Another gem of an article in this past month’s Atlantic, “The Secret Fears of the Super Rich” by Graeme Wood, which delves into the results of remarkable, soon-to-be published survey of the very rich (aka, folks with a net worth of more than $25 million) from Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. Needless to say, it contains a veritable treasure trove of sermon fodder, including a wealth of insights about the human condition. The whole thing is worth reading, but since we know your time is precious, here endeth the puns, ht RJH:

Most of [the very rich] still do not consider themselves financially secure; for that, they say, they would require on average one-quarter more wealth than they currently possess. (Remember: this is a population with assets in the tens of millions of dollars and above.) One respondent, the heir to an enormous fortune, says that what matters most to him is his Christianity, and that his greatest aspiration is “to love the Lord, my family, and my friends.” He also reports that he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion in the bank.

Taken together, the survey responses make a compelling case that being fantastically wealthy—especially when the wealth is inherited rather than earned—is not a great deal more fulfilling than being merely prosperous. Among other woes, the survey respondents report feeling that they have lost the right to complain about anything, for fear of sounding—or being—ungrateful…

Early in his academic career, [Center director and Boston College Sociologist Paul] Schervish was a committed Democratic Socialist. But around 1990, he began interviewing wealthy people and decided that his Marxist instinct to criticize the rich was misguided. “I realized good and evil are equally distributed across the economic spectrum and not particular to the wealthy or the poor,” he says…

[Schervish says,] “I never forgot the concerns that I learned as a Jesuit. But I got rid of the absolute certainties that I had about how to achieve them,” Schervish says, adding, “Trump not, lest you be trumped.” The rich, he points out, could easily ask him why he is teaching sociology instead of donning sackcloth, selling his possessions, and giving everything to the poor. “I found that there is no telling people what needs need attending to, because needs are infinite. And they’d be better off channeling their work through inspiration, rather than dictation by others.”…

In 2001, a call from a colleague brought [survey architect and wealth consultant Bob Kenny] to an organization called More Than Money, which a group of inheritors had convened to help them deal with psychological issues related to wealth. He found that the rich—especially the inheritors of vast fortunes—have unique sets of worries, and face the added difficulty of knowing that many despise or envy them. “Often the word rich becomes a pejorative,” Kenny says. “It rhymes with bitch. I’ve been in rooms and seen people stand up and say, ‘I’m Bob Kenny, and I’m rich.’ And then they burst into tears.”…

“Sometimes I think that the only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are the very wealthy,” Kenny says. “They worry about losing it, they worry about how it’s invested, they worry about the effect it’s going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger.”

Career advancement is the standard yardstick by which most people measure success, and without that yardstick, it’s not easy to assess whether one’s time is well spent. “Financial freedom can produce anxiety and hesitancy,” writes one respondent to the Boston College survey. “In my own life, I have been intimidated about my abilities because I inherited money.”At its core, the survey underlines the fact that money may ease some worries, but others always remain. “Nobody has the excuse of ‘lack of money’ for not being at peace and living in integrity,” writes one survey respondent of his family, with a touch of bitterness. “If they choose to live otherwise, that’s their business.”

If anything, the rich stare into the abyss a bit more starkly than the rest of us. We can always indulge in the thought that a little more money would make our lives happier—and in many cases it’s true. But the truly wealthy know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated.