This story is part ofCNET covers smart money decisions for today’s changing world.
When the billionaires startedlast summer, the internet was ready for jokes.
“I made sourdough croissants this morning, but you can’t hear me brag,” one account tweeted.
“Billionaires racing into space are great, but maybe they could also pay taxes,” he wrote, adding almost 50,000 likes on Twitter.
The common theme of many comments online – in addition to jokes about the shape of the Blue Origin rocket – was the sharp contrast between the average person looking at home and the literal rise of people so rich that they could escape the physical boundaries of the planet.
It is another outline of people’s sometimes difficult relationship to wealth. A 2022 survey by Personal Capital for Digital Wealth Management found that 74% of people do not believe they will achieve their own definition of a high net worth individual. A 2018 survey by YouGov, looking at how much money we need to be considered rich or poor, found that 56% of people think that making $ 100,000 a year means you’re rich. The same personal capital study ranked around $ 400,000.
But if happiness is still something he longs for, what is the result of living in a world where some people have reached a level of wealth that is almost incomprehensible? Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is (at the time of writing this) the second richest man in the world with a net worth of more than $ 167 billion. This means that it takes him two weeks to earn just a short distance from the average annual household income in the United States. Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX, ranks first with more than $ 259 billion and now isfor $ 44 billion.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who look at billionaires negatively – Bezos, Musk and the like – rose to 29% from 23% between 2020 and 2021, according to the Pew Research Center. This comes amid a wider public debate about the growing gap between 1 percent and everyone else.
Neither Musk nor Bezos responded to the request for comment.
Wealth remains a complicated topic. The reasons why people persecute – or refuse – vary. For some, success and wealth are one and the same, and for others it may be more a means of achieving a set of goals than a final measure in itself.
Their wealth is “extreme in its form, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a panacea that some people might think it is,” said Luke Thompson, a Powerscourt consultant at the UK’s Strategic Communications Agency, who spent time in management. reputation, working with individuals with extremely high net worth. “I think people want to get richer, but I don’t think they want that level of wealth.”
It turns out that the richest in the world may not cast as much of a looming shadow on the social definition of financial success as you might think.
Wealth with a goal
John Caudwell no need make a lot more money, he said.
According to Forbes, it is already worth about $ 3.1 billion. The British billionaire founded Phones 4u, the UK’s largest mobile phone retailer, and sold his business in 2006. He has been involved in philanthropics since the 1990s, including the founding of the Caudwell Children charity in 2000, and in 2013. committed to donating most of his fortune by signing Giving Pledge. The Giving Pledge is a philanthropic effort founded by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, which now includes people like MacKenzie Scott, Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Marc Benioff and Elon Musk.
So when he looks at the astronomically rich, he sees no challenge or accusation of his own success.
“I don’t think a normal person can ever strive for that,” he said in an interview. “I couldn’t even try.”
This is partly because it is a rare feat to come up with the right idea at the right time, a la Amazon. After all, promotion in corporate work will only take you so far. But Caudwell also sees some futility in the accumulation of wealth due to the accumulation of wealth.
“Rich people – really everyone – measure to some degree, affirming yourself with the wealth you create,” he says, “I’m sure there is [an] element of competitiveness. “I think there are much better, much more satisfying goals in life than just creating colossal wealth.”
Wealth with a real goal is something Myah Irick, senior vice president of Irick Group-Merrill Private Wealth Management, regularly talks to his clients.
“Wealth is a means to an end,” she said in an email. And with that comes a number of questions that concern not only whether someone wants to buy a second home or start a business, but also what their legacy should be and what impact they want to leave to their family and community. Some clients come to it with specific goals, others do not.
Either way, he sees some impact just because the super-rich are there.
“In our consumer culture, we are indoctrinated by accumulation. If accumulation is to make us happy, then it is assumed that those who can consume anything and everything are the happiest,” she said. “Of course that’s not true, but this understanding of the world is permanent. If happiness is based on consumption, it will always feel out of reach.”
When less is more
Joshua Fields Millburn learned this lesson for himself at the age of twenty. Millburn is the author, orator and one half of the Netflix duo The Minimalists, who explores the idea that wealth does not bring happiness to life. He grew up poor in Dayton, Ohio. As a child, he thought the reason his family had problems was because they didn’t have money. So after high school, he got a job and focused on climbing the corporate ladder.
He eventually made $ 200,000 a year, which goes a long way in Ohio.
“I had a big house in the suburbs with more toilets than people,” he says, “I had 12 Brooks Brothers suits. ‘Why does one need 12 suits?” is a good question I never bothered to ask. “
But as he says, he was also very indebted and very unhappy.
“I think more people want to be vague, successful people because they haven’t identified what’s enough. They just know they need more than anything they have because they’re dissatisfied right now,” he says.
In modern mythology, some of the rich people started out as entrepreneurs.
Every year, about 3 million students in the United States take Junior Achievement classes at the school. Founded in 1919, the non-profit organization brings together local entrepreneurs to teach them about topics such as financial literacy and entrepreneurship. For some children, Junior Achievement may be the first encounter with the idea of starting a business. But it’s not about training kids to do business to get rich.
“The idea is to go [into business] because you see the problem, ”says Ed Grocholski, Chief Marketing Officer of Junior Achievement. “You can do it in the context of your passion and ultimately be successful, and if you end up getting rich, of course it’s a great bonus, but that’s not where we’re going.”
Grocholski says that the super-rich have always aroused some awareness in children’s perceptions. Fifteen years ago, they may have talked about Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs. Today, however, he says people like Bezos and Musk have more visibility thanks to social media and influenza culture.
Research from Junior Achievement has shown that a higher percentage of students expect to get rich at a younger age, even if they do not yet have a plan to achieve it.
At the university level, Sean Branagan founded the Center for Digital Media Business at the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He says he goes home with his students, that the definition of success depends on interpretation. Wanting to be able to pay your bills and take on the practicality of life while doing something that makes personal sense is a framework that does not necessarily have to be tied to a great financial situation.
And while it’s hard to tell why, Branagan says he’s seen a shift in the last five years as fewer students are interested in becoming another sweatshirt mogul.
“They want to do something that is more meaningful, closer to the community, they are worth something bigger, [rather] than ‘Oh, yes, our marketing is about helping poor children, but it’s just a marketing turnaround. “Instead, it’s built-in,” he said.
One of his former students is Kelsey Davis, founder of CLLCTVE, a company that connects creatives with brands. In 2021, Davis was listed as 30 under 30 by Forbes. Since she is still at the beginning of her career as an entrepreneur, I asked her how the ultra-rich share of her plan had turned out for her – especially when several of them started as entrepreneurs – and said that they were not really the point according to which is measured.
“Success looks like achieving whatever you want,” she said. “I always want to be in a position where I can create freely. As I age over the course of my life, the degree of what it means, the resources needed to create whatever these ideas are, can change freely.” But she says self-sufficiency is at the heart of her goals.
You can’t take it with you
These days, when Caudwell thinks about how to multiply his wealth, he thinks in the sense that he still has something to leave – not for his children, but for his philanthropists. In 2019, he increased his Giving Pledge commitment to 70%. And when he looks around for some of the other billionaires on the Forbes list, he wonders exactly what he’s up to.
“Why wouldn’t every rich man do the same?” he says. “What [do they] Do you want all that wealth in the long run? “