Three Fears That Keep the Super Rich Up at Night

Key Takeaways:

  • Concierge medicine is increasingly available to help address key health concerns.
  • A combination of financial and personal solutions may help families deal with internal conflicts.
  • Financial and physical protective measures can potentially help safeguard wealth.

Significant wealth can reduce many of life’s troubles and anxieties—but it can’t eliminate all of them entirely. Even the wealthiest people out there have fears that can keep them up at night.

What’s more, we find that the extremely affluent often share many of the same worries the rest of us have.

That said, the wealthy generally take some highly effective action steps to address those worries and, quite often, overcome them. With that in mind, here’s a look at the three biggest fears of the Super Rich—those people with a net worth of at least $500 million—and some ways they combat those fears.

The good news: If you share one or more of these fears—and it’s likely you do—you can take a page from the Super Rich playbook to tackle those concerns.

Health, family and wealth

Our experience serving the Super Rich tells us that, in general, they struggle with three main fears about their lives and the lives of their families:

  • Severe health problems for themselves or loved ones
  • Dysfunctional family members doing substantial damage
  • Losing their wealth

Obviously, the Super Rich don’t have a monopoly on these three fears—which are shared by many people at various levels of wealth. But they do impact this group in particular ways, which prompts the Super Rich to bring creative resources to bear on the problems.

Fear #1: Severe health problems

The saying goes: “When you have your health, you have hundreds of problems. When you don’t have your health, you have only one.”

Severe health concerns for you or the people you care most about can easily distract you and drain you—emotionally, physically and maybe even financially. Dealing with them is a top priority for the Super Rich, as it is for most everyone else. In the wake of the pandemic, it seems more of us are taking a close look at our health and lifestyles—and what we might do to improve them so we stick around for a long time.

Of course, the Super Rich are in a stronger position than many others to potentially mitigate the possibility of severe health problems—as well as very effectively deal with them when they arise. But the fact is, there is no assured defense against such ills. Anyone can have heart disease or get cancer or contract a debilitating illness. Genetics and even plain old bad luck can be a strong counterbalance to the power of personal wealth.

To address health-related concerns, we see the Super Rich increasingly taking key steps such as:

  • Joining a concierge medical practice. At its core, concierge medicine is a membership model: For a fee, you get access to “boutique” medical practices with relatively small ratios of patients to physicians—enabling faster appointments, longer visits and significantly more personalized care given (in many cases) by physicians who have far greater expertise than do typical care providers. Concierge practices might also offer tech-enabled care such as telemedicine through smartphones as well as remote patient monitoring.
  • Pursuing greater longevity. Concerns over possible severe health problems are prompting the Super Rich to be proactive. They are working on ways to extend their longevity, such as employing personal genome sequencing—a process that can reveal a person’s specific future health risks so they can be addressed early on. Some are even undergoing experimental treatments such as stem cell therapies. Longevity-focused care providers are increasingly in demand, as well.

Fear #2: Dysfunctional family members

Here’s another old saying: “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.”

Families can be a source of great joy and great sorrow (and probably every other possible emotion, too!). And most families across the wealth spectrum have some conflicts, codependencies, and members who drain the energy and resources of their relatives.

That said, family-related issues and conflicts can get especially challenging when there’s wealth involved. Consider “bad seed” family members who exploit their families (and often their family businesses) for personal gain, to the detriment of other family members and the company. Bad seed family members can destroy family harmony as well as family wealth and the future prospects of that wealth.

Another common problem in the world of the Super Rich is children who “just want to have a good time.” These family members are very self-absorbed and commonly feel entitled. Some of these more hedonistic kids get themselves into jams such as being arrested or being center stage in lawsuits. While the idea of “tough love” often comes up, the more common reaction is to rectify the situation quickly—something the Super Rich and their wealth and connections can often accomplish.

What makes these situations especially complicated is that most Super Rich families have a hard time reining in disruptive and oppressive family members. In fact, bailing them out tends to convey to children the message that they can operate by different rules than other people.

The most forward-thinking Super Rich parents tend to combat these and similar problems in two ways:

  • Financial solutions. Trusts with built-in oversight of an overprivileged child’s inheritance can be an effective way to protect the child and other people. Such trusts might also help protect assets from creditors and others. Of course, the best way to use a trust will depend on the particular situation. If a family has a business and also has overprivileged children, for example, succession planning and family wealth equalization strategies often come into play.
  • Personal solutions. Crisis management and behavioral professionals are tapped to address any damages, provide counseling and rehabilitation, and help families take other steps to transition the child into more responsible patterns of behavior.

Fear #3: Losing their wealth

One more saying: “The higher you go, the farther you can fall—and the more it hurts.”

Despite their wealth—or perhaps because of it—the Super Rich worry about the emotional and financial pain of losing their affluence and all that accompanies it. That’s especially true among the Super Rich who also have the other two worries we’ve noted here. After all, severe health problems and family dysfunction can certainly contribute to the Super Rich losing their wealth.

That said, the Super Rich also worry about people who might maliciously try to take their wealth. Their affluence makes them targets, in many cases, of actual criminals. For example, there are people who prey on the houses of the very wealthy. In some cases, financial predators try to manipulate the rich into entrusting their assets to them. Cybercriminals are also increasingly looking for weaknesses and opportunities in fleecing the Super Rich.

The wealthy can also be targets of lawsuits, creditors, former spouses and others.

Solutions that may help safeguard the wealthy from losing their money are many and various, and include:

  • Finding and working with reliable financial professionals. It’s crucial to work with advisors whose integrity and full operational transparency have been proven. Typically, such high-caliber advisors are found through referrals from trusted peers and other professionals.
  • Implementing asset protection strategies. Various forms of insurance (such as an umbrella policy) and trusts can discourage others from attempting to take your wealth via unfounded lawsuits and similar attacks. Placing assets in the name of someone else, such as a spouse, may also help build a moat around wealth.
  • Shoring up physical protections. The Super Rich often make use of advanced security and monitoring systems that employ technology such as infrared cameras and sensors. Some go even further—using biometric devices that allow access based on thumbprints, facial recognition, iris recognition, etc. Frankly, even setting up a realistic-looking fake security system can deter most thieves.

The value of stress testing

Another approach—stress testing—can be used to address all three of these concerns. Health can be stress tested in various ways, of course, to spot potential problems. But so can financial solutions. In fact, the Super Rich often stress test their wealth plans to determine whether the strategies are still on track to deliver the expected results, or whether something has changed that puts those outcomes at risk. Likewise, security professionals can stress test people’s personal security measures (such as alarm systems) to see if they’re up to the task.

Implications for all of us

To varying degrees, families who are not Super Rich can use many of the same approaches to dealing with these types of fears and challenges.

For example, concierge medicine is becoming increasingly cost-effective and available to a broader array of people. Likewise, many high-caliber financial professionals serve the “merely affluent.” And stress testing can be implemented by a variety of professionals and specialists in many different areas.

Bringing Super Rich approaches to your issues can potentially allow you to conquer your fears and achieve results you never thought possible—enabling you and the people you care about most to live great lives.



Important Disclosures:

VFO Inner Circle Special Report

By John J. Bowen Jr.

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