What The "Succession" Characters Can Tell Us About WealthSubmitted by Moneywatch Advisors on December 6th, 2021
I am obsessed with Succession, the HBO Max series about the uber-wealthy and powerful family vying to take over their father’s media empire. While exploring the motivations and psyches of truly terrible people, the show excels at character development and features brilliant writing. In the 2nd season, there is a scene where they provide striking perspective on wealth. One character has just turned down his grandfather’s $250 Million inheritance in exchange for a promised career at the company. His mother assures him his grandfather will still leave him about $5 Million – so he’s “golden” either way. The other characters openly mock this pittance as inadequate and even problematic.
One says $5 Million makes one the “poorest rich person in America. The world’s tallest dwarf.” Another, “$5’s a nightmare. Can’t retire - not worth it to work.” I couldn’t stop laughing at this segment. Does having $4 Million mean you are the richest poor person in America? You can see the 1:25 exchange through this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQTgLXl1qXI.
It’s so eye-opening and even refreshing that these people who never drive themselves or fly commercial and live such separate lives from the rest of the world, still understand what they have. They aren’t Marie Antoinette expecting others to just eat cake – they know they have more than their share of cake and they’ll get to eat it too. In fact, their self-worth is wrapped in the fact they’re so much richer than virtually everyone. Their wealth is not just what they have but who they are.
I’m often asked, “how does our wealth compare with others our age?” This is a perfectly understandable way to question how one is progressing toward financial independence. A better question, however, is “how are we progressing toward our own, specific goals?”
It’s quite tempting to compare one’s wealth to others – but we mainly look up, not down, right? We know 90% of the population has difficulty imagining ever having the wealth we’ve managed to save and accumulate, yet we tend to look at those who have more with some envy. Sure, our vacation was terrific, but did you see those houses right on the beach? Who owns those?
The point of this blog is not to remind you to maintain proper perspective or to advise you to be grateful for what you have, although that is a good way to live life. My point is, wealth isn’t a competition. It doesn’t add value just to know you have more than another and it isn’t who you are. Wealth is a means to an end. It enables us to live our lives, not strive to live someone else’s.
Those that really nail that piece of the puzzle for themselves are actually much richer than the characters on Succession.
Steve Byars, CFP®