Last week, we attended a conference for the 1%.
“Everybody thinks the rich have such easy lives,” said a psychologist and family therapist.
“But you wouldn’t want the lives that a lot of 1% have. They’re often so cut off from meaning in their lives… from the warmth of normal relationships… and from the psychological rewards of just having to earn a living… that they feel they have nothing to live for.
“You know that the suicide rate has risen sharply in the US. More people die from suicide than from traffic accidents. As far as murder is concerned, you’re much more likely to murder yourself than to murder someone else.
“But as bad as suicide is for everyone else, it is much worse for the rich. In Aspen, Colorado, which is by some measures the richest community in America, the suicide rate is five times higher than the national rate.
“And I can tell you, too, that rates of drug addiction, alcoholism and depression are also much higher in the families of the 1% than in other families.”
How do you like that, dear reader?
We spend so much time and energy trying to get rich so we can move to Aspen or Palm Beach. And then, when we get there, our lives are so miserable we’d rather be dead.
What to make of it?
Maybe money can’t buy happiness, after all. Or maybe when you get rich, bad things start to happen to you.
For one thing, the poor rich bastards are widely resented… mistrusted… and reviled. The Democrats want to tax them more heavily, far more than their fair share (even though the top 1% of the population already pays 40% of the taxes).
The rich flee to tax havens. But the taxmen keep after them. Rich Americans are hunted down even if they haven’t set foot in the United States of America.
And rich people in practically every country are pursued by the tax collectors. In the Soviet Union, the kulaks were tortured until they revealed their secret stashes of food. Now rich people everywhere are tortured by tax agents, audits, controls, shakedowns and seizures. No matter where they go, the taxmen are on their heels, trying to find their caches of money…
And tax hounds are not the only ones who prey upon the rich. Lawyers. Accountants. Architects. Decorators. Travel organizers. Therapists. Wealth planners. Tax advisors. Tailors. Dressmakers. Artists. Charities. Politicians. Psychiatrists. All of them look to the rich to fund their businesses, their projects and their lifestyles.
Without the rich, the luxury goods and services market would disappear. Who would buy their flashy houses… their racy autos… their silly outfits… their awful paintings? Who would support do-good projects and pay for political campaigns?
The Trump Towers would be abandoned… the Ferraris would disappear… the mink coats, Patek Philippe watches and Zegna suits – all gone! It would be a much grayer world without the gaudy colors of the rich.
Entire industries are devoted to separating rich people from their money. The rich are flattered, deceived, defrauded, led on, sued, gauged… sometimes even married… just because they have money.
Even their wealth – and the reputations of those who hold it – is smeared, besmirched and sullied. Popular authors tell the masses that “behind every fortune is a crime.” Movies show rich people as shallow, stupid, vain and ruthless. Almost every villain is among the 1%.
Every hero is poor or working class.
One of the worst things about being rich, says our friend Nassim Taleb, is that you have to hang around with other rich people. Is it any wonder that so many rich people turn into nasty, petulant, spoiled and insensitive people?
What’s amazing is how many do not.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve just come back from a small meeting of members of my family wealth advisory service, Bonner & Partners Family Office. About 30 of us gathered at the Chateau de Courtomer in Normandy, France, as we’ve done for the past four years.
The rich people I met at our little gathering were all very nice… and very interesting… and a lot of fun. Despite being hunted and chased, they maintained their dignity and kept their pleasant demeanors.
In our experience, the “one percenters” are no worse than the 99% –and usually a bit better. Their conversation is livelier. They have done more with their lives. They have been to more places. They have suffered more – not less – than the hoi polloi.