Editor’s letter: Who’d want to be a billionaire?

Years ago, when editing another magazine, I met a young woman who had recently had a huge lottery win. Not millions, but a life-changing hundreds of thousands. It’s the dream, right? But she confessed, guiltily, that it had made her miserable. She knew it was a privilege. She knew that she never had to worry about paying a bill, or being sacked from a job, ever again. But that was the problem. The fact that there was no jeopardy of this kind any more, and that she had nothing to strive for, had left her feeling aimless. She had no holidays to aspire to, nor assets to own. She could go out any time and have anything she wanted. It left her struggling to find a real purpose in life.

Yes, for many people that is the cue to play the world’s tiniest violin. Not many tears would be shed in the current economic/pandemic crisis for those stressed out by their riches. But generally speaking, I must admit I am thankful that I’ve always had to work for things. I don’t know what would motivate you to get up in the morning otherwise. Years ago, I worked for a wealthy man who we all found desperately hard to please. I’m sure it was because, after years of striving to get where he was, once everything was in his reach, life had lost its ability to excite him any more.

I thought of this as I read Sadie Nicholas’s feature about the children of the super rich. It’s a feverish fantasy we all have now and then, to be part of that one per cent who take the private jet to Spain for the afternoon to watch their favourite football team. But I was so struck by the accounts of adults who work for these children. As one says, ‘If you can have anything at the click of a finger, there’s no thrill in saving up pocket money or having to wait until Christmas for a special gift.’ For almost all of us, that’s a basic life lesson – skill, actually – from which we derive our sense of self-worth. It’s one we all strive to instil in our own children. (The fact that I get a lecture from my teenage daughter any time I come home with a Zara shopping bag may indicate I’ve done too good a job there.)

Some of the world’s wealthiest see what a life-ruiner money can be – people like Bill Gates are withholding inheritance from their children. In many ways I think it’s a kindness. But, right now, if you wanted to whisk me off to a remote island on your superyacht to wait out this coronavirus misery, I might be tempted…

Editor’s picks

A few things I’m coveting this week

editor's letter parka
Weird April weather, I am so ready for you. Parka, £145, ilsejacobsen.com

editor's letter hamper

Brilliant for when we can’t gift our loved ones in person. Hamper, £27.95, prezzybox.com

editor's letter blouse

My husband will call me Dapper Dan, but I’m fine with that. Blouse, £150, lkbennett.com