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"The stress of being a billionaire"
Old 04-10-2012, 10:10 PM   #1
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"The stress of being a billionaire"

This NYT article was posted in another thread (How to Look Rich) but I think it deserves its own thread on hedonic adjustment.

Living Like a Billionaire, if Only for a Day - NYTimes.com

Quote:
Like most of the wealthy people I’ve met while covering Wall Street, he plays down the effects of money. “I don’t think it changes you that much,” he said. “The happy guy who makes tons of money is still happy. If somebody’s a jerk before, he’s a jerk when he’s got a billion dollars.”
A raft of studies, including one in 2010 by Princeton researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, has underscored the fact that the rich are no happier than the merely comfortable, and are often burdened by the same problems: health and work issues, family concerns and worries about making ends meet.
Quote:
One thing I’ve noticed so far is that when you’re a billionaire, you’re never alone. All day, your life is supervised by a coterie of handlers and attendants catering to your whims. In the locker room alone after my workout, I feel unsettled. Where’s my bodyguard? Where’s my chauffeur? Why is nobody offering me an amuse-bouche while I shampoo my hair?
I asked Dr. Grubman, the psychologist to the wealthy, if a billionaire’s lack of privacy eventually becomes second nature. “For these people, being able to be alone and relaxed with those people who are around you is rare,” he said.
I feel bad admitting it, but my billionaire day has been stressful. Without an assistant, just keeping up with the hundreds of moving parts — the driver, the security detail, the minute-by-minute scheduling — has been a full-time job and then some.
When my night ends well after midnight, after a performance of Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera and a raucous trip to a burlesque-themed nightclub called the Box, something funny happens. I realize that I’m experiencing the sensation that psychologists call “sudden wealth syndrome.”
The feeling is one of cognitive dissonance, a quick oscillation between repulsion and attraction. I’m drawn on one level to the billionaire lifestyle and the privilege that comes with it. But the lifestyle is so cartoonish, so over-the-top flamboyant, that I’m not sure I could ever get used to it.
Dr. Grubman assured me that if I were an actual billionaire, I would resolve the dissonance in time. Luckily, I don’t have to. When I wake up the next morning, my Timex watch, bought on sale a couple of years ago, goes back on my wrist. I put on my unshined shoes and slip on my blue jacket, the one with a hole in the pocket.
Well, screw it. If that's what it's like, plus the burden of "fiscal stewardship", then maybe I don't need to be a billionaire after all.

Tomorrow I'm going to load my own longboard into my own car and drive myself to the beach, where I'll have to lug it all the way down to the shorebreak by myself. Then I'll have to paddle it all the way out to the break to surf with a bunch of other non-billionaires. At least I think they're non-billionaires. Apparently it's hard to tell.

I haven't really appreciated before that financial independence means you can have the privilege of being left alone to enjoy your own privacy. At some point beyond that it's all too easy to start accumulating a staff and more obligations.

Thanks for posting this article last week, Omni, I enjoyed it!
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:13 AM   #2
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Agree, thanks for the article. I've been reading another of Kahneman's books lately and find his research very interesting on the subject of hedonic adaptation.
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:38 AM   #3
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I have already known for a while now (I am 44)that I really have no desire to be "rich". Some of my friends accuse me of being too focused on money (saving it) because I talk about it a lot (probably too much). However, my only desire for money is to accumulate enough that I can quit my Mega Corp middle management job. I do not value the accumulation of it by itself.

When I was in my early 20's I certainly had a different view though. Once I made (grossed) about $80K per year, I was able to do all the things that I really wanted to, needed to, or valued. I now make almost twice that much but my happiness has not really improved. I have let my expenses creep up in some areas (eating out more, going out to bars with friends, etc...) but I could easily cut those things back to the $80K per year level if I needed to.

I actually told my boss this year I would rather have additonal vacation days then a raise. He looked at me like I had two heads but this mindset underscores how much I value my free time (or perhaps how lazy I am)!
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Old 04-11-2012, 11:15 AM   #4
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I have no strong desire to be rich beyond my wildest dreams -- that comes with its own set of problems. I just want enough to secure a lifetime with a reasonable standard of living without having to worry about whether I can pay for it or if I'll outlive my money.
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Old 04-11-2012, 11:23 AM   #5
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I wish them all a long and painful death, ungrateful children and predatory wives (as many as they can fit in the mansion).
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Old 04-11-2012, 11:31 AM   #6
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I have run across a few Microsoft jerks, by the way.

It is good all around that I do not have personal weapons and maintain a pacific attitude.
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Old 04-11-2012, 01:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ziggy29 View Post
I have no strong desire to be rich beyond my wildest dreams -- that comes with its own set of problems. I just want enough to secure a lifetime with a reasonable standard of living without having to worry about whether I can pay for it or if I'll outlive my money.
+1. I would dislike the stress of being a good steward if I were rich. Also, having leeches hanging on and trying to suck the last drop of blood would be very irritating.
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Old 04-11-2012, 03:16 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
I have run across a few Microsoft jerks, by the way.

It is good all around that I do not have personal weapons and maintain a pacific attitude.
I know an early Microsoft employee. He just keeps to himself mostly and is a very nice guy. If you start grilling him about his old Microsoft doings and how much money he got out of it, he'll probably give you a funny look and give you a one word answer like "enough", but that's about as jerky as he get's
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:57 PM   #9
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I have run across a few Microsoft jerks, by the way.

.
I knew those guys in "tech support" were jerks, but I had no idea they were billionaires..
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:04 AM   #10
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When I am in a third world country providing free healthcare I feel like a billionaire. I don't care, all I want is to help my patients. All I wear is my scrubs, no bid deal.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:12 AM   #11
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Great article.

But I would not want to live like a billionaire.

I don't want personal security, driver, or trainer. Not into opera, fancy restaurants, nightclubs, clothes, jewelry, luxury cars or yachts. I wouldn't mind travel by private jet, but not to places or experiences that a billionaire enjoys. The billionaire lifestyle seems too complicated.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:14 AM   #12
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Had a Silicon Valley Angel Investor with my startup just prior to the Tech bust of the early 2000's. Not a "B" status person but not a huge distance from it. That market drop surely added stress to his life. Maybe not food on the table stress, but stress nonetheless. Not like they are sitting there with a stack of t-bills and no obligations. Everything from venture fund limited partner margin calls to insignificant gnats like me buzzing around. Moral to story: seeing your nugget decrease no matter what the starting level is stressful. (FWIW he was amazingly humble down-to-earth, handler-free person, unlike 80% of the testosterone filled VC's I encountered.........)
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:18 AM   #13
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I think if you were a billionaire living in the city it would be a torture, like in the article. But to be a billionaire in the country with lots of land or ranch, I think you could live the life you want without much intervention from outsiders. You could make it so.

How does the flamboyant Ted Turner do it?

I know I could do OK, and just disappear on my ranch and do my own thing. And I do not have an ego to support...
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:06 AM   #14
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I think if you were a billionaire living in the city it would be a torture, like in the article. But to be a billionaire in the country with lots of land or ranch, I think you could live the life you want without much intervention from outsiders. You could make it so.
How does the flamboyant Ted Turner do it?
I know I could do OK, and just disappear on my ranch and do my own thing. And I do not have an ego to support...
I suspect that ol' Captain Outrageous is paying seven figures a year to security firms to secure his perimeters from his fans... or from disgruntled CNN viewers.

I wonder when he last felt the urge to clean his own toilets or even prep his own food. Somehow I just can't see him wiping down a kitchen counter or pruning a tree, either. And he certainly can't go down to a martial arts studio to hang out with the other black belts for some sparring.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:41 AM   #15
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I wish I knew someone with a big old ranch/yacht/private island. I would be happy for them to show off to me.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:12 PM   #16
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Sign me up! I'd like to give it a shot.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:14 PM   #17
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I think if you were a billionaire living in the city it would be a torture, like in the article. But to be a billionaire in the country with lots of land or ranch, I think you could live the life you want without much intervention from outsiders. You could make it so.

How does the flamboyant Ted Turner do it?

I know I could do OK, and just disappear on my ranch and do my own thing. And I do not have an ego to support...

I have seen glimpses into those big ranch/exclusive penthouse downtown situations. [as a spectator] In spite of the best of everything, and more of it than anybody could ever use, what happens is the owners had no privacy because of the number of service people needed to keep the facility in prime condition. Sure, they can move between homes and show up when the places are all are buffed out, spend the weekend and then leave for someplace else, but it might as well be a hotel.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:28 PM   #18
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Old 04-12-2012, 01:52 PM   #19
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Given so few here want the burden of a lot of money, I take it most don't buy lottery tickets.
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Old 04-12-2012, 02:06 PM   #20
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I actually told my boss this year I would rather have additonal vacation days then a raise. He looked at me like I had two heads but this mindset underscores how much I value my free time (or perhaps how lazy I am)!
I am in total agreement. At some point quality of life became more important the $$$. I changed jobs a couple of years ago for quality of life reasons. I now have 5 weeks vacation plus there is a shutdown for the holidays in December, so I have 6 weeks off a year. And I would gladly buy 2 more weeks time off if they let me. I left behind an accruing pension, but I was at least vested, and I also left behind alot of stress and only 3 weeks vacation. I was starting to think--what good is saving all this money for retirement if I die from the stress and never get to enjoy it.

I think many folks who enjoy things other than work feel the same way. Sadly, I work with many workaholics who don't have much to enjoy outside of work and so they have difficulty using up their vacation time.

I don't really envy billionaires. I have a pretty good life and maybe that's the way all of us who LBYM feel?

Norma
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