An exploration of money, mindset and a meaningful life
When Money is a Burden

When Money is a Burden

Capitalism sells us the idea that money will solve all our problems. We tend to think that if only we won the lottery (or some long-lost relative died and left us their fortune) everything would be ok. But what if that’s not true? What if, actually, having lots of money is a burden?

We all have our own unique, but complicated, relationships with money. A complicated relationship with money can exist whether someone has a little money or a lot. The emotional turmoil that comes with having a lot of money can be just as painful as not having enough.

Mo Money, Mo Problems*

The worst part for people struggling with the burden of wealth is that most people have very little sympathy for them. They just don’t understand it. They fob it off as a first-world problem‘ or a ‘good problem to have‘ – which completely invalidates how they feel. I’m here to tell you that first-world problems are still problems. And emotional problems can be just as painful and have as much impact on our lives as physical ones.

The nature of the problems that wealth creates varies significantly between circumstances and individuals. They include, but are not limited to the following:


Feelings of guilt are common in people who receive large amounts of money. Usually from winning the lottery or being left an inheritance. Those feelings of guilt often stem from thoughts about not having earned the money themselves. Or they wonder why they received it and not someone else who may be more “deserving” or “in need” of the money. I’ve heard the issue of fairness being raised in such situations.

It’s estimated that around 70% of lottery winners go broke. I’m sure that while financial mismanagement is a factor, is that feeling of burden part of the problem? So much of our behaviour is driven by our emotions and it’s fathomable that they may spend or donate large amounts of money in a bid to be freed from the emotional turmoil.


Having large sums of money can create feelings of overwhelm about how to spend, invest and manage it. This feeling of overwhelm leads to decision paralysis as the person feels overcome by the weight of the decisions. The stakes seem that much higher because of the sum of money involved. Most people are fearful of making the “wrong decision” with their money and so often make no decision at all.

I will note that feelings of overwhelm around money can happen at any level of wealth, but is particularly common with those who have come into large sums of money all at once.

Mistrust of others

Have you ever wondered why people of the same level of wealth stick together? Whether someone has always been wealthy or recently come into wealth, money can change or (sadly) end relationships. Whether the belief is based on reality or it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, wealthy people may get treated differently because they are rich. They feel that they are only liked for their money, or that they are being used or manipulated in order to pay more or give their money away.

Feelings of mistrust can lead to feeling socially isolated and lonely. Some people feel that they can’t be honest and authentic with people about themselves and their financial situation in case it changes the nature of the relationship.

Lack of purpose

Warren Buffet, the famous billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has said that he would leave his children “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”

Even if we don’t realise it, the need and desire for money serve as motivators for us to work and participate in the world. Many of us think that if we didn’t have to work, we would easily fill our time doing all the things we enjoy. But that’s not usually the case. Having a large amount of money is a burden because there is no motivation to do challenging things. Getting outside our comfort zone, by doing something hard, positively impacts our personal development.

Not having to work also leaves many people with too much time to overthink and dwell on things. This leads to high levels of anxiety and other mental health issues.

Easing the Burden

Overcoming the negative feelings associated with wealth takes time. It’s important to work on releasing the shame around having negative feelings about wealth in the first place. As a financial coach, many people would come to me thinking that they should feel grateful for receiving that money and don’t feel entitled to feel the way they do. And if you know me, you’ll know how much I dislike shoulds!

Uncovering your subconscious thoughts, understanding why you have them and processing them is the next step. Understanding your relationship with money is something that you can start exploring yourself, or with the help of a coach, counsellor or financial therapist. They are adept at seeing what you can’t see in yourself and helping you work through it.

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can provide you with amazing opportunities. Being able to leverage those opportunities requires learning more about yourself, getting out of your own way and intentionally building the life that you want.

*Yes, that absolutely was a nod to 90’s R&B/Hip-Hop 😉

Money is a Burden