I’m a basketball guy. Being 6’6″ will do that to you. So I continue to follow the sport and, given the local interest as well, was interested when Larry Sanders, one of the players for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, decided to walk away from the game — at least for a while. But when I clicked on the story of his contract being bought out, I didn’t expect to see any insight into the psychology of having wealth.
In an online article written by Larry himself along with a video interview, he sought to address the speculation that his decision to leave the game was motivated by money. According to Larry, “I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate.” At the same time, though, in the interview portion, he acknowledges that having money impacted his life significantly.
As with many (but certainly not all) athletes, Larry Sanders’ contract put him a financially different category from those that he grew up with. As he put it:
You come into the league, you get dropped this large amount of money out of nowhere. People automatically change around you. That just happens. You become an ATM to some people. You have to be correct in your statements. You have to state things a certain way. You give up your freedom of speech, for real. You really can’t say how you feel. There’s no one really, you know, trying to guide, teach you what you should do and shouldn’t do.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in Larry’s statement. Having, or not having, wealth impacts relationships. This is especially true when wealth is “dropped on” a young person who has not fully established him or herself and his or her philosophies and approach to wealth. I don’t intend to get into a in-depth discussion about “sudden money” here — although there is a place for that. Rather, I would like to suggest a few thoughts about the impact having wealth has on relationships — or how people “change around you” to use Larry’s words. Here’s what occurs to me:
- Big disparities in wealth often lead to envy.
- Having wealth makes it difficult to discern whether someone’s motives for a relationship are pure.
- Discomfort, or even shame, with having wealth leads to a reduced ability to be transparent with others.
- Reduced ability to trust others leads to greater isolation.
- Sudden wealth results in a shifting of relationships — without a certainty as to where they might finally settle.
- Money creates expectations, obligations and responsibilities, and they can be crushing without the financial maturity to handle them.
- Money magnifies character — both in the ones who have it and in those around them.
I know that’s not a complete list, but I hope it’s of some value. What might you add?