Friday, June 27, 2014

What Do Rich People Worry About?

     Some of you may remember that I write a column for the U. S. News Retirement website on various issues regarding retirement, especially as they pertain to money.

     Or as my friend jokes about my blog, I write a little "about this 'n' that 'n' some of that."

     Below is a piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It got a lot of reader response, mostly from people who have no sympathy at all for the concerns of wealthy people . . . they just don't want to hear about them.

KGO AM 810 in San Francisco
     As I point out, it's hard for any of us to summon up much sympathy for the wealthy. But what got me interested was a 2010 study by Princeton University economists which concluded, as you'd expect, that people in lower economic groups are not as happy as people who make more money. But beyond a certain level, more income does not produce more emotional well-being. The level is about $75,000 a year. So increasing your income up to that point does correlate with increased happiness. But beyond that, making more money just doesn't help.

Michael Finney
     I suppose there are a lot of reasons why not. But one seems to be that having more money does not necessarily cure you of your anxieties, or mean that you have fewer worries in your life.

     So why do I bring it up now? Because I got a call from KGO AM 810 radio in San Francisco. Michael Finney has a show called "Consumer Talk," and he invited me to be interviewed on his show. So, if any of you are within earshot of San Francisco, tune in this Saturday, June 28, at 3:15 p.m., and you can hear me stutter and stammer my way through an interview about . . .

What Rich People Worry About

     You might think that people with a lot of money would be immune from the everyday worries that gnaw at regular, middle-class people. And to some extent you'd be right. But they worry more than you think.

     Here are eight money worries of the top ten percent: 

     Having enough money for retirement. A recent survey by Lincoln Financial Group showed that 53 percent of people surveyed worry about having enough money for retirement. So what about retirees who have over $1 million saved up for their golden years? Almost as many millionaires, 48 percent, admit that they worry about having enough money to live out their years in comfort. Apparently, having more does not relieve you of the anxiety about having enough.

     Worries about health. You'd think that millionaires, with all their access to doctors, specialists and top hospitals, would worry less about their health. But they don't – or at least not by much. According to the same survey, 54 percent of millionaires worry about their health in retirement, compared to 57 percent of all those surveyed.

     Being sued. According to surveys by Prince & Associates, fewer than 20 percent of people worth less than $1 million worry about being sued. But over 80 percent of people worth $20 million or more worry about being the target of a lawsuit. Perhaps they know – lawyers go where the money is.

      Identity theft. Less than half of middle-class people are concerned about identity theft. But three quarters of wealthy people lose sleep over the issue. Probably for the same reason they worry about getting sued. Thieves want the identity of people with big bank balances, not those who have maxed out their credit cards. 

     Protecting assets. Wealthy people may not have to worry about their monthly electric bill, or even the cost of college tuition. But as a rule they have a sense of responsibility about their money, and so they spend time taking care of it. They worry about the Federal Reserve, foreign currencies, interest rates, stock prices, real estate. Even if they hire someone else to manage their affairs, they still worry about overseeing their portfolio and making sure the people they deal with have their best interests at heart.

     Business responsibilities. We all worry about getting laid off. These days, the CEO can get fired just as easily as we can. Business leaders also worry about the impact of their decisions. It's bad enough if you get laid off, but how would like to be responsible for hundreds of other people losing their jobs? Then there's reputation risk. If we mess up, it's usually a private matter. But top figures in business, politics and sports all fail in public, with their shortcomings analyzed by critics from coast to coast. 

     Worries about kids. Rich people know that a large inheritance can undermine the ambition, and the dreams, of their children. Why take on the nasty realities of schoolwork and a job when you have access to a trust fund? The wealthy -- especially those who have made their own fortune -- know the answer even if their kids do not: In work there is self-confidence, self-worth, and a sense of accomplishment that no amount of money can provide. 

     Keeping up with the Joneses. Finally, we live in a competitive society. The brand name of your college, the zip code where you live, the car in your driveway, the place where you vacation – they all say something about your status in life. The wealthy tend to be more competitive than the rest of us, and so these things mean even more to them than they do to us. Keeping up with the Joneses – or the Buffets and the Gates – takes on a meaning that produces even more anxiety for them than it does for the rest of us.

     Of course, it's hard to summon up too much sympathy for the rich -- most of us would love to have their problems. But still, just because you're wealthy doesn't always mean you live on Easy Street.


DJan said...

When you first asked that question (in your title), the first thing I thought of was health concerns. Just having the best of care doesn't make one immune to life's diseases. I suspect there is one other thing they should worry about: consuming a rich diet and developing the disease that goes along with a rich lifestyle. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, I still would prefer to be rich. Lol.

Olga Hebert said...

I suppose one can always find something to worry about. It would seem that there might be quite a difference in the quality of worry--what the Federal Reserve is up to versus how to stretch food stamps to feed a hungry family for a month. But I don't know either way really so I count myself lucky.

Linda Myers said...

Or maybe they have the money but it's in investments in the stock market that can lose money unexpectedly. What then?

Stephen Hayes said...

I'm not foolish enough to believe money would solve all of my problems but I wouldn't mind experimenting with the difficulties of having too much money.

Anonymous said...

We might have been considered "rich" until one of our kids needed bailed out. Let me tell you the truth...when you have money, people will ask you for help...especially the ones you love the most!! How do you say "NO" when the request is for the basics of life. I know what many of you will say, "make the kids work for it." Well that's fine, but if there's a medical issue or other emergency, guess's assumed that those who have money will help out. After having helped those with legitimate needs, (the Bible tells us if someone asks us for our coat, we should give our cloak, also, AND if your child asks for a fish, who among you will give him a rock), we're no longer "rich" and that's okay. The kids know where we stand, and they will not be lining up for handouts anymore. Frankly, it's a relief to be out of the millionaire club!

Anonymous said...

Both my parents were self-made millionaires. They dedicated their lives ruthlessly to making money. Never took a vacation. At the age of 58 my mother took her first vacation. She and my dad went to Europe for a few weeks. While there, my mom didn't feel well. When they got back home, she immediately went to see her doctor and had a complete physical. She was told she had incurable esophogus cancer and had only 3 months to live. She died a horrible, horrible death. ALL the money in the world, millions to be exact, that my parents accumulated, couldn't save her life nor give her one more day on planet earth.
Since my mom's death (I was 28 years old) I have scoffed at money and have lived in an almost broke stance. I deplore money. And I deplore anything that is connected to a job, other rich people, etc. I just make sure I have enough money to live my very happy life. And nothing more. I practically gave away all the money I inherited from both my parents. I called it 'blood money' and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Money is worthless. It can provide you with absolutely nothing! Don't be fooled.

Anonymous said...

Being rich doesn't equate with money. However, as Ella Fitzgerald said, "I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better."

Stupid to worry about anything. Worry is a useless emotion. Yesterday is a cancelled check, tomorrow a promissory note. Today is all you have.

Douglas said...

I have two comments, actually.
1. Surveys that show percentages of people who worry (or don't)about something do not tell you much about how much they worry (or don't) about the issues in question.
2. I was reminded that the other day I heard that Chelsea Clinton didn't care about money, though (at some point not revealed) she said she had "tried to" but couldn't. Of course not, her parents are rich (one estimate of their wealth is $100 million)and well connected (politically and socially)... she is never going to want for anything. So why would she care?

Banjo Steve said...

Too often, "enough" is not enough for people. More and bigger become the watchwords, with ego-involvement regarding salary/income size. Thus comes the fear that possessions will be lost/stolen/swindled. I find that having enough to cover my needs is just fine and dandy, and I have that much less to worry about.

Of course, it would be nice to have enough money to hire someone to do my exercising for me.......... :)

Karen D. Austin said...

I hope that your radio interview went well! Thanks for the info about $75,000 being the threshold for measurable happiness. Hope all is well with you.

Tom Sightings said...

It's funny how we all hate the 1 percent, and yet we all want to be rich ourselves. Guess I'm no different from anyone else. Anyway, Karen, thanks for the thought. I think the interview went well enough. But I suppose the test is: Do I ever get invited back?

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Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Seems too much money leads to all kinds of abuse issues as temptation to do so becomes a thrill!

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rich people worry about dying more. they love their greedy lives. and they are separated from god.