Wednesday 21 February 2018

More money more problems

Wealth psychologist Clay Cockrell tells Niamh Horan that money solves some problems for the wealthy but  too much of it can bring another lot of difficulties

Huge riches: US President Donald Trump greets multi-billionaire Elon Musk with former advisor Steve Bannon. Photo: Getty
Huge riches: US President Donald Trump greets multi-billionaire Elon Musk with former advisor Steve Bannon. Photo: Getty
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Multi-billionaire Elon Musk went viral last year, not for his space age vision or futuristic inventions but for a very human problem.

Despite his $20bn fortune, the young inventor told an interviewer from The Rolling Stone magazine that he was lonely.

"I will never be happy without having someone. Going to sleep alone kills me," he said. "Being in a big empty house, and the footsteps echoing through the hallway, no one there - and no one on the pillow next to you. How do you make yourself happy in a situation like that?"

One person who wasn't surprised was New York-based Clay Cockrell, the psychologist to the 1pc. The former Wall Street worker turned wealth therapist is a trusted confidant and counsellor to New York's wealthiest, with a client list packed with multi-millionaires and billionaires.

Many of his clients suffer guilt for even feeling sad with such a financial cushion, he says.

"They feel their problems are minuscule in comparison to someone else who is struggling to feed their family. I have to work at letting them know it is okay to feel the way they do."

Psychologist Clay Cockrell is a former Wall Street worker
Psychologist Clay Cockrell is a former Wall Street worker

The wealthy can feel isolation because of an inability to relate to people who are not wealthy, he says. A recent client had been in a locker room with friends listening to stories of cook-outs and house-painting from the previous weekend. He had flown to Paris on his private jet to try a new restaurant.

"He couldn't share it. He had this fear of making other people feel bad or that he was bragging so there is a degree of isolation in that. When we share our experiences, we can connect with the people around us. He was missing out on that.

"Money is isolating because it is difficult to talk about whether you have it or don't have it. People are more likely to talk about their sex lives than their bank accounts. It becomes dirty and embarrassing."

The singer Adele has said that the bigger her career got, the smaller her world became, says Clay: "I hear my clients talk about that a lot."

There is a fear that people become your friend for your money and so their world can end up mostly made up of their own staff, he says. Clay advises the wealthy not to have their friends on the payroll.

"If I stopped paying you would you still be my friend? Trust is always a risk. Friendship requires honesty."

People often expect the wealthy to pay, just because they can. But Clay says they forget that this expectation follows them everywhere they go - every drinking session, every lunch, every dinner: "They feel taken advantage of and that's not fair."

And it is not about the money. It is about the principle, he says.

Dating is another issue, says Clay. His clients struggle to find love without attracting the wrong kind of partner. "Sometimes you have to take on board that she loves you for many reasons and one of them may be because of your success. People are human and your success is a factor and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

"Women are often attracted to power and success and ambition and drive, and all the by-products of money. But you have to trust that these are not the only things they like about you. It comes down to being smart and cautious."

For example, Clay advises clients to avoid lavish gifts until they get to know a person. Wealthy people are used to using their money to get what they want but in relationships that can be damaging if they end up feeling someone is with them for the gifts rather than for themselves.

The manner in which a person gains their wealth can have a huge effect. Clay has two different client groups: those who made their own money and didn't grow up in a wealthy family, and those born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

"They have always been incredibly wealthy and often lack self-esteem. There is a lack of grit, a lack of self-confidence and that can be a very lonely life."

For the uber-wealthy - the billionaires - the rules don't apply, says Clay. Take fidelity. He deals with people supporting two households, for example.

"That brings a whole other set of problems when you are trying to juggle two or three women. But they are real problems and if they don't talk about their issues, they accumulate and build up."

'Paradise syndrome' - where a person feels dissatisfaction despite having achieved all their worldly desires - can only be overcome by having meaning in your life, he says.

"Whether we have money or not, we all struggle to find happiness. The wealthy sometimes don't have the motivation to get out of bed in the morning to earn an income, so it is very important for them to find something that is going to bring them happiness because money on its own won't do that."

The problems of the wealthy can understandably engender a lack of sympathy and a certain amount of animosity, he says: "People who do not have money think all their problems are going to be solved once they get it and it can be hard to hear that that is not necessarily the case."

Sunday Independent

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