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In recent times, we’ve observed an increase in the number of people with a cluster of problems and associated symptoms due to the stress of unexpected sudden success or fortune. Several of these individuals have become wealthy from entrepreneurial endeavors and corporate stock business. Others are the beneficiaries of the highest transfer of wealth from one generation to the next in American history.

Even though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) does not classify sudden wealth syndrome as a mental condition, the stressors and emotional effects of sudden fortune can be surprisingly difficult to manage. And while we all enjoy fantasizing about being obscenely wealthy suddenly, such wealth comes with very real problems and often fatal repercussions.

Despite what has been said above, you shouldn’t count on much compassion from your loved ones or casual acquaintances as you go through this tough time. They only consider the fantasy, not the actual situation you’re in. Therefore, if you find yourself in a difficult situation, consult a qualified therapist. 

Sudden Wealth Syndrome (SWS) is a psychological phenomenon in which the overpowering pressures of sudden and/or unexpected wealth can lead to behavioral and emotional disorders. This phenomenon is also known as an identity crisis. Stephen Goldbart, the co-founder of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute (MMC Institute) and a renowned wealth psychologist, developed the phrase Sudden Money Syndrome after observing an increase in symptoms associated with sudden or unexpected wealth acquisition.

Sudden Wealth Syndrome, a subcategory of aberrant psychology, is frequently diagnosed by assessing the shifts in relationships, common symptoms, and other causes. Emotional afflictions like separation from past relationships, the phobia of losing one’s wealth, shame, and uncertainty or shock owing to the surprising nature of their fortune are recognizable indicators of developing or having experienced sudden wealth effects. These typically result from situations like winning a lottery or engaging in other forms of gaming, receiving an unplanned inheritance, investing in cryptocurrency, or purchasing businesses.

This sudden inflow of difficult emotions might induce a person to engage in self-destructive habits, such as withdrawing from relationships. Upon learning of their new financial position, an individual with Sudden Wealth Syndrome may observe a shift in how their family, friends, and coworkers interact with them. In addition to excessive and rash spending, additional self-destructive behaviors include incorrect decision-making.

Advice from psychologists, psychiatrists, and financial consultants is sought for further assistance in conquering the stress linked to sudden riches as part of the management and therapy for Sudden Wealth Syndrome. Symptoms of Sudden Wealth Syndrome can evolve to further health diagnoses, like anxiety, depression, and insomnia if precautions are not taken to prevent their development.

Among the signs and symptoms are:

Guilt

When we are unfamiliar with riches, it might be difficult to accept the notion that we ‘deserve’ them. Consequently, guilt is a prevalent symptom of SWS. Sadly, such misguided guilt can be detrimental to our health.

Chronic guilt, for instance, can cause depression, which is characterized by a sense of pessimism, emptiness, and isolation from others. That, in turn, can be extremely perplexing, given that achieving financial stability should make us joyful. As a consequence, we feel even more guilty about our fortune, erroneously assuming that we are not sufficiently appreciative.

Shock

While your immediate reaction to sudden fortune will depend significantly on your past and financial situation, shock is a common reaction. When you acquire riches, your lifestyle, responsibilities, and others’ perceptions undergo a plethora of adjustments. These are substantial changes in your life, and it will take time to adjust. If this shock persists for weeks or months, however, it turns into a symptom of SWS.

This persistent sense of shock causes us to feel numb, distant, and puzzled when this occurs. These responses might leave us feeling paralyzed and unable to make even minor financial decisions.

As a consequence, we may begin to feel so uneasy in our new financial skin that we spend money instinctively in an attempt to “feel more like ourselves” These acquisitions may involve excessive spending, risky investments, or promises to loved ones.

Paranoia

As it becomes increasingly difficult to identify with our financial condition, we may get worried about losing money because it is so difficult to trust that it is genuinely ours. In the case of cryptocurrencies, it is common for this paranoia to result in a condition known as Ticker Shock, in which we incessantly monitor stock market volatility to ensure that our new riches or investments are not dropping in value.

Nonetheless, alterations in your connections with loved ones can sometimes trigger paranoia. The sudden acquisition of wealth can alter how our previous loved ones view us. It could make them resentful or envious, which could make you feel guilty. You may then withdraw yourself from these loved ones as a coping mechanism, which is uncomfortable and damaging to your self-esteem.

Following are some guidelines for those who get huge earnings in a short period of time and wish to avoid sudden wealth effects and instead build a foundation for lifelong financial security.

Educate yourself

It is difficult to achieve success in any area of life without knowing what you’re doing and why. Many individuals do not know where to begin with their finances. You may begin by enrolling in an online Personal Finance 101 course from a reliable source. 

Start with fundamentals like saving and budgeting, then move on to investment fundamentals like risk vs. return dynamics and diversification. Financial education will also assist you in determining your genuine risk tolerance and the right amount of risk you should take in your portfolio.

Having a complete view of your finances can help you build a foundation for establishing a budget, setting a debt repayment plan, and planning retirement account deposits. You should not only be aware of the amount of money in your bank account but also your net value, which is a complete accounting of your assets and liabilities.

Create a financial plan (with help)

Those who acquire big amounts of money all at once or over a brief period of time and need to make it last should construct a financial plan using software or internet tools for financial planning. Online financial planning tools can assist you in identifying your objectives, calculating your likelihood of achieving them, and staying on track to achieve them.

You will want to do a stress test on your portfolio, as you may need it to support you in coming years during periods without income. Software or tools can assist you to evaluate the realism of your objectives, and you can even simulate numerous plans to compare their estimates.

In addition to retirement, your aims may also include charitable contributions and family assistance. This can be a useful method for determining whether this is realistic and how much “giving” your portfolio can support.

Maintain discipline

Without discipline and concentration, it is typically impossible to achieve mastery in a field. There will be diversions from your environment and several incorrect influences that you must simply ignore. Planning for the future when others are living extravagantly may not feel “cool” at the time, but your future self will be proud and appreciative.

However, let’s be honest: discipline does not imply deprivation; buying good things and spending money is acceptable!

Determine your spending utility by evaluating what brings you the most and least pleasure in terms of discretionary spending, and then work backward to establish your priorities. Then, adopt a judicious strategy to determine where you can save instead of spending today.

When it comes to unexpected fame and money, there will be numerous temptations, but prioritize your requirements to avoid FOMO and keep your focus on the prize.

Seek advice from reputable experts

Putting together a team of trustworthy professionals that put your interests above their own can offer tremendous value. Consider obtaining the services of financial, estate, tax, and legal experts.

Ensure that your financial planner is a trustee and an expert in their industry so that he or she can act as your team captain and recommend additional specialists. Your team can help you enhance your wealth by optimizing your after-tax, risk-adjusted return using an all-encompassing strategy.

Before proceeding with anyone, ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the related fees, how the individual is compensated, and any potential conflicts of interest, and conduct a thorough background check.

Stay away from complex trades that you do not understand.

Before starting with an investment, you should ensure that you fully comprehend the risk and return dynamics, as well as the charges and structure of the transaction. There is a great possibility that people will pitch you with opportunities that appear to be guaranteed if you have substantial funds to invest.

If something promises great returns with little to no risk, you should avoid it. This dynamic cannot occur in the absence of deception.

If you need assistance evaluating an opportunity, consult with your professional team. However, it is a fair general rule of thumb that if you do not know the investment, you should allocate your funds to more transparent and liquid options that you do understand.

However, these trades are better suited for experienced investors.

Refer to step 1 if you desire to become an advanced investor; education is essential!

Managing sudden wealth syndrome can be difficult and disappointing at times. Sometimes you would need expert help and will have to attend regular therapy sessions at an inpatient, residential, or outpatient rehab center depending on the severity and duration of the condition as well as the association of any mental health condition. Here are a few suggestions for managing sudden wealth syndrome.

Have compassion for yourself

It is natural to believe that affluent financial security should inspire feelings of happiness and gratitude. In addition to these emotions, there are also bewilderment, dread, and guilt. Do not blame yourself when you experience emotions other than pure happiness and relief. Even if the change is for the best, it will always be accompanied by challenges. Instead, attempt to allow yourself to feel whatever arises. Reach out to a person you know you can rely on these emotions if you are dealing with them. If that is not possible, consider consulting a specialist.

Practice extreme caution

Try to transition into your new financial position gradually. In the first few months, refrain from making any immediate purchases and communicate the news with just your closest loved ones. Once others become aware of your changed circumstances, undesirable feelings such as envy, greed, and resentment may begin to surface. While it can be isolating to conceal something of this nature from others, you must regain your footing before disclosing it to others and having to manage their negative responses.

Nevertheless, it is essential to quickly assemble a financial team consisting of a financial planner, tax expert, and estate-planning attorney. They are prohibited from disclosing any information to a third party. The same holds for experts in mental health.

Keep an eye on your neurochemicals.

Substance misuse is extremely prevalent among persons with SWS. This is because receiving a significant sum of money seemingly overnight causes the brain to release unimaginable quantities of feel-good hormones.

Consider a young businessperson who begins to earn millions of dollars. This sense of instantaneous success can release large amounts of dopamine and serotonin. When millions of dollars in the bank become your new reality, however, they no longer offer those feel-good neurotransmitters, which effectively sets the neurochemical foundation for difficulties such as addiction.

To combat this, it is essential to monitor your thoughts, emotions, and desires in the early years of sudden prosperity. Try to implement stress-management strategies that you can rely on to handle the lows and highs. Exercising, meditating, practicing good sleep hygiene, and spending time with loved ones are all effective stress management techniques.

Finally, if you are having difficulty dealing with SWS, you should get professional assistance as quickly as possible. It is crucial to address SWS as soon as possible, as it can be a fundamental cause of numerous mental health difficulties.

Sudden wealth syndrome & how to avoid it | personal capital. Available at: https://www.personalcapital.com/blog/investing-markets/sudden-wealth-syndrome-tips.Sudden wealth syndrome. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_wealth_syndrome.

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