Do you suffer from ‘Sudden Wealth Syndrome’? Does thinking about your trust fund make you break out in night sweats? Apparently, you’re not the only one. Mother Jones reports that big banks are providing psychological counseling to troubled clients with oversized assets.
“Wealth is still a taboo in our culture,” Jamie Traeger-Muney, a “wealth psychologist” who advises counselors at the U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch, told the magazine.
It’s presumably for this reason—that, er, extreme wealth provokes a painful social stigma—that John Warnick, a positive psychology consultant to U.S. Bank advisers, prefers to use the term “legacy families” when referring to persons of affluence.
However, rich people problems are myriad and manifold. Some pay a psychological price in the decision to give their kids trust funds. Man, life is hard sometimes.
Rich people sometimes seek therapy to cope with the idea of providing trusts for their kids, says Amy Zehnder, a psychologist and “Senior Wealth Dynamics Coach” who counsels people with $25 million plus at U.S. Bank’s Ascent Private Capital Management. Some wealthy parents are afraid that if they give their children trusts, the kids might end up spoiled—or worse, waste the money, Zehnder says. She argues that her workshops, which have titles like “Responsible Wealth Ownership” and “Real Colors: Understanding Temperaments,” can help clans “keep control of their money for multiple generations.” [Mother Jones]
So, hold on, let’s get this straight: There is a thriving micro-economy (mainly circulated in big banks) that feeds off the psychological burden some bear for possessing too much money. The job of wealth counselors is to make extremely rich people feel okay about being rich, or make them feel okay enough to comfortably stay rich and provide trust funds later.
Now, here’s a novel idea: Instead of paying wealth counselors, why don’t rich people just pay higher taxes? Seems like it would solve everything, right? Warren Buffett and President Obama seem to think so.
Wrong. It’s the stigma that’s causing the problems, according to some wealth counselors, not that steep income inequality in the U.S. is working to sicken the economy and sink the political system into Super PAC quicksand.
Ultimately, having lots of money shouldn’t be cause for alarm. “There’s a difference between money causing problems and a lack of ability to explore feelings around money,” Traeger-Muney says. “That’s what leads to psychological issues.” She just tries to get her clients to acknowledge the fact that they’re rolling in dough and learn how to enjoy it. “What would life be like if they didn’t have any restraints and could really create what they wanted?”
What, like this?
Follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone