The Rich and Their Money

We all get too many emails, but one email I look forward to hitting my inbox is Professor Galloway‘s No Mercy / No Malice. Recently, his musings included a section on net worth, so obviously I got excited.

Those who know the Professor, know that he is a very accomplished entrepreneur with a net worth most likely well into eight figures. Below, I pulled some snippets from his discussion on net worth (okay – almost all of the section on net worth, because I thought it was so good). I felt that while he is definitely in the top 1% of all Americans in net worth, his discussion on the subject was very grounded in reality.

“I think a lot about money. I realize how awful that sounds. When I didn’t have much of it, I didn’t track it.”

What fun is tracking your net worth when it is negative $60,000 because nobody warned you that going to private university might set you back financially? Many people like to turn a blind eye to the bad, since it is easier than confronting it head on.

“Wealthy people claim they don’t think much about money. That’s bullshit; they are obsessed with money. The notion that rich people don’t think about money is an attempt to dampen resentment (e.g., revolution) from the 3.5B people who have fewer assets than the wealthiest 12 individuals.”

I think many “regular” folks think that if they got rich or hit the lotto, it would be great to not worry about money. But that’s probably not the case. Instead of worrying about money, you might begin to obsess over it. Wealthy people are usually wealthy for a reason. Some were passionate about a business or cause and turned it into wealth. Others use it as a measure to keep score against their peers, and it can become all encompassing. Unless you get “lucky” and win the lotto or are born into it, you don’t accidentally acquire massive wealth. It was done with purpose.

“People who tell you to follow your passion are already rich. They have doggedly pursued a path and have been obsessed with success for a long time. They want to sound inspirational and give you a sound bite, because the truth that success requires 60-80-hr weeks for several decades doesn’t get applause in graduation speeches.”

Luckily, I never followed my passion. It also helped that if someone asked me what my passion was, I wouldn’t have an answer for them. The one thing that might come close is my interest in personal finance. But I’m not the person that has this burning passion deep inside them, for better or worse.

I aced Accounting 101 freshman year in college and switched my major to Accounting. Why? Because an Accounting professor convinced me it would be a good, non-risky, well paying career. If I followed my at-the-time passion of going to 50 cent pitcher night on Thursdays, who knows where I would have ended up.

“Every wealthy person I’ve known measures their net worth in frightening detail, and often. You have to stay nimble, or you stand to lose a lot. We live in a capitalist society, and the amount of money you have is a forward-looking indicator of the effectiveness your healthcare, the comfort of your home, the harmony of your marriage, and the quality of your children’s education.”

It’s unfortunate that your bank account has such a profound impact on you and your family’s health, ability to prosper, educate your kids, and weather the eventual storms of life. You have a great responsibility when you have great wealth. When you have a net worth like Professor Galloway, I’m sure it can feel almost surreal. Do you make sure your family has the best of everything? Do you donate 99% of it to help causes you believe in? Why was I the “lucky” one to amass such wealth? I’m sure with great wealth also comes great anxiety. No one wants to go from living the good life, to being a normal Joe.

While I don’t think its healthy to obsess over your net worth, I don’t think folks should feel bad for thinking about it. It doesn’t automatically mean you are shallow. With all the power that wealth has, it can be hard not to think about it from time to time.

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