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Sudden Wealth Syndrome
Sudden Wealth Syndrome (SWS) or Sudden Wealth Fatigue refers to a psychological condition or an identity crisis in individuals who have come into a large sum of money. This large windfall could be the result of an inheritance, an IPO or acquisition event of your company, a major sale (for example of a property), a big raise or up-front salary for a new job, or by some other means. While such a rapid increase in wealth can drastically improve a person’s life, it can also be an enormous source of stress, anxiety, and confusion. This is especially true for people who have not had much wealth previously. It can also be characterized by isolation from former friends, guilt over your change in circumstances, and extreme fear of losing your money.
A good example of a group of people experiencing what looks like sudden wealth syndrome are professional athletes: the minimum starting salary for an NFL player is roughly $660,000. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, by the time former NFL players have been retired for two years, 78% of them have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress; within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke. Young athletes who become millionaires overnight aren’t the only ones to struggle with good fortune. People who receive large sums of money very often experience hardships in managing it well.
Let’s face it. Coming into a lot of money at once can be scary. There can be a lot of uncertainty. How are you going to manage it? Who do you tell? What are the tax implications? What should you spend? What should you keep? Should you continue to work or not? Where do you go from here? All good questions.
This is so different than building wealth over time at a slow, steady pace and building your wealth management knowledge along with it at an equally slow, steady pace. It’s more like a rocket ship to a completely unfamiliar, foreign, stale and, possibly, lonely place. This versus the more typical long, steady process of building wealth which is more like an adventurous road trip with different stops and detours along the way, ultimately ending up exactly where you planned to be all along.
Goldbart and his partner Joan Di Furia, MFT, offer this advice for recognizing when money may be getting you into trouble:
- You feel uncomfortably different from your friends and you’re afraid to tell them how you feel about your new status.
- Being wealthy makes for more guilt than pleasure.
- Instead of feeling powerful and decisive, you feel paralyzed and unable to decide how to spend your money.
- You can’t stand the envy of friends and acquaintances — you find yourself becoming more isolated.
- You feel like you don’t quite deserve the money and you can’t believe it’s really yours.
- You suffer from “ticker shock” and become obsessed with watching the stock market.
- You’re afraid that you’ll lose your money and your good fortune will simply vanish overnight.
(Compiled by Kentfield, Calif., therapists Stephen Goldbart, PhD, and Joan Di Furia, MFT, owners of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute).
So, what should you do if you’re the beneficiary of a windfall? How do you avoid Sudden Wealth Syndrome (SWS)?
First, simply admit that, more than likely, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Experienced financial advisors and wealth managers spend decades and countless hours of education learning how to manage money correctly, think through potential liabilities, save taxes, and develop strategies designed to maximize your family’s wealth for generations to come. Billionaires, elite athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, Senators, Presidents, Kings, and Queens don’t know everything, nor are they “better” than the rest of us. Instead, they all have teams of advisors who coach them and keep them on the right track.
Virtus Wealth Management can assist you through the responsibility, uncertainty, emotions, and decision-making that comes along with your good fortune. We do know what you don’t know. And, if you expect to receive a large windfall in the future, like an inheritance or selling a business, we can help you proactively prepare it too. We ask that you take a look at our 5 Steps To Sudden Wealth Management and consider us in your search for help.
Protect Your Sudden Wealth and contact us today!
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.