With more than 9 million millionaires in the United States today, the rich are definitely getting richer. But does all that money equal happiness? Jean talks about the new world of the wealthy with Robert Frank, reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of Richistan.
Robert says he returned from several years as a foreign correspondent to a growing culture of giant mansions, yachts and luxury cars. "I wondered, 'Who are these people, where did they get their money, and what are their lives like?'" he says. Interviews with some of the wealthiest people in America proved that many of them grew up middle-class and made their money by starting their own businesses. "They came up with a great idea at the right time in the right place, devoted their entire life to that business and then sold it," Robert says.
As more money is being made, the levels of wealth are expanding. Today, Robert says, there are millions of households in the $1 million to $10 million range, about 2 million households in the $10 million to $100 million range, and tens of thousands in the range of $100 million or more. "You can be worth $10 million and not feel that wealthy because there are hundreds of thousands of people who have much more than you," Robert says. "It's a very new phenomenon."
The increase in wealth hasn't necessarily led to new levels of happiness. "I don't know if anyone I talked to is truly happy," Robert says. He found that once people reached some sort of material goal, they wanted more. "You're never really satisfied if it's just the things in life that you're working for," he says. "You'll find that doesn't really make you happy." Politics and philanthropy are among the ventures that do create some sort of fulfillment. "So many people today with money are looking for a second act, to really help the larger community," he says. "I think we're going to see more of that."
Published on July 09, 2007