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Opinion

Addicted to Wealth

“Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher

If Schopenhauer’s quote is true, then the mining magnate, Gina Rinehart (one of the richest women in the world who’s worth an estimated $12 billion) is very thirsty indeed.

As quoted in several leading magazines, she says, “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire. If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself — spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing, and more time working.”

In his book, Wealth Addiction, Philip Slater said that money in and of itself is not a sign of addiction. The man or woman who dreams of having lots of money to travel, buy expensive clothes and gifts, own a yacht and give huge parties is not necessarily an addict.

Here are three keys things to look for in a wealth addict:

  • Tolerance: More and more money is needed to attain a base level of satisfaction.
  • Withdrawal: The thought of losing or not making money fills a person with fear, anxiety and stress.
  • Negative consequences: In their pursuit of money the person forgoes emotional fulfillment, intimate relationships and peace of mind.

Daniel Vasella, formerly CEO of Novartis, was quoted in an Inc.com article titled, 

“How Anyone Can Become Addicted to Money”:

“The strange part is the more I made, the more I got preoccupied with money. When suddenly I didn’t have to think about money as much, I found myself starting to think increasingly about it. Money corrupts the mind.”

Wealth addiction has much in common with a gambling addiction. As soon as the thrill of winning is over, the addict needs another “hit” and wants more and more. However, the next time the stakes have to be raised to get the same rush. The next deal has to be bigger and the risk more dangerous.

Even people with a healthy attitude for money will experience some form of anxiety at the thought of losing it. For most people, the thought of losing their job or house or retirement savings is bound to produce some level of anxiety. However, people who are not addicted can reframe a loss by saying things like “At least I still have my health” or “Money’s not everything,” and move forward towards a brighter future.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with wealth addicts as their identities are wrapped up in the pursuit of money. When money is lost, or not enough is made, they experience all the symptoms of addictions similar to gambling or sex to escape painful or even intolerable emotions and feelings. Wealth addiction often results from deep childhood wounds, and more men than women seem to suffer from it.

In a nutshell, a wealth addict strives to become powerful and successful in order to escape the emotions they can’t tolerate. So in order to feel better (or so they think) the physical and emotional actions of pursuing wealth causes their brain produce enough dopamine (a chemical mood enhancer) to numb their pain.

Addictions are perpetuated by dopamine when the abuse is active. Therefore, wealth itself isn’t inherently bad; it’s “the love of money” as Timothy wisely wrote in the New Testament.

Portrayals of wealth addiction abounds in popular culture. In Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster film, The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jordan Belfort, was addicted to sex, drugs, and money at a level that drove him to destructive behavior. I squirmed in my seat while I witnessing the pure hedonism rampant in the movie, knowing there was probably no way out for Belfort.

So what are the telltale behaviours of a wealth addict?

  • They are usually good at negotiating for everything, haggling over every cent no matter how small or large.
  • They try to protect their wealth even when buying things they don’t need, such as fine clothes, private jets or a bigger yacht.
  • They are usually very good at making money. Then throwing it away by showing off by giving lavish gifts and throwing outrageous parties.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the addiction for money is restricted to just the wealthy. If you sacrifice close relationships for the sake of wealth, you might be demonstrating an addiction. Also, if the money you make and save makes you increasingly unhappy, this is a sure sign that an addiction is to blame.

Addiction is serious and comes in many forms. It can be dangerous and potentially deadly, and often requires intervention by qualified and experienced professionals and even loved ones.

If you feel you might be suffering from an addiction to wealth and would like to reach out for help, then please feel free to send me an email at wattie.grant@n2growth.com 

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