Parsing the Fears of the Wealthy


Eat The Rich?

Did we all catch The Atlantic’s feature, Secret Fears of the Super-Rich? Forgive me for the lengthy quotes–“feature” means 4 pages on–but here’s the gist of the piece in short:

Taken together, the survey responses make a compelling case that being fantastically wealthy—especially when the wealth is inherited rather than earned—is not a great deal more fulfilling than being merely prosperous. Among other woes, the survey respondents report feeling that they have lost the right to complain about anything, for fear of sounding—or being—ungrateful. Those with children worry that their children will become trust-fund brats if their inheritances are too large—or will be forever resentful if those inheritances (or parts of them) are instead bequeathed to charity. The respondents also confide that they feel their outside relationships have been altered by, and have in some cases become contingent on, their wealth.

That’s what these people are trying to find out: Do I have what I want? Am I screwing my kids up? They have the quantity, now they have to figure out the quality of their wants. They don’t all say that—some are stuck way before that. But this is what’s going on, whether they realize it or not.

Sometimes I think that the only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are the very wealthy,” Kenny says. “They worry about losing it, they worry about how it’s invested, they worry about the effect it’s going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger.

So the rich have problems, too. Don’t eat them, obviously. They are human, right? But as financial professionals you should see problem as opportunity. Keep reading…

Fear = Pain, Alleviate The Pain = Win For Advisor


As always, I strongly encourage you to read the sources that I so often quote in these posts, but let’s take a closer look at the #richpeopleproblems presented in the excerpt above. Notice how financial problems aren’t a main concern. If you read the entire article closely, there are only really two solid mentions of fiscal issues. The first is included in my excerpt, and is mentioned only in passing, “how’s it invested?” The second takes up a whole paragraph, but is a relatively simple “issue” (I can’t even call it a problem): Many of the super-rich (classified as having fortunes greater than $25 million) feel as if they won’t be “financially secure” until they have, on average, one quarter more wealth than they have currently. Keep in mind that the average fortune of the respondents is $78 million. What am I getting at? Your bread and butter–asset allocation–is not their main concern. It should be (both for the super-rich and the affluent) baseline. To land a super-rich client, you’re going to have to be more than just an advisor…

The crux of the many specific challenges the wealthy face is fulfillment. Fulfillment in life, love, and work. This means your job goes far above and beyond financial advice: you’ve got to be a life coach, too. A listener, an empathizer, and a trusted friend. If the excerpts didn’t make it clear enough, the more-than-affluent are complicated creatures. Let them hash out their complexities, their fears, their anxieties, their day-to-day existence with you, and try to give a shit. Resist the temptation to scoff. Give them options, even when they might not be in your own best interest. Show them the benefits of philanthropy, provide them with options for inheritance plans, and, possibly most important of all, find a way to make them happy. Counseling them on love could be a slippery slope, but the least you can do is show them Mr. Super-Rich So-and-So who has been happily married for 20 years to a “regular gal.” Whether they know it or not, their problems are going to lend themselves to the existential variety, so be ready, you’re extensive knowledge of retirement plans won’t do you much good with these folks.

Master The “Soft” Skills

The beauty of having a business that scales is that you don’t have to feel like a panderer by taking on wealthy clients. Don’t ditch a dozen clients for one super-rich one, just do what you have to do, business-wise, to be able to handle them all. Getting back to the really affluent ones, though, you’re going to need to establish a relationship and build trust first. Here are some resources to help you achieve that goal, and become the financial advisor to a multi-million dollar fortune:

Learn how to have empathy: Psychological Capital: Can It Save Financial Services?

Learn how to teach change: Advisor Superpowers: The Secret To Changing Client Habits (And Your Own)

Learn how to be a psychologist: An Attorney, A Psychologist, and an Advisor Walk Into a Mediation…

Learn how to be on their level: Improving Financial Insight With Working Memory

Learn how to speak their language: Leveraging Dialect To Earn New Business

Read up!

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DJ is a freelance writer, hopeful photographer, and social media has-been. He writes to financial advisors about lifehacks, science, technology, business and marketing for Blueleaf, a software that helps create dramatically simpler, more scalable financial advisory businesses. You can find DJ across the web ( or you can just follow him on Twitter (@djswitz)!
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