Not all entrepreneurs are in it for the money, but gaining wealth is certainly among the top motivators for company building. Not surprisingly, having great wealth brings it's own unique responsibilities and circumstances that few get to experience first hand.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing billionaire Ken Fisher, founder, chairman, and CEO of Fisher Investments, best-selling author, Forbes magazine columnist, and No. 225 on the Forbes 400. Fisher provided a candid, no-holds-barred look at the perspective of the self-made super wealthy. Here are his insights.
1. It isn't pursuit of wealth, but pursuit of passion that creates wealth.
Focusing on money won't likely get you to the Forbes list like Fisher. He aptly states: "Most people don't get super wealthy by accumulating money. They get super wealthy by following some dream they are passionate about, whether its starting and running a business, or being a rock star musician or a visual entertainer." He points out that most of the super wealthy overshoot their personal goals, and yet they are still driven by their passion. The super wealthy know that if you pursue your passion, the money will come.
2. After a certain monetary threshold, the desire isn't for more wealth, but more time.
There is very little that the super wealthy cannot buy. As the wealth keeps accumulating, spending becomes less of a joy or ambition. "After a certain point," Fisher explains, "there isn't much more you can think of that you want." What becomes more desirable is time to enjoy life. "The vacation homes, cars, boats, and wardrobes are just more stuff to deal with." Fisher observes. "All that stuff clutters your time usage, so at a certain point, the wealthier you get the more you covet time."
3. Everyone you've known forever (except your spouse) will think you've changed.
There is a common belief that wealth changes everyone, and not always for the better. Fisher says, "Only you will know that you haven't changed; that passionate drive to follow dreams does not change." Fisher explains it this way: "Everyone's perceptions of change are as though they are seeing the clock at a few different hour points in your evolution, as opposed to seeing it as a continuous sweeping minute hand that doesn't change."
4. The super wealthy are guarded even with their closest acquaintances.
It's hard for the super wealthy to know who their real friends are. Fisher describes the situation in clear detail. "All kinds of folks hit on you for money and deliver false pretenses on a regular basis. Charities hit you up like you were the prettiest girl at a ball otherwise filled with horny young males. 'Relatives' you never had approach you from nowhere. Old school non-chums want to reacquaint. You see an ugly side of our human existence, which is the world of false pretenses seeking your money. So you guard against it and what you're really guarding is your time and the time of the few people you really value. And you get good at it. And as you do, you will seem cold to all those people. Of course, you're just simply as cold as the relationship would have been had you no money at all."
5. Most of your broader family will come to hate you.
There is an old saying that the rich person in any family is despised. Fisher claims this is true, pointing out that many relatives don't understand why the wealth of one family member can't easily be shared to solve all their problems. Fisher explains the issue further: "It doesn't matter how much you do or don't give people, it won't be enough." Often Fisher hears others grumbling that they would handle wealth differently, but he points out that if their approach worked they would already be wealthy, and says they are simply looking for the easy path. Fisher states, "They will wonder why you don't simply relieve them of their suffering with money, yet won't seek your time or advice in how to remove the core cause of that suffering." If they did seek his advice, Fisher would happily help them understand how to solve their money issues by seeking a productive passion.
6. Wealth doesn't spoil your children, but it may destroy your grandchildren.
I know many successful entrepreneurs who worry whether their own children will have ambition and drive after growing up with affluence. Fisher observes that the kids of self-made wealthy parents grow up solidified with values that were taught to them before their parents became wealthy, so wealth doesn't negatively influence their values. "But your grandkids never knew anything else," says Fisher, now 64. "And that wealth zaps the drive out of them--it is too easy for the young to spend for fun instead of seeking the real passion, as previously mentioned."
7. The older you get, the less money means.
As super wealthy people age, material needs become normalized. According to Fisher, "The so-called golden years bring a simplicity and focusing of desires in all wealth classes. While the non-super wealthy won't recognize it, the super wealthy have long lost their material urges beyond the basics. They spend less on themselves and likely less on others because they know it doesn't create happiness either for them, for their offspring, or for their grandkids." Quality time is once again what is most coveted. It is surely more important to offer time to loved ones, and time delivered in that regard is valued on both ends more than money.
8. Wealth can free your brain.
Of all Fisher's insights, this was the most powerful. For all the challenges wealth can bring, Fisher says it's worth the mental freedom it also brings. He makes this point: "You will think broader and more creatively because you don't have the limits the people of lesser means suffer. Why? Because you can. You will contemplate things like: Could my wealth if donated solve this problem? Could I create (you name it) by trying? What if I did this unimaginable thing (because you can if you want in so many realms)? The reality is that few of these will you ever pursue for all the reasons above, but they will enter your mind to ponder because most of your limits are now only self-imposed."