8/20/2012 2:15 PM ET|
What the 1% know about money
Wealth is not a do-it-yourself endeavor
More money brings more complexity. The rich tend to hire legions of professionals to tend to their investments, advise them on tax strategy, ensure they're adequately insured and plan their estates, among other tasks.
Sometimes they get fooled by crooks, as the Bernie Madoff swindle shows. In general, though, the rich have access to many of the best and the brightest of advisers, who can make a lot more money advising the affluent than advising the middle class.
"Typically, wealthy people have access to the good ones," Willis said.
Should that make the 99% despair? Not necessarily, because there are also plenty of good advisers serving the not-rich. But good advice costs money, and the not-rich are sometimes reluctant to pony up.
What can the rest of us learn from this? If your finances are fairly simple, you can handle them yourself. Once you start accumulating some assets, though, you'll probably want to get professional advice. If you have a lot of investments or a small business, for example, you should have a tax pro. Once your estate is worth several hundred thousand dollars, you need to talk to a fee-only financial planner and an estate-planning attorney. There's simply no way you can be as expert in a field as someone who does it 24/7.
Money may indeed buy happiness, but . . .
The research on wealth and happiness is mixed. Some researchers suggest there's a satiation point where, once basic needs are met, increases in income don't produce much more in the way of happiness.
Other researchers have found that the rich are way, way happier than the poor. One Gallup poll found that 90% of people in households making at least $250,000 a year called themselves "very happy," compared with 42% of those with household incomes below $30,000.
Clearly, wealth can eliminate a lot of drudgery and anxiety. But the rich aren't spared from death, illness, addiction and the other heartbreaks in life, Salzer noted. They still get divorced, she said, or have problem children.
"The 1% know that just having money doesn't automatically make you happy," Willis said, "though the other 99% would like to give it a try."
What can the rest of us learn from this? It stands to reason that people with a few dollars in the bank will be less anxious than those who live from paycheck to paycheck. Money may not insulate you from life's setbacks, but it can help you cope with them.
Kids need to be taught about money
There's a saying the haunts entrepreneurs: "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." The one who builds the fortune, working in his shirtsleeves, turns it over to subsequent generations who waste it, so the grandkids or great-grandkids are back working in shirtsleeves.
Even families that have been rich for several generations worry that their progeny could squander the wealth -- and for good reason.
"Inheritors who get money plopped in their lap, with no education -- that usually doesn't play out well," Willis said.
So wealthy families tend to expend considerable effort to make sure their kids understand the fundamentals of handling money. Willis said some families require their kids to take an accounting course in college, "so that they can talk the language of business and money." Many use philanthropic giving as a way to involve and instruct their children in finances (and the family's values), Taylor noted. The children are encouraged to research charities, help choose the recipients and monitor the investments that produce the funds used for philanthropy.
Another common approach, Willis said, is to give the kids a chunk of their inheritances early -- often upon turning 21 -- to give them experience in handling large sums. Even if they blow the money, they'll learn some important lessons, including that money is a finite resource.
What can the rest of us learn from this? Kids need money of their own so they can learn about budgeting, deferred gratification, opportunity cost (what you give up to get something else) and other important personal-finance concepts. Experts are divided about how much kids learn from allowances, but most agree that part-time jobs can be helpful in teaching kids the value of a dollar. (Read "Allowances: 'Welfare' for kids?")
One of parents' most important roles is to let their children make mistakes and not bail them out. Living with the consequences of bad decisions teaches far more than a helping hand from Mumsy and Duddy.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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