So much for that old saw that money can’t buy happiness. A new survey of people who have built significant wealth on their own found that money has actually bought them a lot of happiness.
The majority of those surveyed — 300 people with assets of $1 million to $20 million — said they equated wealth first and foremost with peace of mind. Happiness came in second, with more than half of the respondents citing it.
But life with money is not all Champagne and caviar. The respondents said that their wealth made them feel satisfied and grateful, but it also gave them a greater sense of responsibility. Many cherished the way their wealth had allowed them to spend time with their families, but some regretted losing the family time they had sacrificed in the pursuit of financial freedom.
Such inherent tension between freedom and obligation ran, to varying degrees, through all age groups in the survey, which was conducted by CoreData Research in February and March.
Affluent Americans ages 25 to 65 were asked a series of questions about their attitudes toward wealth. Respondents were categorized by age, wealth level and whether they were business owners or employees. The more the responses were parsed by category, the more complications arose. About half of all respondents said the sacrifices they had made to accumulate such wealth meant they had spent less time with friends and family.
That regret rose to nearly two-thirds for people at the higher end of the wealth range in the study. More than half of business owners felt it, too, outpacing people who had accumulated their wealth by working for someone else.
“It’s the guilt over the time it took away from the family,” said David Murphy, head of wealth advisory at Boston Private, a wealth management firm that commissioned the study. “There’s a lot of emotion built into growing the business and the time it takes to do that. The employees also become part of the extended family.”
The results of the survey, titled “The Why of Wealth,” hint at what the more sophisticated advisers already know: The days of focusing solely on investment returns are on the wane.