Miseries of the Rich and Famous

VIDEO: Forbes adds 199 more names to its annual list of billionaires.

Would $25 million make you happy?

Not if you're a member of the ultra-rich.

In a survey titled "Joys and Dilemma of Wealth" by Boston College, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Calibre Wealth Management, the wealthiest set revealed they are an unhappy bunch -- worried about appearing ungrateful, rearing bratty children and failing to meet expectations.

The report, obtained by The Atlantic, gives a glimpse of the wealth and fulfillment level of 160 households, of which 120 had amassed fortunes of at least $25 million. The findings: Despite great wealth, many seem miserable.

One of the gems from the survey: "I feel extremely lucky, but it's hard to get other, non-wealthy people to believe it's not more significant than that … The novelty of money has worn off."

So is it better to live life without money? "Being very poor is very miserable," says Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University. "But it turns out money doesn't buy as much happiness as people think it would buy."

Bo Derek once said, "Whoever said money can't buy you happiness simply didn't know where go shopping" -- but that's not true, say happiness researchers. It's not the Screaming Eagle, one of the world's most expensive wines, or the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2 that bring the most joy. It's knowing how to do good with your money, say experts.

"One reason money might not provide as much happiness is because people might not spend it right," says Elizabeth Dunn, who conducts research on happiness. "We find that people get more happiness by spending money on others."

So what are problems of the big spenders?

"The truly wealthy know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated. No yacht is so super, nor any wine so expensive, that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one's children won't grow up to be creeps," writes Graema Wood in The Atlantic.

In Wood's piece, titled "Secret Fears of the Super-Rich," we get a sneak peek at the findings from Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. Here are ten fears of the uber-rich:


A respondent reported he wouldn't feel financially secure until he had $1 billion in the bank.


Survey respondents report feeling that they have lost the right to complain about anything, for fear of sounding — or being — ungrateful.

Trust Funds

Those who are parents worry that their children will become trust-fund brats if their inheritances are too large — or will be forever resentful if those inheritances (or parts of them) are instead bequeathed to charity.


The respondents also confide that they feel their outside relationships have been altered by, and have in some cases become contingent on, their wealth. "Very few people know the level of my wealth, and if they did, in most cases I believe it would change our relationship," writes one respondent. Another says, "I start to wonder how many people we know would cut us off if they didn't think they could get something from us."


Some wealthy people stopped looking forward to the holidays "because they were always expected to give really good presents," said Robert Kenny, one of the organizers of the survey, when interviewed in The Atlantic. When you're a millionaire, Kenny says, expensive gifts merely meet expectations. "That was a pretty good present," the recipients might say. "But last year, you gave me a car."

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