Perspective

The reasons many ultrarich people aren’t satisfied with their wealth

Is money a tool, a responsibility, a scorecard or just another way people can serve God? It depends on who you ask, but for many, it has a lot to do with comparisons.

By Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic

As the number of millionaires and billionaires in the world climbs ever higher, there are a growing number of people who possess more money than they could ever reasonably spend on even the lushest goods.

But at a certain level of wealth, the next million isn’t going to suddenly revolutionize their lifestyle. What drives people, once they’ve reached that point, to keep pursuing more?

There are some good explanations, I found, after talking to a few people who’ve spent significant amounts of time in the presence of and/or researching the really, really rich. Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the connections between happiness and wealth, had a particularly elegant model for understanding this pattern of behavior.

Norton says that research regularly points to two central questions that people ask themselves when determining whether they’re satisfied with something in their life: Am I doing better than I was before? and Am I doing better than other people? This applies to wealth, but also to attractiveness, height, and other things that people fret about.

“But the problem is,” Norton says, “a lot of the things that really matter in life are hard to measure. So if you wanted to be a good parent, it’s a little hard to know if you’re being a better parent now than you were a year ago, and it’s also hard to know if you’re a better parent than the neighbors.”

Read the full story at The Atlantic. 
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