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The downsides of being rich

(Thinkstock)

(Thinkstock)

Unless you were born rich, at some point in your life you’ve probably dreamed about becoming wealthy.

You know, ridiculous wealth, winning-the-lottery kind of money, with visions of lifestyles of the rich and famous, mansions with manicured lawns and massive swimming pools, personal islands, expensive sports cars, private jets and, well, loads of extra money just to do whatever you’d like whenever you’d like to.

What happens to those lucky few people for whom dream becomes a reality? We turned to question-and-answer-site Quora for some advice on whether getting rich is worth it.

True colours

New money brings change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Carol Philo watched her poverty-stricken parents become millionaires when a printing company they owned and ran out of the family’s spare bedroom took off. With the profit, came an obsession for more and more.

“My mom became addicted to the money….Nothing was ever enough,” Philo said, and over the years, family relations eventually dissolved. “Having seen the entire gauntlet, I would say that getting comfortable is worth it. Getting rich is not.”

Murat Morrison couldn’t agree more. He made a mint when he sold his trucking company in the late 1990s. One thing he learned will stay with him forever, he said. “Money buys comfort,” Morrison said. “Comfort is not happiness or satisfaction. I felt as empty as a drum for the next few years. While it is good to be comfortable it is more satisfying to be happy.”

Wealth also tends to bring out people’s true colours, added Paul Buchheit. “In general, it makes people more of whatever they already were,” he said. “If you're an a------, getting more money will probably make you more of an a------. However, if you have purpose and meaning in your life that goes beyond chasing the golden carrot, money can give you the freedom to focus on the things that truly matter to you.”

For Stu Sjouwerman, that purpose was continuing to work. “I worked hard for 15 years and sold my software company. Walked out with an eight-figure number, and was retired for a… whopping five days. You need to have a GAME TO PLAY,” he wrote. “I started my new company immediately and felt a whole lot happier.”

Living with the downsides

The downsides of being rich can outweigh the benefits. “The first thing you are thinking reading that, is, ‘cry me a river.’ You are not allowed to complain about anything, ever,” when you’re wealthy, wrote one anonymous respondent. “Since most people imagine being rich as nirvana, you are no longer allowed to have any human needs or frustrations in the public eye. Yet, you are still a human being, but most people don't treat you like one.”

Other downsides stretch to new parameters with friends and family. “Most people now want something out of you, and it can be harder to figure out whether someone is being nice to you because they like you, or they are being nice to you because of your money,” the anonymous respondent continued.  “If you aren't married yet, good luck trying to figure out (and/or always having self-doubt) about whether a partner is into you or your money.”

Still, money brings perks

Despite the downsides, there are benefits to having more money, most respondents said.

“Being rich is better than not being rich, but it's not nearly as good as you imagine it is,” said the anonymous respondent, who reported having $15m after selling a tech start up. “First, one of the only real things being rich gives you is that you don't have to worry about money as much anymore. There will still be some expenses that you cannot afford (and you will wish you could), but most expenses can be made without thinking about what it costs. This is definitely better, without a doubt.”

And Christopher Angus, who said he made his money on the sale of four small start-ups, said “I’d rather have money than not, as the last seven years as someone with money have allowed me freedoms and experiences that many people won't see and do in their lifetimes. For example, one year I took 25 vacations and at other times I’d spend $20,000 on a Saturday night out.”

Higher expectations

With the added wealth also comes reset expectations. “Everything is relative…The first month you drive the Audi, or eat in a fancy restaurant, you really enjoy it,” the anonymous respondent also wrote. “But then you sort of get used to it. And then you are looking towards the next thing, the next level up. And the problem is that you have reset your expectations, and everything below that level doesn't get you quite as excited anymore.”

Angus, who said he has had more money than he’s known what to do with since his mid-20s, said boredom quickly ensued. “I found that having enough money [where] nearly any material object or status symbol is attainable has removed the excitement and desire for things I always wanted but couldn't afford before I became successful. One Porsche and everything else wasn't nearly enough and over the next three years I bought another five Porsches as well as other Supercars,” Angus said. “I became addicted to buying these symbols to attract attention and get people to want to spend time with me because of what I had and what I could give them.”

A sense of isolation

Another self-made individual, worth more than $20m, said wealth has been a real burden. “I made it big in my mid-30s,” the anonymous tech entrepreneur wrote. “I wanted to get rich and I did it. But I actually feel maybe it's not worth it. A slower path to wealth might be a lot healthier to my career and to my life in general.”

The catch? “It's impossible to give up the money,” the tech entrepreneur wrote. “Being wealthy is probably not worth it. But once you get there, you want to stay there forever.”

Would you want to be rich? Share your thoughts and experiences on BBC Capital's Facebook page or message us on Twitter @BBC_Capital

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.

Being rich is better than not being rich, but it's not nearly as good as you imagine it is.