Excessive wealth is not the way to happiness.
However many times you hear this in your mind you think that things would be different for you. That you could probably handle it, and that you would not get as carries away as these clearly quite lost and unhappy people that you see all over the media.
Let me tell you a story
I would like to tell you about a story that I came across some time ago in the newspapers.
It is a story about a normal person who happened to win 200 000 dollars.
It is not an excessive amount of money, and before winning this she was educated, came from a normal middle class home, was married with 2 kids, and lived a pretty standard life.
She was really excited to win the money, but she didn’t really know what to do with it. However, she told her family and her friends, and the next day at work word had spread.
Everyone congratulated her and started asking what she intended to do with the money, and she truthfully said she hadn’t decided yet.
But then things got strange.
Her husband suddenly and out of nowhere wanted to buy a boat. Her kids had made lists of things they wanted. Her siblings had called her and told her that it would only “be fair” if they got 10 000 dollars each out of that money. And on top of that her co-workers and friends started asking her if they could borrow big sums of money.
Even the bank called her to set up a meeting to talk investments.
She finally decided to simply pay of the loan on her house and put the rest of the money on a normal bank account and leave it there until people forgot it existed, and then decide what to do with that money later.
I think she handled the situation quite well. However, that’s not why I decided to tell this story.
I wanted to highlight the way in which people around you change when you acquire a lot of money. And the takeaway from this story is not the question of if you could handle the money or the change in people’s behaviour due to the money, but rather
how your happiness would change due to all these changes.
Once you acquire a large sum of money, people seem to gravitate towards you in order to get a piece of it.
In the story above, even her family tried to get a piece of that money.
So you find yourself in a situation where you either start conforming to everyone’s requests, or get the people around you upset. Some even need to change their circle of friends due to economic differences.
Also, you will experience the issue of you suddenly affording things you always wanted to be able to afford, but none of the people around you can afford the same.
My point is that acquiring wealth can be a barrier to friendships and relationships.
And therefore, indirectly, a barrier to your happiness.
The friendship wealth gap
Maybe by this time you are thinking, “well, if my best friend can’t afford going to the spa and I can, I will pay for her too”.
Yes, you can, and I would of course promote generosity. However, ask yourself this: how many times can you pay for your friend before your friend starts feeling like she is a charity case. Or she starts feeling like she is taking advantage of your resources?
She might also feel like if she keeps turning the offers down because of her own financial situation she becomes that boring “no, I can’t” friend just because she cant afford saying “yes” to all your awesome ideas.
Because, if your friend’s income makes it impossible for her to ever reciprocate your generous gestures, the gifts you are handing out will only emphasize the wealth gap between you two, and create a stain that might end up being impossible to bear.
Also, while you do want to spoil your friends, and rather pay for someone to come on that weekend with you than to have to go alone. You don’t want your generosity to be abused.
You might decide to pick an activity that both you and your friends can afford to avoid financially uncomfortable situations, but then you start feeling that you have to settle for things that are lower standard than you would have wanted.
Its easy to dismiss all of this and say that real friends don’t have such problems. But with so many conflicting emotions – pride, envy, embarrassment, sympathy, empathy – it is rarely as easy in real life as it seems in theory.
Have you ever experienced a friendship wealth gap? How did you cope, and what was the end result?
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If you want more info on how to manage a friendship wealth gap, I recommend THIS article. Also, check out this movie on money and friendship, staring Jennifer Aniston, from 2006.