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Ask someone what they would do if they won the lottery or if the options they have from their job led to a huge windfall. They will almost certainly recite a list of purchases and actions. Part of that will probably include how they’d help their family. Wealth and money do impact family relationships. We live in a society founded on financial transactions and financial needs. We know money can’t buy us love but also know that money can make our lives easier.

Of course, money has the potential to cause problems, too. That same foundation of financial need very much influences how we live in the world. With that in mind, let’s be aware of how wealth can change a person.

But, First…

Again, an influx of money can result in you and your family enjoying a better quality of life. In no way is this post meant to downplay that reality. Instead, it can serve as a reminder that pitfalls — some of them seemingly invisible — exist.  In my experience working with people in tech these challenges often catch people off guard.

5 Ways Wealth Can Impact Family Relationships

  1. Losing Sight of What Matters Most

The pursuit of money can become myopic. In that pursuit, we may spend less and less time paying attention. The people in our lives need validation. They crave attention and want to be heard. Sure, it can be life-changing to offer them money when you have it, but life requires so much more. Studies back this up — showing no correlation between wealth and happiness.

  1. It Can Impact How You Are Perceived

If money is viewed as the root of all evil, what happens when a family member suddenly has a lot of it? Money can provoke feelings of anger, envy, resentment, and mistrust. Research finds people often wish ill upon the very successful and affluent. Being related does not change this reality.  It can also lead some people to feel a sense of survivor guilt if others in their family are not as financially successful.x

  1. “Down to Earth” is a Thing

It has been found that folks with less money are better skilled at reading the facial expressions of others. This frequently results in more compassion. With intentionality, high levels of wealth can reduce empathy or emotional intelligence. Further research has introduced the reality that wealth can induce a feeling of moral entitlement.

  1. Addiction

This may cut in two directions:

Attaining wealth can be addicting

It is so common that it’s cliché. You gain some wealth and then you compulsively crave more. This is called a process addiction. The “process” could be having sex, eating, exercising, etc. — including the process of making money. Whatever it is, you become addicted to the feel-good brain chemicals (e.g. dopamine) that the process produces.

Gaining wealth is sometimes linked with addiction

This is particularly true for children and teens. When your parents are wealthy, you are typically at greater risk of having problems at school, acting, and substance abuse issues. Such issues usually persist into adulthood. One recent study discovered that people with money drink 27 percent more alcohol than those with lower incomes.

  1. Hierarchies and Dynamics

Simply put, it is not unusual for people to treat each other differently based on class status. Family relationships are no different. Those in the lower position may scheme to improve their standing. People in the “upper class” use their wealth as a form of power and manipulation.

How Can One Find Balance in Such a Situation?

The changes and potential family problems caused by wealth can be insidious. They sneak up on you but remain invisible until they’re entrenched. This is not unusual when it comes to psychological dynamics. That’s why therapy is such a common and effective option for such situations.

If you currently find yourself on one end or another of wealth-related concerns, we should talk. Let’s connect soon for a free consultation.

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.