Sudden, Embarrassing Wealth

“It’s embarrassing, really, this amount of money.”

I work with people who:

  1. Need to make big financial decisions

  2. Haven’t had to actively manage their wealth before

  3. Are nervous, or scared, about getting it wrong.

I help them make the best decision possible, by considering the full picture – the past, present and, crucially, the future.

Often this means helping somebody who has, some how, found themselves responsible for a sum of money larger than they’ve ever directly dealt with.

And something that’s come up quite frequently has been how they feel about this wealth they are newly responsible for.

Be it from their divorce, an inheritance or sudden retirement, I’ve had a surprising number of women tell me:

“I’m embarrassed by this money.”

Now, I acknowledge it could be the result of a small sample size and some self-selection, but I’m starting to think this is a common reaction.

To open your online banking and suddenly see a 7-figure balance can be quite startling.

Especially if your life until then has been relatively modest and uninvolved in the family finances.

And so people feel embarrassed about their wealth.

Of course, we need to address this feeling.

Because while it’s clearly a valid reaction to a huge change, that embarrassment can act as a barrier. A barrier that prevents them engaging with their money.

And if your money is ever going to serve your interests, you HAVE to engage with it.

One way we address these feelings are to explore how the wealth came about:

  • The familial sacrifices that drove the growth in their wealth.

  • The weeks, months, years of making ends meet while putting money aside for the future.

  • The contentious divorce or painful bereavement.

  • The parental inheritance.

  • The starting, growing and sale of the business.

  • The long days, nights alone, missed school events and kids bath times.

  • The contribution the entire family made so that this nest egg could incubate.

Then we circle back to what the wealth means for them. What it can do for them. For their loved ones, for their interests, values and causes.

Then it’s on to the next steps:

  • The strategy.

  • The direction.

  • The decisions that need to be made soon.

  • The (bigger) decisions to come later (no rush).

  • The road map, the trajectory, the speed bumps and the road blocks.

And while none of this really makes that ingrained, deep-seated embarrassment go away, it does change the lens they use to view the money.

It moves it from “I’m embarrassed – I don’t deserve this” to “it is a little embarrassing, but here’s what I’m going to do with it”.

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