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Suddenly Wealthy

Many people dream about striking it rich, but when it happens, as in the case of many dot-com millionaires, the reality of instant affluence can be overwhelming. The Early Show talked with both the new nouveau riche and those who help them deal with their newfound concerns.

Correspondent Sandra Hughes and Co-Anchor Jane Clayson report on "sudden wealth syndrome."


Tim Hickman is one of those dot-com millionaires. He works 20-hour days and yet he still mows his own lawn.

Cutting the grass may be a coping mechanism for this Silicon Valley CEO who just launched backflip.com, a Web personal search and directory service that has 40 employees. Hickman is so busy, he couldn't even show CBS News how he spends his spare time. He just sent pictures; he couldn't stop working.

What is he avoiding with all this work? Perhaps he's not facing the fact that at 29 he's a multimillionaire; Silicon Valley therapists call this jarring adjustment "sudden wealth syndrome."

Peter Karoff of The Philanthropic Initiative advises the rich: "Wealth is supposed to be positive. It should make you feel great, but it carries with it baggage," he says.

"That baggage has to do with a sense of whether they really earned it, that they were really just lucky. And there are also concerns about wealth, that it puts you in a position where you're now a target," Karoff adds.

Karoff's Philanthropic Initiative helps millionaires give away their money. ("It makes them feel useful," he says.)

Philanthropy is at top of Hickman's to-do list - if he just could find the time to carry through.

For the less fortunate, sudden wealth syndrome might seem like a made-up problem. But at the Money, Meaning and Choices Institute in Kentsville, Calif., such concerns are taken seriously, says Joan DiFuria. "We look at this as an opportunity to re-create the American dream," she says.

"More people around us of middle class values are coming into money," DiFuria observes. "We have a belief that if we use our money and are not disempowered by our money, we have an opportunity to give back to the community with something that's meaningful to us."

These new millionaires, though, can experience the same kind of anxiety with their new money as, say, a lottery winner would. "People often wake up at first very excited," DiFuria says. Then after the thrill of the new toys, homes or cars wear off, what people ask themselves is, "What do I really want to do now? What's important to me and meaningful?" DiFuria says.

"Do I want to keep working 100 hours a week? Do I want to take more time with my family?" people will ask.

The new wealthy encounter questions about what really matters in their life, says DiFuria. "Money does give us some freedom and power of choices," she says.

"Part of he problem is that they are so young," the psychotherapist observes. Also, "Many people of middle-class values never expected or dreamt they would be worth as much as they are."

They also have to come to terms with their own perceptions of themselves and their friends' perceptions, she continues.

Why can't these new millionaires just relax more and enjoy their wealth? "The people I see generally tell me if they make a lot of money, they are going to go to the beach, they are going to live in France, that they are going to write a book. But the reality is most people don't stop; they don't know how to do more than what they're doing," DiFuria says. "We get comfortable doing what we're used to doing," she explains.

"We all believe money will make us be happy, enjoy life." she says. "But there's no inherent meaning in money," she reflects. "It doesn't bring us fulfillment, happiness, satisfaction and contentment."

Are most of the people looking to give away some of their wealth or to keep it?
Some are keeping it "to buy their bigger toys and houses," DiFuria says. "But we're seeing a new opportunity for many young people who are giving away money in a very different way, at a younger age, much more. And they want to use their time, energy and resources, their wisdom and their compassion to make a difference in the world."

"They're not retiring like their fathers and mothers did; they want to use their time and energy to give back," DiFuria adds.

One of DiFuria's biggest concerns is teaching children the value of money. "Most parents want to raise motivated, productive and responsible citizens who are stewards of their wealth. And the question we all ask ourself, how will this money affect our children? What do we say and not say to our children about our money?" DiFuria says.

"It doesn't hold the value of emotional goods, spiritual goods or psychological goods," she concludes.