by Rainer Zitelmann

Verdict: THE WEALTH ELITE is intended for those interested in current research into what motivates people to be wealthy, but it includes some interesting insights and interviews about the DNA of the super-rich.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald was said to have remarked to Ernest Hemingway that, “The rich are different from you and me.”  To which Hemingway supposedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.” Whether this dialogue ever actually took place is questionable, but what is certain is that the rich are indeed different from the middle-class. The rich seem to worry about only one thing: how to make more money.

These are some of the conclusions of Rainer Zitelmann’s book, THE WEALTH ELITE: A GROUNDBREAKING STUDY OF THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE SUPER RICH. This German sociologist has produced as 300-page plus study of what motivates, concerns, and worries the super-rich. He has interviewed 45 “wealthy people” who he says have accumulated “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Some, Zitelmann says, are worth millions and others are billionaires.  He notes that the interviews each lasted between one and two hours. The transcripts, he writes, fill 1,740 pages, and interviewees agreed to take a personality test.

Zitelmann’s book is divided into two parts. Part A is largely a review of research conducted into what makes one pursue wealth, and is intended “for those who are curious to find out more about current scholarly discussions.” Part B are the transcripts of the interviews. Zitelmann’s “average” super-rich person was a male, between 70 to 79 years old, was a self-made entrepreneur, and worked in the real-estate industry. Interesting, was Zitelmann’s conclusion that “many rich people” are “often markedly confrontational and not very agreeable.” As “evidence” of this, he points to the biographies of such financial luminaries as Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, David Ogilvy, George Soros and Ray Kroc. These and other super wealthy, Zitelmann notes, are likely to be “misfits” as young people, rebellious, and the types who could never work for anyone, and who repel those who work for them.

Zitelmann has certainly done his research carefully and has produced a useful work in a field not generally studied. But none of his subjects are ever named. The reader has no idea of what each of his subjects looked or even sounded like. They may not have agreed to talk with him for the record, but there are always some out there who will. THE WEALTH ELITE is not for the faint of heart. It can be dry and is oriented to academics. But for those who want to know what characteristics make up the DNA of a super-rich person, it is here.

~James Bernstein for IndieReader

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