I too want to scream when someone says that money can’t buy you happiness. I want to say, “But let me try!”, but many have tried and money wasn’t the key to happiness. The challenge with growing up with a trust fund, wealth, or some type of large financial support is that it can severely undermine your growth as a person. First, I want to point out that there is always a hierarchy of needs. One needs food, shelter, BASIC necessities, and general safety to have a better chance at healthy-interdependent relationships and becoming self-actualized. But an overabundance of money can become an overprotective shield from many of life’s realities and necessary struggles.
I totally get it!
On one level, parents who leave you a trust fund want to protect you from the terrible struggles, loneliness, and disappointment they have felt or fear for you. On the other level, you feel the pressure of the entitlement and expectation of going to college and getting a great job because that was their legacy. So your role was to achieve high and call for backup if things got sticky. Sounds great, right? Well, there is always a grey area. Sometimes it’s not the goal but the journey. Sometimes it’s good to not remove obstacles. People grow BY struggling and working with their limitations, and not bypassing them. Ultimately, parents need to support a kid in moving along their own, perhaps lesser known path, rather than arranging a clear path that leads to what the parent thinks is best.
A Slight Tangent on Entitlement
FYI, I don’t think entitlement is a terrible thing to feel or have. It is meant to create security and security means that you can make more CHOICES based on what is happening NOW versus what terrible things may befall later. Growing up with entitlement means getting told over and over again to not worry about the path to success, just put in the hours. However, the economic crisis has broken this false promise of the booming 80s and 90s. Children of this generation believed that if you just work hard, you will be successful. However, this ladder of achievement isn’t reality. People ended up confused, angry, and purposeless. You are no longer worthy based solely on your performance. You have to learn other social skills, develop personal values and beliefs, develop a clear identity, and create fulfillment outside of what you DO or ACHIEVE in traditional terms. However, the gift in this crisis is that people can now choose to make their own future and not just fulfill their parents’ or society’s expectations. With freedom can be the loss of some security.
Through struggle, strength and connection evolves!
Fewer—but not scarce—EXTERNAL resources means having to be creative, ask for help, share, and support one another. Here one develops more INTERNAL resources: you learn new skills, whether that is being assertive with your boss or learning to paint a room. The struggle allows one to grow and challenge oneself. You learn more things through trouble-shooting and then discovering capabilities and interests you never knew you had! Moreover, it teaches how and why we need to work together to do and be more as humans.
Excessive wealth can cut off human self-actualization
Moreover, money was a way of abating guilt and feeling useful through benevolent “giving.” You end up paying for things or donating money as a way of feeling useful, acceptable, or desirable. But it never really feels like enough. Because it can’t be enough, you aren’t sharing yourself, and you also don’t create an interdependent relationship where you also rely on the other. Rather, it is a co-dependent one where you try to buy approval, love, or absolution. It is a relationship built on needing what the other has, rather than, an authentic, conscious, and deep relationship.
Why giving is not the answer, but getting involved is!
Sometimes, money can allow you to do more, but not BE more. You can pay for new blankets at a shelter, but what if you learned how to run a donation drive? We need both in this world, but the individual may suffer if they don’t have the capacity to allow their agency as well to directly MANIFEST change and connect with others. It allows you to be a support of what someone really wants from you versus giving what’s leftover. You then learn to take ownership of societal change and see that you really are a part of a whole. You feel less lonely, more purposeful, and more connected!
Excessive money can mean an illusion of connection and love
Moreover money can be a trap. One can then believe that it is their image or lifestyle that bonds them to others. This can mean two very scary things. I need to stay connected and dependent with someone or people with money. The underlying beliefs are “I cannot manage life on my own because the world is cruel and I don’t have the capacity to survive.” Moreover, “…even though I am competent, I can never be enough when I compare myself (unconsciously) to my parents or others around me.” Therefore,” I depend on the wealth of another to support me or keep me safe.” Falsely, being poor means failure, laziness, and stupidity. Conversely– failing, being at ease, and not agreeing with the dominant opinion–means being ostracized, disempowered, rejected, or abandoned. Then you must stay wealthy or never confront your lover, parents, or community if you disagree. This means you can never confront authority and have autonomy, because you wouldn’t survive. This doesn’t mean you have to rebel against money and wealth as a way of having autonomy, but there is a balance.
The lie that money is Sexy and Desirable!
We were taught to believe that money buys an identity that does make one attractive. Without looking this good, or having these status things, or going to these events, I would no longer have these friends. I would no longer be attractive. I would no longer be able to have something that connects me to the other people. So I would be alone and I would be rejected, so I would have no one I could go to. I cannot give up the love, connection, worthiness, and power, that money gives me. Truthfully, it can be like a self-fulfilling prophesy. We end up spending so much time, money, and focus on staying affluent, beautiful, and with our status symbols we never prioritize real deep growth that is painful, hard, and ugly. We never really grow as individual selves but keep switching from superficial means to develop a True Self who people can love and be with despite the circumstances of our lives. You cannot bypass real deep work. There is no quick fix. There is no simple answer.
Then what do I do?
To ask yourself if you have a challenging relationship with money, start with this checklist for self-reflection. You can process this through journaling or a psychotherapist. There isn’t a right or wrong answer as all people have some challenges with money. By facing yours, you can feel less controlled by old beliefs.
Y/N I am afraid of being, saying, or doing certain things because I am afraid of getting cut off from my parents/ spouse.
Y/N I don’t think I could find work that supports my financial needs.
Y/N I know what I need to make to support my needs.
Y/N I know how to live within my means when I have a funds that meet those basic needs.
Y/N I believe I could start over or survive if I lost all my money and belongings.
Y/N I know and trust who would be supportive of me if I was in a financial crisis.
Y/N If I had to live more simply, I trust that I could learn to do things myself.
Y/N I know what skills and strengths I have.
Y/N I can identify ways I contribute to a meaningful life beyond what my money or wealth provides.
Y/N I feel worthy of love, respect, and kindness as a human being beyond what I have, what I do, or who I know.
Y/N I do not feel guilty that I have money and my belongings.
Y/N I do not resent or pity others who have more or less than me.