With the rich, always a little patience

We may envy those people with buckets of cash to throw around,
but what a burden it can be.
Phillip Inman reports.

Wealthy people feel pain just like the rest of us. They are often
confused about their status, feel guilty about the huge sums of cash
piled up in their bank accounts and think most people resent their riches.
Now there is a counselling service devoted to helping them cope with being rich.

A British psychologist, Dr Ronit Lami, says she has interviewed many
affluent people who develop a bunker mentality to protect themselves
from a world that doesn't understand. She has recently joined financial
advisers Allenbridge to give clients advice on how to deal with the
psychological spin-offs of being seriously well off.
At the company's offices she drops the psychologist tag and is known
as a "consultant". She attends meetings and offers advice when it seems
appropriate. Sometimes she will talk to family members who are coping
with internal rivalries.
She is convinced a vast number of the wealthy suffer from some kind of
psychological problem.
Self-made people who run their own businesses are often workaholics,
and their lifestyle provides a clue to why they can't be happy.

"One client was worth more than 100 million [$272 million]. He was always
careful with money. He liked to go out to lunch and dinner but would always
leave his clients to pay. His clients didn't like it, but that was just the
way he was.
"Then he built a huge underground swimming pool in a 25 million house.
When we talked to his wife, she wasn't happy. She said they never used it
because her husband wouldn't spend the money heating the pool."

Lami says she talked to the client about how he spent his money. "I could
clearly see why he was behaving like that, and he might have known about it,
but he wasn't ready to recreate himself, to embark on a process of change."
Lami says that in some ways it is easier for the first-generation wealthy,
or nouveau riche, to enjoy their money. They are usually unencumbered by guilt
- they earned it, after all.
Guilt is something that their less talented or less motivated children need to
cope with when mum and dad's money is passed on.

Children of the rich, according to the US business magazine Forbes,
will have to struggle with $US136 trillion ($261 trillion) put aside for
inheritance worldwide over the next 30 years. Lami says she has counselled
several guilt-ridden children. The first generation suffer other ailments.
"Managers who start their own business often catch a dose of workaholism.
People who are self-made are very hard to work with. They think they are right,
because they have created a company and made lots of money.
"But often, being obsessed with creating the business and working long hours
has killed the love in the people around them: their children, their spouse
and the people they work with. Only a few have managed to build up their
companies without doing this."

She adds: "There is plenty of research to show that those who enjoy life but
destroy the lives of the people around them are not really enjoying themselves.
It's true they can go to their graves like that - happy but unaware - but if they
have a crisis of some kind, then they look for support and it is not there."
She believes people who have acquired large amounts of money are only privileged
if they know how to enrich their lives. Most don't, or can't.

The British accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward has developed a family support unit
to help its wealth management service. The definition of "wealthy" used by the firm,
by the way, is cash and "ivestable assets" worth about 500,000. David Thompson,
who heads the unit,says there are often huge tensions in the family when the owner
crystallises his or her wealth. How the family deals with wealth usually depends
on how the owner, and that person is usually the male head of the family, has treated
everyone.

They often keep their wives in the dark. Some will reveal for the first time
the true extent of their cash pile. Some want to protect their children from
the corrupting influence of money, while others want them to join in the fun.

www.smh.com.au, 22 November 2001
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