Dear Grandparenting: I have several old friends that I would call wealthy. We live in different social worlds but I bump into them around town. Grandchildren are the one thing we have in common to talk about.
I am a good listener. People tell me all kinds of things. Every family has problems keeping children in line what with COVID and all, but with all that money you might think they have it easier. That’s not what I’m hearing. They have problems on top of problems.
Their lives sound very complicated. Family is so focused on spending and making money that they seldom get together, so grandchildren and grandparents are like perfect strangers. To hear them tell it, their grandkids have drug or alcohol problems, act entitled like they’re above it all, and worry about friends using them for their money. Is it really that hard to be young and wealthy? Alison Brent, Chandler, Arizona
Dear Alison: When F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned that rich people are “different than you and me,” Ernest Hemingway supposedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.” Not smarter or more talented, and certainly not without their share of trouble.
Does big money buy happiness? According to a 2010 Princeton University study, an annual income of $75,000 made people about as happy as they’ll ever be, as upbeat as one earning $5 million. A subsequent study found that life satisfaction and emotional wellbeing continue to rise with increased income but is no guarantee of future happiness.
Studies confirm the special set of problems that can afflict kids from wealthy families. Besides the nagging fear that “friends” are after their money, children are subject to “affluent neglect” — indulged with cash and material possessions but deprived of love and affection from preoccupied parents. Some struggle to find meaning or purpose in life and escape the shadows of famous forebears and a gilded family name. Others get swept up in the dissolution that can await trust funds babies.
That’s not all. Children from affluent families are becoming “increasingly troubled, reckless and self-destructive” said psychologist Suniya Luthar, who has studied the lives of privileged children for over 30 years. Research shows their drug and alcohol use often exceed that of inner-city youth. Luthar found “comparable levels of delinquency” between children from upper and lower-income families.
Add it all up and the expression “poor little rich kid” has a glimmer of truth.
Grand remark of the week
Jimmy Black from Petersburg, Virginia was eager to go fishing. “C’mon,” he said loudly to his two young grandsons upstairs. “You’re running late.”
Grandson Walter, age eight, answered right back. “You should have started yelling earlier.”