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Why Are Many Rich People Unhappy?

August 5, 2016

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If only I had the money to do such and such, I could then relax and enjoy life”? Does wealth truly make people happy? If it does, then why are so many of today’s richest people depressed and unhappy?


Billionaire J. Paul Getty wrote a series of articles that in 1965 were compiled into a book. The book is called How to Be Rich. Around the time of its publication, J. Paul Getty was believed to be the world’s richest person.


In his book, Mr. Getty shared some candid thoughts about the unpleasantries of wealth. The following comes from the chapter titled “The Morals of Money”. I’ve skipped certain paragraphs for the sake of brevity.


Words such as millionaire, multimillionaire and billionaire carry a magic and compelling ring. Understandably enough, many people are mesmerized by those words, by what they think those words imply - and by the thought of piling up a personal fortune as an end in itself.


These people seem to believe that every millionaire has his millions in ready cash, stored in strongboxes beneath his bed or in a handy wall safe in his library, to hold or squander according to his whim. They also apparently believe that money can buy them everything and solve all their problems…


Believe me, wealth is something with which one has to learn to live - and the task is not always as simple as might be imagined. A man who becomes rich finds it necessary to adjust to the idea of being wealthy. He must make certain that he maintains his perspective and his sense of values. He must learn to cope with the special problems his wealth creates, to handle the types of people who are wont to flock around him because he is rich…


Once an individual achieves financial success and is identified as a millionaire, he is thenceforth a marked man, and matters only get worse as his wealth increases…


No, despite all the many advantages he enjoys, the wealthy businessman’s life is not all champagne and caviar. He must accept the fact that, despite his wealth and position, there are drawbacks to being a millionaire…


In some ways, a millionaire just can’t win. If he spends too freely, he is criticized for being extravagant and ostentatious. If, on the other hand, he lives quietly and thriftily, the same people who would have criticized him for being profligate will call him a miser. If he goes to parties and night clubs, he is labeled a wastrel and doubts are raised about his maturity and sense of responsibility. Let him shun the salons and saloons, and he is promptly tagged as a recluse and misanthrope…


Five marital failures have also taught me that a happy marriage is another of the countless things in life that no man can buy no matter how many millions he possesses.


Friendship is something else that can’t be bought - although there are many who try to sell its counterfeit…


The effect a rich man’s money will have on others is often surprising, sometimes barely believable, and by no means always salutary or ennobling. I’ve said before that a millionaire is a marked man. There are many who consider him an easy mark as well. For instance, I have long been an avid and serious art collector. Through the years, I have been offered bogus Botticellis, counterfeit Corots and fake Fragonards by the carloads.


I recall one man who tried to sell me what he said was a rare 16th Century tapestry, and for “a mere $45,000.” When I told him I wasn’t interested, he flew into a rage.


“But you’ve got to buy it!” he shouted, thrusting the tapestry at me. “My wife worked months to make it!” …


I’ve mentioned several in this article which serve to make a rich man’s life - pleasant and enjoyable as it is in many ways - something less than the carefree idyl so many people picture it to be. Money can do things for people - and it can also do many things to them. What money does for or to a particular individual is largely dependent on his moral and intellectual standards, his outlooks and his attitudes toward life.


Mr. Getty went on to explain what he has aimed to do with his money - how he endeavored to “make life better for all. Therein lies the justification for wealth, and therefrom does the working businessman derive the greatest sense of satisfaction.”


As I recall, I bought my used copy of How to Be Rich, by J. Paul Getty, for only a penny, but have found the wisdom of its contents to be worth a far greater sum. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking advice about how to become rich, or how to be rich once there.

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