An article by Graeme Wood in the current (April 1) issue of the Atlantic Monthly, entitled “The Fortunate Ones,” offers a juicy glimpse into a not-yet published book by Boston College’s Center for Wealth and Philanthropy. I interviewed Paul Schervish, Director of the Center, in 1993; Schervish is a sociologist who has devoted much of his life to studying the very rich in America. The forthcoming book distills responses from 165 respondents who, according to Schervish’s criteria, are “super rich,” meaning that their net worth is $25 million or more. In In 2009 approximately 115,000 such households met this extremely high benchmark. This figure has undoubtedly risen since that time.
The respondents include investors and entrepreneurs and inheritors.
Schervish’s survey “invited the very rich to write freely about how prosperity has shaped their lives and those of their children. . . . The respondents’ average net worth [was] $78 million”—an astonishing figure. Although “the results of the study are not yet public, The Atlantic was granted access to portions of the research.”
The study, called “The Joys and Dilemmas of Wealth” reveals that those in this category are “a genertally dissatisfied lot, whose money has contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work, and family. Indeed, they are frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes. Most of them still do not consider themselves financially secure.”
“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.”
The Atlantic Web site for April 1 does not include this excellent article, but it is available online from a bottom-feeding blogger whose blog is called “The Rarified Tribe.” S/he calls the article “Secret Fears of the Super-Rich.” The article is identical to that published by The Atlantic.
I, Barbara Blouin/The Inheritance Project (we are, at this point in time, one and the same) will continue to explore the contents of this fascinating article, which echoes so many of what my former partners and I learned from inheritors. Please come back!