Imagine if you were ‘Born Rich’: A documentary into the lives of those who were
This documentary was created by Jamie Johnson of Johnson & Johnson, who was then 23 years old, and an heir at his 21st birthday to part of the Johnson & Johnson fortune.
Among the peers Johnson interviews are:
- Josiah Cheston Hornblower, heir to the Vanderbilt and Whitney fortunes
- S.I. Newhouse IV, of the Conde Nast Newhouses
- Luke Weil, of Scientific Games gaming (racetrack betting and Vegas sport betting)
- Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump
- Juliet Hartford, A&P heiress (too bad that company is tanking)
- Cody Franchetti, Model and Textile heir to Milliken & Co.
- Georgianna Bloomberg, daughter of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
It is absolutely interesting for those who want to know what these heirs think about basically getting lucky in the birth lottery.
Here are a few of my thoughts post-video, and aside from the fact that being rich is generally considered better than being poor (more opportunities, no worry about basic needs met, etc), there are still interesting things to tease out from having been born into such fortunes.
WORKING IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS
This actually ties in very nicely to my post on: The Meaning of Life is to Live in the Now, I may not have my millions yet, but I daresay I’d prefer my life of having something to work towards as an overall goal, than just being… rich.
As Jamie Johnson says: There’s no class in college on how to be a productive, rich person.
I’ve already been there and done that. Doing nothing all day is boring, meaningless and you’re always searching for something to challenge you.
The answer to what rich people need when they feel useless was said best by the Vanderbilt/Whitney heir Josiah Cheston Hornblower: I realized that working hard makes me happy.
GUILT IS AN EMOTION THEY ALL HAVE
Regardless of what the Italian textile heir and model (Cody Franchetti) said, he feels guilt.
If he didn’t feel guilt, he wouldn’t be talking about it as a sub-topic on how he feels about being rich.
He even goes so far as to quote Nietzsche’s ideas of “guilt being a useless emotion”, and something that is taught to our societies because of a Protestant work ethic.
(Protestant, originating in Germany founded by Martin Luther, talks about how you should work very hard, be frugal and prosperous so that you please the higher-ups in heaven and are able to get in.)
I’ll give him credit for having read Nietzsche, but although he read his ideas, he didn’t understand them.
The context in which the philosopher wrote that was for the Middle Ages, and he was writing about someone having EARNED all that money, not having just received it for doing nothing.
A rich, self-made person, should not feel guilt because he or she has worked, and earned every right to all the money they have, which is also something I believe.
(And by “right”, I mean that they worked for it, they deserve it. Someone who inherits it, also has that money as a right by parentage, but they are not the same “rights”.)
It is absolutely not the same thing to inherit a dollar than it is to earn and save one.
Even Jamie Johnson says it near the end: I am starting to realize that inheriting a dollar is not the same as earning one.
Like when the A&P heiress Juliet Hartford jokes about giving all the money away to the homeless — it’s not something I’d personally joke about, but it goes to show that they’re awkward with their money, not having earned any of it.
THEY ARE A PRODUCT OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT
They’re just awkward at times and it was painful to watch in some spots.
You could just see the confusion on their faces, and the fact that they’ve been talking about this as something they don’t quite understand, leads me to believe that there’s been a lot of therapy — going to a shrink, retail therapy, sports…
What they can’t accept or grasp, is that they are rich by luck.
They’re searching for meaning in their lives of why they were chosen by nature to be born into the “right” family and have been born into a fortune.
They simply don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t know what to say, but they sure as heck know that having lots of money is not a shield against pain or having problems.
In essence, they’ve never had to fight for anything they’ve been given, which why they feel like they’re missing out on “life” as the middle-class (majority of U.S. and Canada) knows it.
As kids, I used to fight with my siblings over toys, but in their families, they’d probably just buy one of each toy and end the fighting instantly.
This lack of conflict over scarce resources because they have everything they need in excess probably haunts them to some extent, because they’re asking themselves: What did they do to deserve it?
They’re struggling in another way that we can’t understand — not having a goal to work towards, not actually needing to work hard — these are all identity issues they’re struggling with, and trying to find a “worth” of themselves in the world.
As the gaming heir Luke Weil said: “I want to feel indispensable“, and that’s exactly it.
They feel dispensable only because they have money, but they feel like they don’t have a value to society otherwise because if the fortunes disappeared overnight, no one would really care about them any more.
Their only worth is their fortune, which they didn’t even work for or know the people in their family who did.
IT’S ACTUALLY KIND OF SAD TO THINK ABOUT THEIR LIVES
How about the fact that they’re taught since an early age that people treat them differently because of their parents’ money?
They’re also scared all the time that they’ll lose their money all the time, either from being cut off from the will or from bad investments.
(So why not work hard and make your OWN fortune so that you don’t worry about this stuff?)
If their parents’ make bad investments, or their companies tank, it means that all of their wealth tanks along with them, as they’re shareholders in their family corporations.
The saddest of all, is whether or not they’ll be able to find someone who will like them for who they are, and not for their millions. I mean, how can they call their potential future wife a “gold-digging bitch” for not wanting a prenup?
It’s not the prenup that’s the problem for me, it’s calling your future (well now ex-future) wife whom you’ve probably screened with your heart and soul — a “gold-digging bitch” because of your inherited money, and then saying you’ll probably get divorced, etc etc.
You don’t learn these things on your own as a kid. You’re taught them by your environment and your parents.
They also don’t tend to socialize outside of their circle, so the problem compounds and intensifies, as they meet other kids who are JUST like them, and so on and so on.
HAVING ENOUGH MONEY IS BETTER THAN TOO MUCH
Strange for a PF blogger to say this, but for me, having ENOUGH money, is better than having too much.
There is a clear distinction for me in that regard — I want enough money that I earned and worked for.
It brings a whole host of problems aside from solving the financial ones when you have too much.
What would I do with billions anyway? Probably end up giving it away to charity like Buffett and Gates, because we all know that inherited wealth tends to only last through 3 generations, as the old Chinese proverb goes.