4 Ultra-Rich Problems Ordinary People Don't Experience
The rich have it all: private planes, comfortable socks, and enigmatic fresh steaks from their many Most Dangerous Game islands. Wouldn't your life improve if you had more money? Well, yes. Yes, it probably would. But you might also take on some new problems you'd never have thought of, such as how ...
Skyscrapers Leak Like Sieves And Creak Like Battleships
Live high up in the most exclusive of skyscrapers, and you get a great view. You get prestige. You get to take a dump out the window, and if it lands on someone's head, that's fine because no one will ever believe it was you. The only downside is ... oh, quite a few things that don't occur to anyone until they move in. Starting with those who sign up for really coveted apartments as soon as space becomes available, show up to move in, and discover that the building is still under construction, so you have to ascend to your heavenly abode in a freight elevator wearing a hard hat.
Okay, that's a problem fairly easily solved by waiting till your apartment is actually done before moving in. Then you just have to brace yourself for the occasional other issues involved with living in a building so tall that engineers just made it as a prank. Issues like floods.
Oh, you might think a skyscraper is the best place to wait out a flood, but not if it's a flood caused by your own water pipes, backed by unnatural water pressure that God never meant man to wield. Picture that damage you saw in Texas homes following the recent freeze and those pipes bursting, except this doesn't require a natural disaster, and it might cost 40 times as much in damages. Also: tall buildings sway. This is built into the design, so you needn't fear the whole place snapping, but you do have to prepare for the whole building groaning as it moves. Trash dropped down chutes bangs the sides and sounds like a bomb because the building obeys the laws of physics, while garbage does not.
Some people who buy these apartments don't even want to live there, and just bought them with plans of reselling. That's not a bad position to be in. They're a little miffed though to discover their agreement makes them pay other fees, like forcing them to pay $15,000 a year at the in-house restaurant. Then when you do try to sell the apartment, you discover, surprise, it turns out these places aren't so coveted after all, developers built way too many of them, and no one wants to take yours off your hands. It's enough to make you wish you moved into an expensive low-rise building instead. (Like the ones in New York secretly built on toxic waste sites.)
Being Rich As A Kid Needn't Give You Any Psychological Advantage
According to the most reliable current measure of the public's mental health (Twitter), the biggest issues affecting people today are 1) depression, 2) anxiety, which is a word to be used interchangeably with depression, and 3) not having enough money, a state associated with depression and anxiety and in fact the cause of both of them. But what if we were to tell you that kids from wealthier families exhibit
Why are rich kids so anxious? Because it's tough being pretty, dammit! As an adult, maybe it's your responsibility to provide for the family and you can barely manage that, so you think that's the biggest stressor possible, but as a kid, stress is all about social pressure and falling short of expectations.
In fact, a whole lot of the risky behaviors that people tend to associate with poor kids turn out to be more common among kids with money. Like drug use, thanks to plain availability (the lack of availability is the only reason this very article was not written in cocaine cursive). Or crime -- a rich kid might not carry a knife in an inner pocket, since self-defense isn't as much a concern, but they'll still commit various "acts of delinquency," like theft. Of course, rich kids aren't likely to be arrested over these offenses, so you might not be feeling so sympathetic, but we're talking now about the factors that set their personalities for the rest of their lives.
A lot of this is very much portrayed in TV depictions of rich kids, by the way, with all of them suffering with angst and worse, so it shouldn't sound too crazy to any of us. These shows also portray another factor that's often cited when linking a poverty to bad psychological development: parental absence.
With poor kids, the issue's single-parent households ("the problem is these kids lack a father figure!" says one insistent talking point), but with rich kids, it's more like a zero-parent household if their parents are disengaged enough. You really do need to interact with your parents to develop, as proven by how few children raised by anacondas become well-adjusted members of society. Really, it's not surprising that so many kids who grow up rich become psychopaths.
Whoops. Sorry, "psychopath" may be the wrong word choice there. But it may be the right word for our next entry ...
Extreme Wealth Turns You Into An Unfeeling Alien
How did you learn what friendship is? Evolutionary psychologists would say we all have a "friendship gene," which spread because our ancestors who lacked one were eaten by mongooses, but other psychologists claim that friendship comes from need. When someone gives you something you'd otherwise struggle for, that's how you connect with other people. If you don't need anything from anyone, you won't be able to relate to others. As a result, someone who's rich is less equipped to understand other people's expressions and emotional cues.
They don't just struggle to relate to normal people -- they fail to connect with anyone. Which may feed well into their continued quest for wealth, as isolation breeds self-protectiveness and opportunism.
Experiments to try to track this involve stuff like measuring people's heart rate while making them look at cancer sufferers, and the findings are often described as saying rich people lack compassion or empathy. Some rich people criticize this as an attack on the rich ("of course this study's anti-rich, it's coming out of Berkeley!"), while other rich folk take pride in being free from such weaknesses. But when psychologists note that rich people lack understanding, they're saying rich people lack comprehension. That's not a moral judgment, and also no one should take pride in that.
Other experiments on this matter try to instill a feeling of wealth in people before testing them, and this route can get pretty silly, with stuff like making people play Monopoly or counting just how many miniature pencils they're willing to pick up after bumping into someone. New York magazine did a round-up of these studies, and you might want to read it if only to see them illustrate the unfeeling rich using a poodle humping a mutt:
Wow. We in the comedy business have to always be on our toes about pushing the envelope lest shocked readers collapse, but NY Mag figures they can interrupt their exploration of class and generosity with an uncaptioned photo of dog sex and no one will blink. What makes them think that? It's because they're rich, isn't it?
Good Pay Isn't Linked With Job Satisfaction
Imagine that you earn an hourly rate and choose how much you work (for some of you, no imagination is required). Now, imagine that your hourly rate doubles. Will you now choose to work more hours or less? On one hand, each hour of work is more lucrative for you. But on the other, you may now be less desperate for money than you were when working earned you half as much, so you can now afford free time if you want.
Would your answer change if your pay triples instead of doubling? Now, what if you don't choose how much you work; you work full-time regardless. Is that good news or bad? As your pay rises, will you want to work less? And if you can't work less, will you resent your job more when they pay you more?
Researchers tried to make some sense of this, analyzing some 100 studies with 15,000 people. Their findings could have gone in any of several ways. But they were surprised to discover barely any relationship at all between how much someone gets paid and how satisfied they are in their job. Weirder still, they found barely any correlation between how much someone gets paid and how satisfied they are in their pay. People can find various reasons to be happy in their job, but when it comes to pay, pretty much everyone just wants more. Most people, no how much they have, say they'd be satisfied with three times as much wealth as they now have.
You might have several questions about this. Such as, "Who sponsored this research? The National Institute for Not Wanting to Give People Raises (archrival to Berkeley, go Wildcats)?" Also, "How can people possibly not like more money more?" Well, we're not going to try to convince you that money can't buy happiness. Money can buy a lot of happiness, and people without money know this well. But that works only so long as you're earning money to satisfy your needs. Fulfill those, and further money sends you along what sociologists call the hedonic treadmill.
The rich can only measure the happiness wealth gives them through how much they grew since last year (growth is measured in dollars) and against their peers (who keep getting richer). They need to keep getting richer to even maintain their current happiness level. Or rather keep increasing the rate by which they get richer, and then increasing the rate by which the rate increases. Happiness requires increasingly higher-order calculus equations, and no one understands that kind of math, so happiness becomes impossible.
That covers the extrinsic reward that a job gives you -- your salary, which compensates you for a job you may not like. Jobs also have intrinsic rewards, such as social interaction, a feeling of accomplishment, pleasure in helping others, or just plain fun. Added extrinsic rewards (more pay) don't increase intrinsic rewards. In fact, a raise may reduce your intrinsic rewards, as it reinforces that the task is work.
Which can be bad news when you inevitably get that eight-figure salary, but till then, it's comforting to know that it's actually possible to like what you do. When Microsoft got big and its surging stock price turned lowly coders into multi-millionaires, plenty of them who could have retired went on coding, for a tiny salary that meant nothing to them. They liked coding.
An old joke has a teacher tell her students, "Keep studying. Or you'll end up scrubbing toilets for a living." As the punchline, one kid pipes up, "Fine by me. The janitor makes twice what you make!" To which the teacher should reply, "Okay, do that if you like, but I don't WANT to scrub toilets. I want to teach children. If I just wanted a job that pays, I'd sell my ass on a street corner, like your mom."
Except, she wouldn't say that, because then she'd be fired, and as we've established, she likes her job.