“What if…” showcases the power of two words. They grant us a glimpse through a window overlooking the realm of possibility. We all ask ourselves and others this at some point. It is an expression of adventure, freedom of imagination, and the human spirit. Perhaps the most popular endings to that question center around wealth.
“What if I had a million dollars? What if I won the lottery? What if I was a billionaire?”
The scale might vary, but the underlying question is the same. What if I was suddenly wealthy? What would we do or change with our newly found financial freedom? It is a fun exercise to flex the imagination.
But what if it actually happened? People often come to us with this scenario. They inherited money (often unexpectedly), their company’s stock options exploded in value, they sold a business, they became a professional athlete, or they won a lawsuit. Or yes, they won the lottery.
It’s true that exciting possibilities abound for those fortunate enough to fall into wealth.
Living this daydream also brings its own set of challenges.
Most of us have heard horror stories about lottery winners and inheritance beneficiaries who wind up bankrupt. Wealth is often the accumulation of our habits: deliberately saving, spending thoughtfully, and investing for the future is how most people build their net worth. When we don’t have those habits in place, sudden wealth can be fleeting and even destructive.
The recently popularized show “Ballers” on HBO showcases this to an extreme, where professional athletes find friends and family trying to influence them or ask for money. It can be difficult to create financial boundaries with those you care about, and especially when wealth appears very quickly.
Perhaps the most common thing we hear is this: “I don’t want to mess this up.” When an opportunity arises--especially a once in a lifetime opportunity--people worry about making mistakes. They want to be smart with their decisions. By the time many clients are having a conversation with us, they have already lost sleep worrying about how to handle their situation. After a certain point, more money does not equate to more happiness. In fact, we find that having too many choices from our wealth can be stressful and counteract the benefits of more money.
Even highly scrutinized studies point towards this idea. Daniel Kahneman, a professor at Princeton and winner of the Nobel Prize, found that increasing one’s income past $75,000 did not show an increase in emotional wellbeing.
Perhaps that’s why people come to us for advice. On the surface, we help people make smarter money choices, generate income streams for them, and make sure they don’t outlive their money. Beneath those initial reasons, however, we see people coming to us to help them refocus on their life. There comes a moment where the metaphorical hands fly into the air and someone says “That’s it! I need help.” They want someone dependable who can give them their time and clarity back--to return to simplicity and the warm feeling that things are taken care of.