Feature Archive

Signs of Sudden Wealth Syndrome

WebMD Feature

April 17, 2000 (Kentfield, Calif.) -- For all our fantasies of winning the lottery, sudden fortune can cause remarkable stress.

Therapist Stephen Goldbart, PhD, of Kentfield, Calif., says the newly rich "feel cut off from their friends and family. They're suspicious of investment counselors, afraid their kids will grow up spoiled or crippled by the money. And they suffer from an identity crisis because at the ripe old age of thirty-something they no longer have to go to work."

Goldbart and his partner Joan Di Furia, MFT, offer this advice for recognizing when money is 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).

Valerie Andrews has written for Intuition, HealthScout, and many other publications. She lives in Greenbrae, Calif.

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