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Wealth Addiction


wealthymattersNow if you are wondering what the heck this term means,just read the quote below:

The term was coined by Philip Slater and is the title of his book dating from the 1980s. Should you wish to read it,you can get a copy here:Link.I can’t say I endorse all his arguments but the book will give your brains a workout and get you to see things from interesting angles.

In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.

After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America, by the grace of a managing director willing to take a chance on a kid who had called him every day for three weeks.

The end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to check my balance before I withdrew money. But a week later, a trader who was only four years my senior got hired away by CSFB for $900,000. After my initial envious shock –his haul was 22 times the size of my bonus — I grew excited at how much money was available.

Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years, and I used it to get a promotion. I felt so important. At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.

Still, I was nagged by envy. On a trading desk everyone sits together, from interns to managing directors. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with my progress. My counsellor didn’t share my elation. She said I might be using money the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol — to make myself feel powerful — and that maybe I should stop focusing on accumulating more. Instead I went to work for a hedge fund.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million.

But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look: “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.” I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. He was afraid of losing money, despite all that he had.

From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighbourhood in The Wire when the heroin runs out. – Sam Polk

Personally I can attest to the adrenalin rush money making gives a me,the increased confidence and the feeling that the world is my oyster.Personally I see nothing wrong about feeling good in such a way.But not becoming arrogant or allowing hubris to lead me to folly is a concern too.Personally I find a technique I picked up from the late SN Goenka during my Vipassana training useful.Merely being aware of the sensations caused by money,prevents money from going to your head.

Strangely,if your money is self made,and you have come back successfully from set-backs,the fear of losing money and becoming poor,loses its potency.I guess it gets trained out of you.

On money and happiness,I’m a strange egg.Money brings me a measure of material happiness and a lot of grief.A lot of things besides money bring me happiness and sadness too.So I guess I never got trained into believing money automatically equals happiness.

I work strange hours but I guess I’m never likely to be a wealtholic. I can do my share of concentrated work,but my preferred pace is relaxed and deliberately spaced out.I have come to violent confrontations with people who have tried to force me to work faster.My worst critics call me lazy,lacking in discipline,lacking a work ethic etc.etc.In my early years I have done the 20 hr slogs and all nighters,but I never managed to beat the competition that way.But by focusing on only personally relevant  things and working as my body and mind dictate,I find I  win.In fact a lot of races become irrelevant and I’m indifferent to  winning and losing.

So what are your tips to manage wealth addiction?I’d love to add a few more techniques to my arsenal.

 

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About Keerthika Singaravel
Engineer,Investor,Businessperson

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