Review of: Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth

Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth – A Life Guide for Inheritors By Thayer Cheatham Willis Copyright 2003 Published by New Concord Press

Thayer Cheatham Willis is an ‘insider’ – a child of a wealthy family – an heir to the Georgia-Pacific lumber company wealth. She discusses bad things that can happen to people who have unearned wealth (inheritors, lottery winners, children of wealthy parents, etc). Some of these bad things include: remittance addiction (being dependent on the money source); guilt (why am I rich and others aren’t); lack of purpose (why work, I already have money); feelings of entitlement (the world owes me the best of the best); loss of feelings of self worth and inability to trust in relationships. As a certified counselor, she offers solutions to her wealthy readers for these issues. She frequently sprinkles examples of stories into her narrative – from her social work sessions with rich clientele.

Willis realizes that most people don’t understand the issues she tries to address, that many struggle to just put food on the table and roof over their heads, but the issues of wealth are real and powerful to her clients.

She addresses guilt, self-esteem, entitlement, relationships, motivation, self-discipline and work. Most often her clients start talking with her about relationships and work. Some of these issues are:

  • Inheritors wonder why me, why did I inherit and not someone else – they feel guilt at having unearned money when others struggle so much.
  • Everyone has a desire to feel productive. Work usually provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment and productivity. If you have all the money you need or want, why work – wealth can hamper the motivation to work.
  • Some heirs feel they should be able to buy whatever they want, without consideration of the cost. They feel entitled to whatever they desire – and sometimes don’t even realize they have that attitude.
  • She says that “financial abundance typically encompasses time consuming decisions regarding investments, legal entities, philanthropy, relationships and work….”.p3

The heirs discussed in the book often have difficulty establishing healthy relationships with others. They may not have had caring time from their own parents and they have experienced the effect that money can have on a relationship so they wonder if someone likes them just for their money.

Willis challenges her wealthy heir audience to take charge of their lives by developing their values and relationships instead of trying to substitute money for happiness. She provides guidance on how to take charge, ways to improve relationships, teaching the children well enough so they won’t have these same issues, the importance of advanced education, work and mastering the complex financial situation with which wealthy heirs are often faced. She rounds out the book with a discussion of estate planning, the role of spirituality in overcoming the issues and a summary of how to make the best of their good situation.

Her suggestions for wealthy heirs at a glance are:

  • Go slowly putting together your advisor team
  • Ask those advisors questions until you know all about your situation
  • Get therapy
  • Guide inheritors in the next generation
  • Check your values
  • Learn to manage stress
  • Develop your spiritual life
  • Work
  • Make your life your own (don’t let it be about keeping the money)
  • Nourish relationships
  • Commit to being the best you can be
  • Be grateful<
  • Serve others
  • Choose your attitude about life

Read this book to understand and address:

  • Issues wealthy inheritors face
  • Relationship challenges that can surface with wealth and some ways to deal with those
  • The importance of special training for wealthy children and tips on how to conduct that training
  • Tips for issues to watch for with wealthy children – such as the need to understand that everyone doesn’t live the way they do
  • Understanding the role that advanced education can provide in developing a healthy wealthy lifestyle

What I liked:

  • Willis’s unique perspective as an heir and as a counselor to heirs
  • Frequent examples from her life and her client’s sessions.

What I wished for:

  • Better editing – At times, Thayer’s take on the perspectives of non-wealthy persons is somewhat skewed towards the simplistic – which could have been avoided with different word choices in several areas
  • Less emphasis on religion in Chapter 10.

Favorite quotes:
“financial abundance typically encompasses time consuming decisions regarding investments, legal entities, philanthropy, relationships and work….”. p3

“I’ve discovered there are few resources for people who have experienced the dark side of wealth. Their problems are invisible to most of the professional community, their challenges unacknowledged by society at large, their pains and difficulties untended by the normal systems that comfort those who are born in other circumstances.” p 10

“Human thoughts, feelings,emotions, and actions are often intensified and exaggerated by wealth.”p73

“If… fully intend to provide them inherited wealth, you still will need to equip them with the educational, emotional, and spiritual resources to live life will while coping with the allurements and distractions of financial ease.p93

“The most important values in life are caught, not . p102

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