Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Are we Sabotaging our own Wealth?

I have seen more than one study where a remarkable number of people say that they would rather not be wealthy. One of the primary reasons is that they believe the money would turn them into greedy people who consider themselves superior. Evidently, a lot of people have very negative views of the wealthy.

Money doesn’t turn you into anything. In my opinion, it just makes you a bigger whatever you already are. If you are jerk you will become a bigger jerk. If you are charitable then you will give even more. One might argue that sometimes it does appear that money has changed someone, but I counter that they were probably that way all along and the money has now only amplified the situation. Personal values and ethics do not change overnight.

Evidence of this sabotage includes the countless stories of people acquiring new wealth only to lose it by making questionable financial moves. It’s almost as if they could not accept being wealthy.

“When the disparity between one's life in childhood and one's adulthood is too great, human psychology seeks to reduce or resolve that disparity”. Years ago, I heard this referred to as the “Clinton Syndrome”. Bill Clinton rose to the presidency from rather humble beginnings and proceeded to “shoot himself in the foot” on a regular basis.

Certainly this isn’t something we would do consciously? Is the subconscious really that powerful that we would sabotage our future by making the present more consistent with our past?

Let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum. What about the individual who inherits a large sum of money and then becomes paranoid that they will lose, squander and/or have the money swindled away from them?

They know that they could not replace the money and they are fearful of making a mistake. These folks sabotage their wealth in another way. They are too anxious to use it and too guilt-ridden to enjoy it. This type of anxiety/stress can destroy a person’s health and wreck relationships by making them suspicious of others. They are a noble bunch that wants to earn their money and are uncomfortable winning anything.

So maybe we all sabotage ourselves in one way or another.

I still prefer to think that all is not lost for the long term investor. Perhaps this sabotage effect is muted in the case where one slowly accumulates money and gradually builds wealth. The mind has more time to adjust to the situation. Instead of feelings of guilt, a long term investor will believe he/she has earned the money and deserves the wealth. Whereas, speculators, lottery players, and get-rich-quick schemers may have a very different attitude that sets them up for sabotage.

Which type are you? It is your choice.

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