Berkeley Talks: How the super-rich really live

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Michael Mechanic is a senior editor of Mother Jones and author of the 2022 book Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live - and How Their Wealth Harms Us All. (Jackpot book cover; screenshot from Berkeley Journalism video)

In Berkeley Talks episode 144, Mother Jones senior editor Michael Mechanic joined Berkeley Journalism professor David Barstow on May 4, 2022, to discuss Mechanic’s new book Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live - and How Their Wealth Harms Us All.

During the conversation, Mechanic read a passage from Jackpot:

"Wealth-related social comparisons are particularly toxic as they bring about feelings of inadequacy,” read Mechanic. ’Most of the search for wealth is not about how good the stuff is. It’s about what the stuff says about how valuable of a person you are,’ says 41-year old Sam Polk, whose memoir, For the Love of Money, recalls his days as a hedge fund trader on Wall Street.

"His moment of revelation, which prompted him to change careers, came when the fund he worked for offered him a $3.6 million year-end bonus and he got angry. He felt he deserved $6- to $8 million. Polk was just seven years out of college. ’The guy who was giving me that bonus was literally taking home $400 million that year,’ he told me over appetizers at a Newport Beach restaurant. ’You live in this total myopic cocoon of other people that have this kind of money.’

"A psychologist, Bob Kenny, a founding partner of North Bridge Advisory Group in the Boston area, spends his days helping super-rich clients and their children grapple with their wealth anxieties. ’If anything,’ he says, ’affluent folks are at a small disadvantage when it comes to finding happiness, because Americans tend to think that more money would solve their problems. Wouldn’t it make things better if I had that house on the ocean, that mansion on the hill, if I just had something? Deep down, we believe that,’ Kenny says, but his clients don’t have this fallacy to cling to.”

Watch a video of the conversation on Berkeley Journalism’s YouTube page.

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