“If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.”

— Lefty Frizzell (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and many others)



The Wall Street Journal report recently did a story about the “Rich Kid Syndrome.” It discussed how the children of wealthy people have unique problems and issues.

The biggest concern for rich children is to avoid those people who have a “You’ve got the money, I’ve got the time” attitude. I deal with a lot of suddenly rich people. They get the money from injury settlements, lotteries or inheritance.

Too often, they inherit what professional athlete watchers call a “posse.” A posse is a group of hangers-on who want the rich person’s money for themselves. The posse is usually made up of people who knew the suddenly wealthy person before they had money.

Rich kids and suddenly wealthy can develop entourages larger than heavyweight boxers. Both often wind up with the same results — no money and no friends.

Ex-boxers can find employment as casino greeters. Rich kids don’t have that going for them. Wealthy children should be taught that there’s a segment of society that hates all rich people.

As Wilt Chamberlain said, “No one ever rooted for Goliath.”

Rich kids can make it easy for people to hate them. If they flash their money around, demand special treatment and lord over the little people, everyone will hate them.

Advice to rich kids: People were already going to resent you, even if you acted mature. Being a jerk will guarantee their disdain. They will root for bad things to happen to you. They will just never say it to your face.

Rich children have a dilemma. Many befriend only those of a similar economic class and get isolated from the real world.

While I was in graduate school at Vanderbilt, one of my wealthy classmates wrote an essay in which he argued that the concept of rich people spending time with the poor was pointless.

Although it was written tongue-in-cheek, he said that once wealthy children join the adult world, they will never encounter any poor people unless those people are working for them or serving them.

He had a cruel, but valid point.

Most financial studies show that people socialize with those within 15 percent of their income class.

It makes sense when you think about it. If one friend wants to fly to Madrid for dinner, and the other only has money for McDonald’s, they’re going to wind up at McDonald’s or the rich friend is going to have to pay the other’s way.

In recent times, technology has made it easier for people of all classes to befriend others with a similar intellect and education.

Still, money is a big factor in deciding who socializes with whom.

My dad was a great role model for how to be a friend to the rich.

He had some money, but not great wealth. His closest friends were very wealthy. One bought him a jacket that said “professional guest” on the back. He wore it proudly.

Although dad’s friends teased him, he was a great friend for rich people to have. He was not out to take advantage of them. He was not involved in their business dealings and was the first to grab the check in a restaurant.

It was a good thing for dad, too. He sincerely enjoyed their company.

My father’s wealthy friends opened up their worlds to him. They had traveled everywhere and exposed him to ideas and cultures that he would have never known about.

They showed him where to buy clothes, what restaurants to choose and which fork to use.

Many rich kids grow up with their guard up. They need to find true friends who do not want anything from them.

Like my dad, I have friends who are much wealthier than I am. They are often isolated, and I give them a different perspective.

They share their life experiences and stories of their travels and interests. I always pick up the check when we dine.

They’ve got the money, but all I want is the time.

Don McNay is the author of “The Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher.” His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service. You can write to him at don@donmcnay.com or read other things he has written at www.donmcnay.com. He is on the board of directors of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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