Looking back on the last month in business news, there’s been a The recurring theme is: Billionaires behaving badly No need to No names. Let’s just say that anybody who regularly spends time chatting up the world on Twitter or invests in crypto was tossed into the upside-down in November.

It is the money that makes ultra-wealthy people act out, or would they behave in the same manner if they were regular people with normal-person cash? “Generally, the way that we think about personality is relatively stable. It fluctuates a bit over the lifetime but it doesn’t fluctuate a lot,” Sandra Matz, Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, says this:

Financial planner Natasha Knox’s high-earning clients have smaller fortunes hovering in the up-toRange from -$50 to -$50 millions Alaphia Financial Wellness believes that great wealth is not a prerequisite for success. a new personality. Instead, people just become More of them than they were before. “So if a person has a lot of fears around money … and is just deeply suspicious of everyone and everything, a sudden influx of wealth is going to magnify that,” says Knox.

Matz believes that one driver can change the personality of the group. a A major life-changing event, like suddenly acquiring millions of dollars. (We’ll get back to The billionaires of today a second.) Some people may find that this change can lead to them. to Seeking out new experiences, such as travel the world or seeing other cultures, can open you up to being more open-minded. You can do it for others. It’s possible. a It can have a devastating effect on the quality of social relationships when People “bug you for money all the time [and] suddenly the entire social structure changes,” Matz says. “You can imagine that it has an influence on your personality by you becoming more skeptical of people. Now, suddenly, it’s all about money.”

Knox states that Sudden wealth is often a surprise to people. “the problems that it doesn’t solve.” She also said that more money can mean more options, and that the paradox of choice could leave some people feeling stuck.

Matz’s current area of research focuses on tech entrepreneurs who manage to Their companies are successfully sold. The bad actors are not in question. Matz says that the successful actors are the most successful. “are low in neuroticism, so people [who] are relatively emotionally stable.” They also tend to to You should be more diligent.

The trouble with some billionaires may begin with Silicon Valley’s move-fast-and-break-things ethos which “leaves the door open to all of these entrepreneurs who are potentially a little bit sketchy,” says Matz. This is a world that moves fast “not necessarily filtering for the mindset that is guaranteeing long-term success.”

Many of the things Matz has learned align with Clay Cockrell’s clinical social worker and founder Walk and Talk Therapy. Cockrell specializes on the mental well-being and families of ultra-high net wealth individuals (including some living billionaires). When people make big money quickly, “I frequently see a great deal of fear. They realize they are out of their depth and don’t know what to do next.  Many times they’ve worked their entire lives for this event and now they are a bit lost.”

Some become Cockrell states that people may be paranoid about losing the money or losing contact with their friends. “it can be very awkward. There are some that overindulge, giving away large gifts, etc. until they realize how this complicates their relations and become aware of a new power dynamic.”  

Gradual wealth, he adds, doesn’t have the same intensity of emotion. “With gradual wealth, you get a chance to get used to it over time. With sudden wealth, they are thrust into a world they know nothing about—which can lead to isolation, depression, guilt, shame, etc.” 

But can that intense emotion translate into reality? to Are the super-wealthy taking greater risks, acting recklessly, or feeling untouchable? “People who acquire [money] in a very short amount of time, they may suddenly want to take risks, like doing some sort of angel investing or investing in a friend’s business in areas that they know absolutely nothing about,” says Knox. 

What does this mean for our billionaire bad actors? Ultimately, we probably can’t completely blame their behavior on their billions. But it’s probably not helping anything either.

Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter will examine how ESG news and trends are shaping the roles and responsibilities of today’s executives—and how they can best navigate those challenges. Subscribe here.