Wealth ther­a­pists help the 1 Per­cent talk through the af­flic­tions of af­flu­ence

The rise of wealth ther­apy By Caro­line Win­ter

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS - Pho­to­graph by Josh Dick­in­son

Four years ago, Man­hat­tan ther­a­pist Clay Cock­rell met a pa­tient with an un­usual prob­lem. The 21-year-old col­lege se­nior said he’d re­cently re­ceived trau­matic news. “He seemed scared,” Cock­rell re­calls. “Like, re­ally scared. He wasn’t sure he could trust me, so for the first few ses­sions we just talked gen­er­ally about his life.”

The pa­tient had at­tended pub­lic schools, worked sum­mer jobs as a life­guard and camp coun­selor, and drove an old Toy­ota. Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year, he’d strug­gled to de­cide what ca­reer to pur­sue af­ter col­lege.

Then, on his 21st birth­day, his father, a busi­ness­man, called him into his of­fice and dropped a bomb­shell. Ac­cord­ing to Cock­rell, “the father told his son, ‘I’ve been keep­ing some­thing from you: We’re ac­tu­ally quite wealthy.’ ” The fam­ily, it turned out, owned a multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion.

Learn­ing you’re heir to a for­tune would be a pretty good day for most peo­ple. But rather than cel­e­brate his new­found wealth, the pa­tient grew an­gry and con­fused. “He wasn’t men­tally pre­pared—no one would be,” Cock­rell says. “He didn’t know who to trust and didn’t want his friends to think he was sud­denly dif­fer­ent, so he didn’t tell any­one.” Four years later, the pa­tient is still work­ing through his iden­tity cri­sis while train­ing to take a man­age­rial po­si­tion at his father’s com­pany. “He im­pul­sively bought a re­ally fancy car, but he doesn’t want peo­ple to see it,” Cock­rell says. “So he’s keep­ing it in a garage.” (Cock­rell changed some de­tails to pro­tect the pa­tient’s iden­tity.)

It’s hard to sym­pa­thize with the af­flic­tions of great wealth— es­pe­cially as in­come in­equal­ity soars world­wide. In the U.S., one-tenth of the top 1 per­cent owns as much wealth as the bot­tom 90 per­cent com­bined, ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies. But just be­cause you can burn $100 bills to keep the es­tate warm doesn’t mean you’re at peace with it or im­mune to be­ing de­mo­nized by Oc­cupy pro­test­ers or Bernie San­ders. The dis­com­fort of peer­ing over the wealth gap—as well as in­se­cu­ri­ties about how money can change peo­ple and af­fect re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially in the wake of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis—helps ex­plain why af­flu­ent peo­ple are turn­ing to ther­apy to dis­cuss their First

World prob­lems in pri­vate and why banks are in­cor­po­rat­ing wealth ther­apy into ser­vices for high-net-worth fam­i­lies. “Ei­ther there are more prob­lems or there’s more recog­ni­tion for those prob­lems,” says Madeline Levine, a wealth ther­a­pist and au­thor of The Price of Priv­i­lege.

Nat­u­rally, th­ese shrinks aren’t cheap: It’s bad busi­ness to dis­count a lux­ury ser­vice for peo­ple who can pay for lux­ury. Ther­a­pists coun­sel­ing the über rich charge up to $500 an hour for their ex­per­tise on top­ics nor­mally con­sid­ered taboo. “About 20 min­utes into the first ses­sion, pa­tients—par­tic­u­larly in­her­i­tors—will say, ‘I’m so happy I found you, I have no one else to dis­cuss th­ese is­sues with,’ ” says Jamie Traeger-Muney, founder of Wealth Legacy Group, a San Fran­cisco- and Is­rael­based firm geared to­ward “ad­dress­ing the emo­tional im­pact of wealth on in­di­vid­u­als, cou­ples, and fam­i­lies.” About a dozen psy­chol­o­gists and wealth coaches con­tacted her for wealth ther­apy train­ing last year, up from one or two an­nual

re­quests a half decade ago.

Cock­rell, whose pa­tients pay as much as $450 an hour, stum­bled into the field by ac­ci­dent. He grew up in Ken­tucky, where his father, who never grad­u­ated col­lege, runs an auto parts sal­vage busi­ness. In 2005, Cock­rell be­gan of­fer­ing what he calls walk-andtalk ther­apy, ses­sions he con­ducts with pa­tients while strolling through Cen­tral Park. At­tracted by the novel ser­vice, one wealthy pa­tient signed on and spread the word. “Those peo­ple all run in the same cir­cles,” Cock­rell says. Now about 25 per­cent of his clients are well-to-do. “I’m fas­ci­nated by pow­er­ful peo­ple, what makes them tick,” he says. “They’re all dif­fer­ent, of course, but they have this kind of quiet power—maybe be­cause they know that, in the end, they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be OK.”

Cash can solve a lot of prob­lems. Still, it’s been linked with el­e­vated lev­els of de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, psy­cho­so­matic is­sues, and self-mu­ti­la­tion (see below). And oc­ca­sion­ally it also leads to Leona Helm­s­ley-level weird­ness—the bil­lion­aire New York real es­tate de­vel­oper left $12 mil­lion to her dog, but no money for two of her grand­chil­dren. This is why much of wealth ther­apy is geared to­ward im­prov­ing fam­ily com­mu­ni­ca­tion to pro­tect shared as­sets. Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions be­gan tap­ping psy­chol­o­gists around 2007 to help

high-net-worth broods nav­i­gate in­ter­per­sonal dra­mas, which of­ten wind up with plain­tiffs and de­fen­dants bleed­ing money. “We en­cour­age fam­i­lies to let us in­ter­view each mem­ber in­di­vid­u­ally, even those who’ve mar­ried in,” says Arne Boudewyn, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist who heads Wells Fargo’s Fam­ily Dy­nam­ics and Education depart­ment. It serves mon­eyed in­di­vid­u­als in its Ab­bot Down­ing divi­sion—good luck not con­fus­ing it with Down­ton Abbey—where the team tries to smooth over con­flicts, like those ini­ti­ated by what Boudewyn calls com­mand-and-con­trol CEO per­sonas. “We tell them, ‘Those strate­gies worked well for you in the busi­ness set­ting,’ ” Boudewyn says. “‘You steam­rolled your op­po­nents—but in the fam­ily set­ting, a dif­fer­ent set of strate­gies is needed.’ ” He adds that Ab­bot Down­ing shrinks (the bank in­sists they be called “fam­ily dy­nam­ics and education con­sul­tants” and says they don’t prac­tice clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy) worked with 120 fam­i­lies in 2015, a 40 per­cent in­crease over the year be­fore.

Wells Fargo also has a team of five Ph.D. his­to­ri­ans who try to get fam­i­lies to ap­pre­ci­ate what it took to cre­ate their for­tunes. “Wealth cre­ators of­ten have th­ese im­mi­grant traits, hard work and per­se­ver­ance,” Boudewyn says. “By the time you get to the third gen­er­a­tion—a crit­i­cal junc­ture for whether they’ll keep the wealth or not—you’re of­ten deal­ing with peo­ple who are na­tive to wealth. It’s im­por­tant to show that gen­er­a­tion what’s be­hind the wealth, how for­tunes are made and some­times lost.”

When rea­son and his­tory lessons can’t change at­ti­tudes, tough love can. “I had one guy com­plain­ing that he didn’t have any mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships,” Cock­rell says. “I told him, ‘It may be be­cause you’re an a--hole. You don’t think of any­one but your­self.’ It took his breath away, but he keeps com­ing to ther­apy. I may be the only per­son in the world who calls him on his s---.”

Wealth Legacy’s Traeger-Muney agrees there’s a need to speak frankly about the emo­tional im­pact of wealth. Her­self an heiress—her father built the roller-skat­ing rink busi­ness United Skates of Amer­ica—she says: “Peo­ple will tell you pretty much any­thing about their sex lives, but they don’t feel com­fort­able talk­ing about money. They don’t feel peo­ple will lis­ten in a non­judg­men­tal way.” Many in­her­i­tors, she says, suf­fer from “af­fluenza,” the feel­ing of guilt, en­ti­tle­ment, or lack of mo­ti­va­tion tied to in­her­it­ing or sud­denly earn­ing a large sum. Oth­ers have what she calls big-boob syn­drome: “They won­der, Do peo­ple ac­tu­ally like me for my­self or be­cause of my wealth? Who can I trust? We’re not say­ing th­ese are life-threat­en­ing prob­lems, but they’re still prob­lems.”

In De­cem­ber, Traeger-Muney ad­dressed some of them at a work­shop in San Fran­cisco with her col­league Emily Bouchard. Seven par­tic­i­pants sat on a white couch and flo­ral-pat­terned arm­chairs in a Pa­cific Heights apart­ment; they’d paid $475 each to spend the day strate­giz­ing how to talk about money. “We’re go­ing to start with a mind­ful­ness ex­er­cise,” Bouchard told the group. “Ev­ery­one close your eyes.”

Next, the group took a quiz to find out which of eight money archetypes they most em­body and how that might af­fect their re­la­tion­ships. Tyrants, Bouchard said, use money to con­trol peo­ple but of­ten see them­selves as un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated mar­tyrs. Cre­ative/artist types love money for the free­dom it buys but hate be­ing sucked into the ma­te­ri­al­ist rat race. “We used to see a lot of the tyrant archetype in wealthy fam­i­lies,” Bouchard says. “With more tech peo­ple now be­com­ing wealthy, we see more artists.” Af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing their archetype (all de­vised by Deborah Price, au­thor of each par­tic­i­pant drew a fam­ily tree la­bel­ing rel­a­tives: There were in­no­cents, fools, and war­riors, too.

No one seemed too tor­tured by wealth dur­ing the ses­sion. David Fox, a suc­cess­ful se­rial en­tre­pre­neur, said he signed up to gather in­for­ma­tion for an on­line tool he’s build­ing to help busi­ness own­ers han­dle the in­ter­per­sonal aspects of sell­ing com­pa­nies. But the day helped him on a per­sonal level, too. Fox, 56, moved from Aus­tralia to San Fran­cisco in the ’90s af­ter sell­ing his first com­pany for mil­lions of dol­lars. He lost some of that money through risky in­vest­ments. “The work­shop made me think how my fool traits can be help­ful in mak­ing money but not nec­es­sar­ily in keep­ing it,” he said. “Money tends to mag­nify our in­se­cu­ri­ties and fears—sud­denly you have so much to lose.”

Traeger-Muney is open about her own fam­ily in­se­cu­ri­ties. Not un­like Cock­rell’s pa­tient who was sud­denly swim­ming in it, her 17-year-old son re­cently dis­cov­ered that much of the fam­ily’s funds were in­her­ited, not earned. “He had a strong re­ac­tion,” she says. “All of a sud­den, I saw in my child’s eyes this flicker of lost re­spect—it re­ally stung.” Luck­ily, she’d spent her life fig­ur­ing out how to talk about money. She ex­plained to her son that their money sup­ple­mented ev­ery­one’s pas­sions, but that you were still ex­pected to work. “We dis­cussed what it means to take money, what it says about who you are—we pulled apart the topic,” she says. “He re­al­ized it’s a com­plex con­ver­sa­tion.” <BW>

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