they have a full-time driver and private plane.
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.
Rich people hide housekeepers, chefs, and nannies out of guilt and embarrassment.
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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.”
Millionaires still worry about money and retirement.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.”
Rich people experience a ‘luxury creep’ that alters their sense of reality.
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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.”
Wealthy people worry their kids will be spoiled.
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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.”
Wealthy people eventually realize money doesn’t mean happiness.
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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.
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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.
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“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.
“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.