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."
"Wealth can be a barrier to connecting with other people," writes the spouse of a tech wizard who cashed in to the tune of $80 million. Rich people often feel they can't share the stresses in their lives, for fear someone will say, "Yeah, wouldn't I like to have your problems." It can get awkward when the check comes at a restaurant and there's hesitation over who will pay.
One wealthy survey respondent who worked in the nonprofit sector says she would feel insecure about her position if she resumed working. "If I decided to get a job in the field, I think I would have trouble being seen as a colleague and not a donor," she wrote.
Many express relief that their kids' education was assured, but are concerned that money might rob them of ambition. Having money "runs the danger of giving them a perverted view of the world," one respondent writes. Another worries, "Money could mess them up — give them a sense of entitlement, prevent them from developing a strong sense of empathy and compassion."
"I have grown up with a father who never wanted to give up control of his business but kept taunting me with the opportunity to step into his shoes." His wife adds, "It has been difficult to feel financially independent when [my] spouse's parents hold tight control over [our] children's inheritance."
"Nobody has the excuse of 'lack of money' for not being at peace and living in integrity," writes one survey respondent of his family, with a touch of bitterness. "If they choose to live otherwise, that's their business."
But don't feel too bad for the rich. It's likely they are happier than you are. "You are happier the wealthier you are, despite the problems you may have -- it's just not as strong as people think it would be," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California Riverside.
"The difference in money is huge but the difference in happiness is not," Lyubomirksy says. The uber-rich may control a huge chunk of America's wealth but they do not have a monopoly on happiness.
"You just don't get as much happiness per dollar," she says.