Click on YouTube and the first video trending is “Million Dollar Home Tour.” The next recommended video is “My Multi-Country Vacation” followed by “Upgrading my Lambo (short for Lamborghini).” You’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of people flashing their wealth and the expensive items they have. Next thing you know, three hours have passed, and you catch yourself thinking about how nice it would be to afford the huge homes, nice cars, and expensive vacations. Could you be falling victim to wealth addiction?
In Dr. Bennett’s CSUCI Addiction Studies course, we learned that addiction is often characterized by three factors, compulsive use, loss of control, and continued use despite the presence of consequences. Typically, these result from drug addiction. However, they are also seen in the behavioral addictions of gambling and video gaming. If you compulsively seek get-rich-quick schemes, can’t stop watching online flex videos, and make rash decisions in your quest for wealth, you might be wealth addicted!
Wealth addiction or money addiction is a fairly old concept that is currently being fueled by new social media trends. Philip Slater’s 1983 book, “Wealth Addiction” illustrated how Americans are addicted to money. Thirty-six years later, more and more people seem wealth addicted than ever before.
In his 1999 research, economist Romesh Diwan compared wealth to the general quality of life. He discovered that the overconsumption of materialistic items promotes wealth addiction. Diwan said that people believe that if they buy the material item they’ve been longing for, they’d be happy. However, his research demonstrated that purchasing those items did not actually fulfill the need and want, leaving the consumer anxious and dissatisfied. For young kids, online content that could contribute to wealth addiction could be detrimental to their development. Make sure you block, filter, and track online behavior using the tools offered in our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit. We did hundreds of hours of research for you for a ridiculously low price. By managing what your kids see, you could be avoiding emotional issues that will be problematic later.
Many YouTube stars flaunt their wealth and material possessions in their videos. For example, YouTuber Jake Paul has 19.6 million subscribers on his channel. As of 2018, his net worth was nearly $19 million. Paul shows off how much money he has by posting videos such as, “I Spent $1 Million Dollars On This Vacation” where he documented an expensive vacation with his brother and friends. In another video called, “I Spent $100,000 in 56 Minutes,” Paul created a competition where he and five of his friends had to spend $10,000 cash in less than an hour.
Jeffree Star is another popular YouTuber who shows off how much money he has. With 15.9 million subscribers as of 2018, Star’s net worth is almost $75 million. Star also posts videos that flaunt his wealth such as, “My Pink VAULT Closet Tour,” where he gave a tour of his dream closet in his home that is full of designer clothes. In another video titled, “Surprising my Boyfriend with His Dream Car,” Star bought his boyfriend an Aston Martin Vantage worth roughly $150,000.
The Benefits of Wealth Addiction
Not all aspects of longing for wealth are negative. For instance, if a watcher is encouraged to pursue higher education to get into a higher-paying career, one might argue that the dream is worthwhile.
Another positive aspect of wealth addiction is sparking the desire to give back with philanthropic gestures. Despite his obscene displays of wealth, Jeffree Star donates money to several charities including victims of gun violence and LGBTQ organizations.
The Risks of Wealth Addiction
Teaching kids that wealth is the highest priority may lead them to seek wealth from opportunistic marketers. For instance, several years ago in Camarillo, a get-rich-quick scheme was introduced to popular high school and college students causing a rash of school dropouts. The product called Vemma Nutrition promised riches in exchange for selling their energy drinks and protein shakes. To get in on the action, the seller had to purchase the products themselves in order to sell.
Another risk is kids seeking wealth in the place of healthier activities like academics, sports, and socializing. After binge-watching videos, they may get duped into believing that money will solve all their problems and make them happy. Of course, this may not be true, instead luring them into false hope with pressure to show off wealth instead of saving or investing in their future.
For some, the first goal of earning is never enough. They chase wealth in a quest to find true happiness. That could translate into depression and anxiety. Addiction studies tell us that living to chase a high is a dead-end scenario. If wealth is the goal, will you ever reach it?
For tips and tricks to avoid your kids missing out on other critical life lessons, check out our GKIS Connected Family Course. In ten self-paced, easy steps, screen safety parenting expert Dr. Tracy Bennett offers strategies to set up a fun family dialogue, organize a starter plan for healthier screen use, and empower your kids to be more educated and equipped consumers. Plus, the course helps you be smarter about screen time and more fun overall!
Thank you to GKIS intern, Makenzie Stancliff for alerting us about the risks of wealth addiction. If you learned something about this article, please join us on our DrTracyBennett Instagram page so you won’t miss out on other fun GKIS opportunities.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
Works Cited Peele, S. (2015, February 8). Addicted to Wealth – A National Trait? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/addiction-in-society/201402/addicted-wealth-national-trait  Diwan, Romesh. (2000). Relational wealth and the quality of life. Journal of Socio-Economics, 29(4), 305. https://doi-org.summit.csuci.edu/10.1016/S1053-5357(00)00073-1  JakePaulProductions. (n.d.). Jake Paul. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcgVECVN4OKV6DH1jLkqmcA  Chakrabarti, R. (2019, September 15). The Highest-Paid Stars on YouTube. Retrieved from https://moneywise.com/a/the-highest-paid-youtube-stars  jeffreestar. (n.d.). jeffreestar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkvK_5omS-42Ovgah8KRKtg  Diply. (2018, October 24). 15 Facts About Controversial YouTuber Jeffree Star. Retrieved from https://diply.com/11366/15-facts-about-controversial-youtuber-jeffree-star  Press, T. A. (2015, August 26). FTC: Vemma temporarily shut down for running pyramid scheme. Retrieved from https://www.ksl.com/article/36179492/ftc-vemma-temporarily-shut-down-for-running-pyramid-scheme.
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