Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall of some billionaire's private jet or hear a secret recording of what super-rich families say around the dinner table? Have you wondered what it would be like to follow some captain of the universe back to his or her hotel room at Davos and ask, "Don't BS me now. What's it really like to be you?"

Those things probably aren't going to happen, but the next best thing is this shockingly candid interview in The Cut with Abigail Disney, who is just who you'd guess she is from her last name.

The granddaughter of the late Roy Disney, Disney declines to specify her exact net worth, but to give you some idea, she's given away $70 million and claims to be richer than ever. So has living a life of incredible privilege been all enjoyment and ease? The interview is worth a read in full as there is basically not a dull word in it, but for the time crunched, here's one big takeaway: fabulous wealth isn't all caviar and champagne.

I know, I know, you're groaning and wishing you could have such problems. And you're right. The problems of extreme wealth are obviously nothing compared with the problems of poverty. Even Disney agrees that being rich has incredible upsides -- she describes lavish meals, expensive clothes, and private jets. But her painfully honest account also makes clear that there are very real struggles that come with fabulous wealth.

Yes men

In the interview, Disney describes how her parents' net worth shot up in the 1980s along with Disney's revived share price, and how this resulted in them being increasingly coddled, and miserable.

"My parents' financial life changed in the '80s, and I was an adult by then and I watched them kind of relax into it. I think of it as slouching into money," she recalls. "What ends up happening is you end up being surrounded by people who don't tell you no, ever. And as my father's drinking problem grew, he was surrounded by people who wouldn't say, 'You have a terrible drinking problem. You need to go get some help.'"

Loneliness

Buying fabulous things is great. Wondering if other people just pretend to like you so you can buy them fabulous things sounds a lot less great. "There are people where you can practically see dollar bills in their eyeballs when they're talking to you," Disney reports.

But fear of being used isn't the only thing that keeps the super rich isolated. The very perks of money can push you away from human connection, Disney claims.

"If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don't have to go through an airport terminal, you don't have to interact, you don't have to be patient, you don't have to be uncomfortable. These are the things that remind us we're human," she asserts.

Not having to wait in line at security sounds lovely until you realize it slowly turns you into a monster. "I don't want a private jet because it hollows you out from the inside," says Disney. 

Self-doubt

Like many of the super rich, Disney was born into wealth, which has left her wondering her whole life whether her accomplishments were based on merit or money. (Bill Gates's daughter Phoebe has publicly discussed this aspect of being born rich too.)

"I did grow up with this doubt about myself. Like, did Yale really say yes because I was that good, or did Yale say yes because of my last name? I'll never know. I've spent a lot of time earning things like post graduate degrees that make me feel legitimate," she reports. "But that's outsourcing your sense of self. That is handing your self-esteem to the world to tell you whether or not you're allowed to have any. And that's a dangerous game."

I'm guessing you'd still accept a $100 million check. 

Is all this enough to convince you to turn down a check for a few hundred million? I am wagering probably not. But Disney's account should at least make you pause and think about the rather tenuous connection between huge wealth and happiness.

Sure, not struggling financially is a massive stress reducer, but once you reach the point of comfort, it seems like more dollars really don't equate with more happiness. So be mindful what you wish (and work) for.

Published on: Apr 5, 2019
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