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Millionaire blues – Newly wealthy report anxiety, isolation

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Two Bay area therapists have coined a term — sudden wealth syndrome -to describe the psychological problems of new millionaires, and they prescribe charity as its cure, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Psychologist Stephen Goldbart and psychotherapist Joan DiFuria founded the Money, Meaning and Choices Institute in San Francisco to address the anxiety, isolation and uncertainty experienced by the newly rich.

Signs of sudden wealth syndrome include guilt about new wealth, a sense of isolation from friends and family, and fears new money will disappear, Goldbart told the Times.

The syndrome is not about money at all, the therapists say, but rather about life-altering change that reshapes work, relationships and goals.

As soaring stocks turn out new millionaires at an unprecedented pace,  some of the new rich are finding that new wealth does not satisfy questions of identity and meaning, the Times reports.

“Part of the problem is that in this country there is no longer a model of what you’re supposed to do with your life besides make money,” Goldbart told the Times.

Goldbart and DiFuria prescribe charity to restore a sense of purpose and focus to the lives of new millionaires. 

Geocities founder David Bohnett, who sold his site to Yahoo last year for $4.5 billion, credits charity with his new perspective on life.

After selling his company, Bohnett says he went on a buying frenzy – but after a few months, he realized that  “ you don’t have to own something to appreciate it.”

After giving away his antique car in a charity auction, he established a foundation with $32 million to support causes like voter registration, gun control and gay and lesbian issues.

In many ways, Bohnett says, his foundation has given him a greater sense of focus, purpose and responsibility than he had while building Geocities.

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