Can Abundance Lead to Isolation?

Can Abundance Lead to Isolation?

Abundance and isolation are not often discussed in the same context because the assumption is that abundance only solves problems and does not create them.

It might sound counterintuitive, but wealthy people are often among the most isolated people even though they are usually surrounded by others.  Being isolated and being alone are not the same thing. Material success does not make you invulnerable to the pitfalls of life – we need only to glance at the headlines to verify that. In fact, material success can often create unique vulnerabilities that are often overlooked because, after all, the “problems” of the wealthy are not really problems.

My experience working with wealthy clients has shown me that money can sometimes become an obstacle in their lives. At the center of the problem is trust and empathy. Wealthy, powerful individuals – fame can be part of this equation too – often isolate themselves as a reaction to their inability to find people they can confide in.

Similarly, the esteemed wealth counselor Thayer Willis wrote in her latest quarterly newsletter about the close correlation between wealth and isolation. Her practice exists, she wrote, because “my clients need a person whom they can confide in and count on for empathy about many, many thoughts they have never felt free to express with friends or family. They begin to explore with me the big qualities of life: identity, relationships, communication, and certain parenting questions. In all of their questions, their financial wealth is a central force.”

Feeding the feeling of isolation is the belief that no one will understand or empathize with their problems. The responsibilities and burdens of their wealth become theirs to carry alone, and their connections with other people suffer. Wealth can also breed some guilt, and that guilt can lead to more isolation.

There is no one solution, but developing a circle of trusted peers and confidants is very important to preventing isolation. You can do that in a number of ways, but the key is to seek out these connections regularly whether they are with loved ones, or colleagues. I wrote about my professional peer group, Vistage, in a previous post last year, and the risks of isolation for business leaders.

To prevent isolation, it is important to shape your relationship with your wealth, to understand its purpose and its role, so it does not become a destructive force. We talk a lot about being a good steward of wealth, and that philosophy is the key to having a constructive, healthy relationship with money.

I believe that as financial advisors we can also serve as confidantes. We do not view one’s financial life as separate from one’s personal life. How you use your wealth and assets should be a reflection of your values and what you care about. The more true that is, the less likely you are to feel isolated by your money.

John Christianson
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