It's one of life's great paradoxes: how can it be that one has problems if one has inherited so much money? It's a problem for many but only a few of those experiencing difficulties with their wealth have the confidence to approach a professional.
By Dr Ronit Lami, Director of Affluenza and Wealth.
BusinessAge, October 2001
What the media says
Less is more, say the spiritualists. However, for many an inheritor, the opposite is true. While it is difficult to generalise, in many cases, the more financial security they are given, paradoxically, the less emotional security they seem to have. Their external life may appear solid and well furnished but inside they frequently harbour debilitating concerns about self worth, shame, guilt, fears, failure, inadequacy, responsibility and ironically, even survival. Society's assumption that material success guarantees happiness merely exacerbates these concerns.
     These issues usually develop as a result of parent-child relationships. A common issue is the conflict between the parent's desires and the child's. The parents expect their children to follow their expectation, and often use their money as a means of blackmail. The parents 'encourage' the children to follow a certain career path, or to join the family business, without considering their children's personality, desires and needs. As a result many inheritors develop complexes around love and money, a feeling of dependency and lack of control with regard to life choices. In many instances, I have observed how disconnected inheritors are from themselves and their true desires. Many wealthy parents have set up their children's lives without taking into account all these rudiments.
     Dr Dolittle, a film character played by Eddie Murphy, illustrates one of these issues that inheritors face. Although the character in the film does not come from an affluent family, the psychological dynamics he experienced in his relationships with his father are similar. Eddie Murphy plays a child who has the ability to understand animals' language. However, his father denied him from using his unusual senses and forced him to follow a more 'conventional' way of living. So, the child grows up and becomes a traditional medical doctor, detached from a critical part of his self. Until his unique powers are revealed again as a result of an accident he is involved in. At this point he is afraid of himself and thinks that he may be affected by a mental illness. At the end, however, Dr Dolittle overcomes his fears and uses his gift in a positive way.
Where possible, these may involve the family through inclusive workshops, discussions or even outdoor bonding exercises.
     The above support is often best supplemented by helping the inheritor develop practical skills to manage the new wealth. This may include focusing on creating effective communication between the inheritor and the wealth manager. Sometimes the focus of the client is with precisely this person - the banker, or trustee, for example. l also recommend other organisations that focus on providing specific training in managing investment and understanding financial markets, such as the Swiss-based organisation Loedstar. Separately l encourage clients to engage in charitable or philanthropy work, developing self-worth through helping others.
     Unfortunately, only a few of those who are experiencing difficulties with their wealth have the confidence to approach a professional. Generally people are too embarrassed to ask for help in unravelling their feelings. Inheritors suffer the double stigma, since their problems are caused by wealth, which supposedly should make them happy. It is crucial for people to understand that a professional can offer guidance without imposing decisions, accept the client as he is, without making judgments and above all, listens in a way that provides the client with clarity in realising the way forward in the maze to happiness.

         So a key role for parents is to recognise that the child has his or her own independent path to follow.      In addition though, the parents need to prepare children for the opportunities and pressures presented by the wealth they will inherit and how to cope with these. lf many children who come from wealthy families develop problems around inherited wealth, it is because they are not prepared to handle it. Financial matters are above all not discussed within the family and heirs are in a complete shock when, on their 21st birthday, they learn that they have inherited a large trust fund.
The bewildered response to the new freedom offered by an inheritance may lead to denial of their money, shame or guilt. With no material need to work, the heir may feel loss of direction and motivation in life.
Where the heir is in a job, they may give it up altogether. Recognising the opportunities presented by the new circumstances, the inheritor may feel swamped by choices, leading to relinquished responsibilities, lavish spending and in extreme cases, alcohol and drug use.
     There is no magic formula as to how to address these problems and each individual is unique and has a different set of personal issues. But I have found that a two-pronged approach is most effective: one working on the personal level and the other focusing on practical financial aspect.
     At the personal level, the primary objective is to explore with the individual the underlying concerns and issues, employing a variety of counselling and coaching methods and exercises to solve them. These may take the form of either face-to-face or through a phone conversation.


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