if their achievements were because of
their own skills, knowledge and talent
or because they have a lot of money.
Some were concerned about
motivation. They worried that if their
children have enough money and
they were concerned about the children
of the world in general. We found
that to be very interesting, and even
surprising because it runs contrary to
so many of the stereotypes about this
“What you often lose when
you have all this money is the
friendships that support you
through the difficult times.”
don’t have to worry about covering the
mortgage, what will motivate them?
How will they lead meaningful lives?
This is where the money might get in
the way and make things confusing,
not necessarily better. Very few said
they hoped their children made a lot
of money, and not many said they
were going to give all the money to
charity and let their kids fend for
themselves. They were, however, really
interested in helping their children
figure out how they could live a
meaningful life. Even though they did
not have to “make a living,” they did
need to make a life.
What had you expected to hear?
One could expect that you might
hear things like, “I wanted to make a
lot of money and become financially
independent and be able to do whatever
I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do
it.” But very few said anything like that,
although they appreciated the temporal
freedom. It was so non-financially
focused. I expected that when we asked
them about their greatest aspiration
for their children, we’d get a lot more
people saying they wanted their children
to be world leaders, but that’s not what
they said at all. People said, “I’d like
them to think about how to make their
world a better place.” Not the world,
their world — their community, their
neighborhood, their family.
What might psychologists find
most interesting about this work?
A net worth of $25 million or more
brings temporal freedom, spatial
freedom and sometimes psychological
freedom, but it’s not always easy.
Eventually temporal freedom — the
freedom to do anything you want
— raises dilemmas about what the
best way to use all your time might
be. There’s also spatial freedom: You
get to build anything you want — a
house, a business, a new nonprofit —
and people often get lost or befuddled
with all of their options. And you get
choice. You can go to this restaurant
or that one, this resort or that one,
buy this car or that one. People can
get overwhelmed by all the choices
and possibilities, and the amount of
freedom that they have.
MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • JULY/AUGUST 2012