This story is partCNET’s coverage of smart money decisions for today’s changing world.
When the billionaires startedlast summer the internet was ready with jokes.
“Well, I made sourdough croissants this morning, but you can’t hear me bragging …” one tweeted.
“Billionaires rushing into space are cool and everything, but maybe they could pay taxes,” wrote another, collecting almost 50,000 likes on Twitter.
A common theme through many comments on the internet – other than jokes about the shape of that Blue-Rocket rocket – was the stark contrast between the average person watching at home and the literal rise of people so rich they could escape the physical boundaries of the planet.
This is another contour in the sometimes awkward relationship that people have with wealth. A 2022 survey by digital capital management company Personal Capital found that 74% of people do not believe they will reach their own definition of a high net worth individual. A 2018 YouGov survey that surveyed perceptions of how much money it takes to consider yourself rich or poor found that 56% of people think earning $ 100,000 a year means being rich. The same study on personal capital is about $ 400,000.
But if wealth is still something that many aspire to, what is the result of living in a world where some people have reached an almost incomprehensible level of wealth? Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, is (at the time of writing) the second richest person in the world, with a net worth of more than $ 167 billion. That means it takes him two weeks to earn just under the average annual U.S. household income. Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX, is in first place, with more than $ 259 billion, and is nowfor $ 44 billion.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans looking negatively at billionaires – Bezos, Musk and the like – rose to 29% from 23% between 2020 and 2021, according to the Pew Research Center. This comes amid a wider public debate about the growing disparity between 1 percent and everyone else.
Neither Musk nor Bezos responded to a request for comment.
Wealth remains a complicated topic. The reasons people chase – or reject – vary. For some, success and wealth are one and the same, and for others it could be a means to an end, rather than the ultimate standard for achieving that goal.
Their wealth is “extremely in its form, and therefore, I don’t think it’s necessarily a drug that some people might think it is,” said Luke Thompson, a consultant at Powerscourt, the UK’s strategic communications agency, who spent some time in reputation management, working with individuals who have extremely high net worth. “I think people strive to get richer, but I don’t think they strive for that level of wealth.”
It turns out that the richest in the world may not cast such a terrible shadow on the definition of a company’s financial success as you think.
Wealth with purpose
John Caudwell is gone need to make a lot more money, he said.
According to Forbes, it is already worth about $ 3.1 billion. The British billionaire founded Phones 4u, which was once the largest seller of mobile phones in the UK, and sold his business in 2006. He has been involved in philanthropic work since the 1990s, including the founding of the charity Caudwell Children in 2000, and in 2013 he pledged to give away most of his wealth by signing the Oath of Giving. The Giving Pledge is a philanthropic endeavor founded by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, and which now includes people like MacKenzie Scott, Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Marc Benioff and Elon Musk.
So when he looks at the astronomically rich, he sees no challenge or indictment of his own success.
“I don’t think any normal person can strive for that,” he said in an interview. “Nor could I aspire to it.”
Part of the reason is that it’s a rare feat to come up with the right idea, at the right time, a la Amazon. After all, promotions in the corporate business only take you that far. But also, Caudwell sees a certain nonsense in accumulating wealth for the sake of accumulating wealth.
“Rich people – anyone really – measure to a certain extent, you confirm yourself with the wealth you create,” he says, “I’m sure there is [an] element of competitiveness. “I think there are much better, much more satisfying goals in life than just creating colossal wealth.”
Wealth with a real goal is something Myah Irick, senior vice president of Irick Group-Merrill Private Wealth Management, talks about regularly with his clients.
“Wealth is a means to an end,” she said in an email. And with that comes questions, not only about whether someone wants to buy another house or start a business, but also about what they want to be their legacy and what impact they want to leave on their family and community. Some clients come to her with certain goals in mind, others don’t.
In any case, she sees some influence only from the fact that the super-rich are there.
“In our consumer culture, we are indoctrinated to accumulate. If accumulation should make us happy, then it is assumed that the happiest are those who can consume anything and everything,” she said. “Of course, this is not true, but that understanding of the world is persistent. If happiness is based on consumption, it will always feel unattainable.”
When less is more
Joshua Fields Millburn learned this lesson for himself in his twenties. Millburn is the author, speaker and half of the duo from Netflix’s documentary The Minimalists, which explores the idea that owning doesn’t bring happiness in life. He grew up in poverty in Dayton, Ohio. As a child, he thought that the reason his family had problems was that they had no money. So after high school he got a job and started to climb the corporate ladder.
He ended up making $ 200,000 a year, which is pretty far in Ohio.
“I had a big suburban house with more toilets than people,” he says, “I had 12 Brooks Brothers suits. ‘Why does a person need 12 suits?’ is a fine question that I never bothered to ask. “
However, as he says, he was also in great debt and very unhappy.
“I think more people tend to be a foggy, successful person because they haven’t identified what’s enough. They just know they need more than they have now because they’re unhappy right now,” he says.
A review of success
In modern mythology, some of the extremely wealthy people started out as entrepreneurs.
Every year, about 3 million students across the United States attend Junior Achievement classes at the school. The non-profit organization, founded in 1919, puts local business leaders in front of children to teach them about topics such as financial literacy and entrepreneurship. For some children, the Junior Achievement could be their first exposure to the idea of starting a business. But the point is not that children are trained to engage in entrepreneurship in order to get rich.
“The idea is to leave [into business] because you see the problem, “says Ed Grocholski, Marketing Director of Junior Achievement.” You can do it in the context of your passion and end up being successful, and if you end up getting rich from it, it’s obviously a great bonus, but that’s not where we we run with it. “
Grocholski says that the super-rich have always encouraged a certain awareness in the perception of children. Fifteen years ago, they may have talked about Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs. Today, however, he says people like Bezos and Musk have greater visibility because of social media and a culture of influence.
A Junior Achievement study found that a higher percentage of students expect to get rich at a younger age, even if they don’t yet have a plan on how to achieve it.
At the university level, Sean Branagan started the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He says driving home with his students is the definition of success for interpretation. The desire to be able to pay your bills and take on the convenience of living while doing something that is personally significant is a frame of mind that is not necessarily tied to excellent financial status.
And while it’s hard to determine why, Branagan says he’s seen a shift in the last five years, with fewer students interested in becoming another hooded mogul.
“They want to do something more significant, stronger with the community, advocating for something bigger.” [rather] rather than ‘Oh, yes, our marketing is to help poor children, but it’s just a marketing craft. Instead, it’s built-in, ”he said.
One of his former students is Kelsey Davis, founder of CLLCTVE, a company that connects creatives with brands. Davis made the Forbes list of 30 under 30s in 2021. Since she is still in her early career as an entrepreneur, I asked her about how the ultra-rich were included in her plan for themselves – especially since several of them started as entrepreneurs – and said that they are not really a stick in that she weighs herself.
“Success looks like achieving what you want,” she said. “I always want to be in a position where I’m free to create. As I age through life, the degree of what that means, the resources needed to create whatever those ideas are free of … can change.” But, she says, self-sufficiency is at the core of her goals.
You can’t take that with you
These days, when Caudwell is thinking about increasing his wealth, he is thinking about it in the sense that he has more to leave behind – not his children, but his philanthropies. In 2019, he increased his obligation to give to 70%. And when he looks around at some of the other billionaires on the Forbes list, he wonders what exactly they’re sticking to.
“Why wouldn’t every rich person do the same thing?” He says. “What [do they] You want all that wealth in the long run anyway? “