Richard Watts is a lawyer and advisor for the super wealthy. He has risen through the ranks in his profession and is now, also, pretty darn rich. In Fables of Fortune he sets out to provide the true stories of the super wealthy (those who have in excess of 100 million dollars – about how much you need to not spend all of your money in a lifetime) and how damaging wealth is to the fabric and joy of living. His premise is that no one would really want to be wealthy if they knew all that it entailed. Lazy kids, cheating spouses, empty friendships, greedy siblings, and shallow social lives have these folks living on the edge of despair. You name it and the wealthy are plagued with it. Their trials and tribulations are so great that we are better off without lots of money. (Alrighty then.) Needless to say he wasn’t very convincing.
It’s a very tall order to make anyone believe that they would be better off without the comforts and security of wealth, and the way Watts goes about it causes the book to be a bit of a hot mess. Most of Fables of Fortune is based on anecdotal musings and general observations like, the rich don’t have as good a time as regular people because they can’t cultivate real friendships since they can’t trust people, or their kids are spoiled because they have everything handed to them. That could be true, but it’s also human behavior that isn’t mutually exclusive to super wealthy families. Who hasn’t known someone whose parents worked really hard, didn’t make lots of money, AND had no good kids, an unfaithful spouse, or worthless “friends”? It happens.
The advice and cautionWatts dispenses is weakened by the simple fact that people have choices despite how much money they have, and character determines the choices you make and the life you lead. Though a few of the stories he related were of interest, I wasn’t convinced by the arguments or the oftentimes preachy moralizing Watts had to offer.