Rich Man, Poor Man

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You want to be rich. Perhaps you plan tobe very wealthy indeed.Who wouldn’t?Talking about the pros and cons of being wealthy seems as one-sided as a boxing matchbetween Warren Buffett andMuhammad Ali.However I’ve beengiving this some thought – inspired by my strange and unfounded fear of winning£56 million pounds in thelottery– and there are quite a few bad points.Don’t get mewrong – it’d be a nice problem to have. If you searched out ‘the pros and consof being wealthy’ as a sanity check before accepting a briefcase of cash, I saytake the money!Later on you can come back and tell us how hard it is beingrich. But let’s start with the good points.The pros ofbeing wealthyUnless you’revery religious, contrarian, or you’re visiting our planet ahead of thefull-scale invasion fromMars, you’ll know how great it is to have money.The esteemed rap poet Nas sums up the general picture asfollows:Clothes thatI buy, Ice that I wear,Clothes that I try, close youreyesPicture me rollin, sixes, moneyfoldinBitches honies that swollen toriches…Mr Nas is a bitweak in rhyming the clothes he’s trying with those that he’s buying, but thenhe doesn’t need to try too hard – Nas knows we’ve all dreamed of being rich.He just has to flick the switch.At the very least, being wealthy gets you:§ Financialfreedom§ Holidays anywhere§ A great home§ Funding for yourpastimes and passions§ Good suits§ Great health care§ A swimming pool full ofgirls in bikinis§ Gold teethFeel free to substitute your own desires. Personally, I’dlike an island.Thedownsides of being wealthyWhen I said this article was about the pros and cons ofbeing wealthy, I meant it: having a lot of money has drawbacks, especially ifyou get rich overnight.I’ve met a fair few rich people over the years, mainlythrough work, and I’ve also read widely on the subject, and I feel confident inlisting these negatives.(For clarity, I’m talking about being really rich – £10 million/ million net worth or more).Moneydoesn’t make you happyAfter asurprisingly low point, more money doesn’tmake you happier. Rich people get depressed, just like the middleclasses. True, there’s no evidence that money actually makes you unhappy(although one rich man is giving it all away) but it could distract you fromfixing your real problems.The endof your goals and ambitionsYou see this withchildren born into money, as well as people who built a company up for severaldecades and sold too late to start another. When you have the money, what next? The trick seems tobe to find a substitute to your old goal of achievingfinancial security. That’swhy you can’t walk far in Africa without tripping over a philanthropist.Beingjudged unfairlyPeople are very critical of the wealthy, especially here inthe UK. In the US entrepreneurs are celebrated, but newly rich Brits will findmany people waiting for them to fall. I’ve seen it in work – a self-made man orwoman leaves the room, and someone says “well, he was lucky” or “he’s out ofideas” or even “what an asshole”. Not nice, but it happens.Someoneis richer than youRich people arehuman, too. Your yacht isn’t as big as the one next door, or you had to buyyour furniture, unlike your neighbours who had theirs passed down from the 17th Century. Nobody is the richest personin the world on every measure – how many billions would Buffett give to beyoung again?GuiltMoney can’t buy the love of your friends and family. “Don’tfeel bad about being rich,” they say. But do you believe them? One has a brokenboiler, another has a child with special needs, and then there are distantrelatives who can’t afford nursing care. Do you help them all? Can you? Wheredo you draw the line?Beingrich is a big dealBuy a countryhouse and you need staff. Invest your millions and you need accountants. They moveyour money offshore, and now you don’t understand the taxes. You’ve no time tolearn, because you’ve three different architects coming over to quote on yoursummer home. You think you’d be different? So do I. Didn’t they?Scamsand fraudstersOne reason you’llneed to all those professionals is because you’ll need help warding off thecrooks attracted to your wealth. Nobody wanted to pretend to be you when youowed the bank money, but now you’ve millions parked away it’s a differentstory. Let’s hope your financialadvisers aren’tswindlers, too.I loveyou (and your money)The big one. Does she really find you fascinating, or justyour bank balance? Is he really won over by your beauty, wit, or experience, ordoes he just hope to bleed you dry while banging the French au pair?Money can beall consumingThe mostsurprising thing about How to Get Rich (US link) by Felix Dennis is when he urgesyou to stop with money after you make the first fewmillion, because beyond that you’re wasting your life.The incrediblyrich founder of Maxim magazine writes:“Let me repeat it one more time. Becoming rich does notguarantee happiness. In fact, it is almost certain to impose the oppositecondition – if not from the stresses and strains of protecting it, then fromthe guilt that inevitably accompanies its arrival.”And he should know.To conclude withthe rapper’s perspective, what I didn’t tell you earlier is that the lyricswere from a song called Hate Me Now, in which Naslaments the ill-feeling his wealth inspires out on the streets.Our bard sumsup his frustrations thus:You wannahate me then hate me; what can I dobut keep gettin money, funny Iwas just like youI had to hustle hard never giveup, until I made itNow y’all sayin that’s a clevernigga, nuttin to play withOf course, thesingle was a hit and it made Nas even richer, just like Dennis’ Howto Get Rich book hasbecome a bestseller.Being wealthy hasits rewards, but irony – that’s priceless.

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