How to avoid the downside of Westside wealth

Showbiz Wealth Management Report 2011

It’s difficult enough to deal with the illusions of fame. Members of Hollywood’s royalty, however, are haunted by another of life’s most desirable and ultimately destructive mistresses: super-wealth.

You can characterize money as being similar to alcohol or drugs. When it’s used intermittently and in relatively conservative portions or doses, the results can be enhancing and beneficial. But as in any substance abuse, as the use becomes continual and excessive, it becomes more and more difficult to regain a personal baseline.

Put another way, it is hard to recognize the difference between “a little” and “a little more.” Before long “a lot” becomes normal, and the notion of going without becomes unacceptable, unachievable and often terrifying.

Many people set a limit for drinking: three beers or two glasses of wine per day, and that’s it. But there’s no warning label on money and people of wealth continue to buy one thing after another, adding to their possessions and increasing their comfort level without regard to the effect of the constant purchasing on the peace of mind and character of the individual and the family.

The super-rich may still crave the passion that their materialism has depleted but, without a sense of value, satisfaction remains elusive.

Materialism is very subtle and contagious. As with any disease, hosts can be affected in different ways and to varying degrees. A husband saddened with the pressures of maintenance of wealth can suddenly be on a different playing field than his own wife. The wife may accelerate her spending, activities and interests, and before long they may hardly recognize one another.

Children can be even more difficult to harness. Left unmanaged, children, even adult children, typically drink the Kool-Aid a lot faster and with less regard or even recognition of the consequences. Some parents on L.A.’s Westside protect their offspring by keeping them in a gilded cage. This is safe for the child and safer for the parent — until the inexperienced young adult tries to fly.

In short, to be successful at running the gauntlet of materialism, the skill set of discipline and self-denial must be at such a self-actualized level that such a person would hardly have use for the money.

Short of feeling sorry for the fortune and fame of Hollywood’s ordained elite, perhaps we might recognize that their original passion for theatrical expression invited them to imbibe the toxic cocktail of super-wealth, which now removes anything normal from their lives. It’s a big price to pay for money.

Richard C. Watts is the author of “Fables of Fortune: What Rich People Have That You Don’t Want.”

The book can be purchased at www.fablesoffortune.com.

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