Instant wealth's allure often has hellish consequences

Gugu Sidaki | 31 January 2023

Gugu Sidaki is an independent financial planner and co-founder of the financial planning and wealth management practice Wealth Creed. She holds the Certified Financial Planner accreditation and is an author and financial literacy enthusiast.

The desire by many young people to have money and wealth and to have it yesterday already, is a scary phenomenon. Nobody seems to have patience and many expect to be millionaires in their 20s!

How did we get here?

Social media is definitely to blame. Young people regularly flaunt excessive wealth earned from dubious business ventures and vague job descriptions.

Unrealistic lifestyles

There are also many people on social media today who sell the idea that unrealistic lifestyles are easily achievable, but their purpose is to lure unsuspecting victims into scams. And they are very successful at it.

This is not to say that every young, successful person is dishonest or has acquired such wealth illegitimately. I have met a few exceptionally smart and successful young people who’ve made a considerable amount of money at a young age, so I know it is possible.

But these people are more the exception than the rule. Most of us will have to contend with the long, slow, tried-and-tested method of making money, as unpalatable as that may be.

If you do not accept this and are not discerning enough in your perception of others and their “wealth”, you will feel inadequate and consumed by a desire to have wealth that even most mature and hard-working individuals don’t make in their lifetimes.

Dangerous desires

Desiring instant wealth can be dangerous for several reasons:

  1. It can lead to poor financial decisions, as you may be tempted to take shortcuts or engage in risky or illegal activities to attain wealth. This invariably leads to financial, legal and many other undesirable consequences.
  1. It can create unrealistic expectations. I often meet young and ambitious people who want instant wealth. When we discuss financial planning and investing and the fact that it is a long-term game - in excess of 10 years - they are disappointed. It is unrealistic to expect you can make money quickly, and it will solve all of your problems overnight.

  2. It can distract from long-term goals. When your sole focus is making a quick buck – you tend to neglect other important aspects of your life, such as your relationships, health or career.

  3. It can lead to a lack of fulfilment. The reasons behind many people’s desire for instant wealth stems from competitiveness or envy. Being ambitious is okay, and wanting more or better for yourself should be encouraged, but not at any cost. Being dissatisfied with your life and having a continued and unchecked desire for more is destructive.

Change the game

What is the biggest game-changer in all of this? It starts with financial education. One of the most important lessons in financial education is understanding the concept of delayed gratification.

Sustainable financial gains take time. There is no other way around this, as very few people are fortunate enough to hit the jackpot overnight.

It is also important to remember that wealth does not guarantee happiness or success, and that hard work, perseverance, and a balanced, holistic approach to life are more likely to lead to long-term fulfilment and satisfaction.