The Source of our country's problems?
“The rich are different from you and me: they are more egotistical,” says Theodore R. Aronson, managing principal of Aronson Johnson Ortiz, an investment firm in Philadelphia. “Psychologically, I think the rich, because of their egos, think they know everything. Well, they don’t, and many of them repeatedly make horrible investments — because they can.”
Financial success can breed its own peculiar set of vulnerabilities. “People who are very successful develop elevated sensibilities about their skills, and when things turn on them they won’t admit they’re wrong because their self-confidence has held them up so long,” says Arnold S. Wood, chief executive of Martingale Asset Management in Boston. “In the face of evidence, even subjective evidence, that suggests that something bad is about to happen to someone, a funny thing happens: They reject the evidence.
“These kinds of people just continue spending because they think the money will keep coming in because they’re so successful,” adds Mr. Wood, who says he is fascinated by the possible neurological and social underpinnings of financial delusion and decision-making. He believes that gender plays a strong role in financial ruin because, he says, women tend to be more risk averse than men when it comes to money. Some interesting research backs this up.
Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean, two business professors at the University of California, Berkeley, noted in an analysis in 2001 of stock trading, “Boys Will Be Boys,” that psychological studies demonstrated that men tended to be more overconfident than women. Financial data supported the same point. “Models of investor overconfidence predict that men will trade more and perform worse than women,” the professors’ study concluded.
“Someone who goes broke, or someone who goes into debt, is really somebody who isn’t comfortable having their money,” Ms. Gurney says. “Yes, it appears as a lack of discipline. But the lack of discipline comes from an emotional place that causes them to be undisciplined. It’s not about the money. It’s about our emotional relationship to money.
“The people who are out there just running through money have failed because they haven’t come to terms with who they are and what they want the money to do for them,” she adds. “I see a lot of baby boomers beginning to panic because they haven’t figured this out.”
Does this sound at all like the guy who is running the company right now? The guy who was never a successful businessman yet, thanks to help from Daddy's friends, always ended up in better shape after his failures.