Editor's Note: Clients' names have been changed throughout for reasons of confidentiality.
This year saw the multi-family office Threshold Group launch its Community Square forum, a peer-to-peer network which includes specialists on “wealth education issues,” with an event in Chicago. It was really a next step for the firm, which was already running a P2P parenting network on a smaller scale. And while there is nothing groundbreaking about the idea of a peer-to-peer network, at the heart of this one is recognition of an aspect of wealth that is still fairly taboo: that it can bring isolation.
“I think that in our world people think that their value is only measured in financial terms. People can look [at wealthy people] as if they don’t have any problems, as if they don’t deserve it. Because the measure is money,” says Kristen Bauer, senior managing director at Threshold Group.
It’s a theme Jessie O’Neill wrote about some 15 years ago in her book The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence, in which she explored the darker emotions attached to wealth – feelings of inadequacy, for example – and the pressure created by the external expectation that everything is always “perfect.”
Bauer says wealthy people can feel they live “in a glass fish bowl,” which is often the very reason they seek the privacy of a family office in the first place. Such a tendency is only exacerbated by the privacy concerns created by digital communication.
“The money doesn’t have any power on its own”
Bauer says the first time she ran a parenting network “she was almost shocked” by just how magical the atmosphere was. As the fall event in Chicago approached, with some 30 clients due to attend, she was “hoping it would happen again.”
“It was a little bit of a risk because people are so anxious about talking about this…firstly we weren’t sure they would come, and secondly we weren’t sure they would open up and talk about the real issues.”