Click below to listen to Episode 48 – Sudden Wealth Syndrome

Sudden Wealth Syndrome

Learn the steps that you should take if you suddenly come into an abundance of wealth.

This episode is perfect for anyone that has recently, or soon will, come into a large amount of wealth. The phenomenon of suddenly coming into wealth is called – you guessed it – Sudden Wealth Syndrome. Bob and Mary Jo discuss four psychological dangers and four solutions for Sudden Wealth Syndrome, as well as nine common ways sudden wealth is obtained. This includes oil and gas discovery, an inheritance, winning the lottery, a personal injury lawsuit, and even being signed by a sports team.

Sudden Wealth Syndrome is described by Investopedia* as:

A distress that afflicts individuals who suddenly come into large sums of money. Becoming suddenly wealthy can cause one to become stressed and make decisions they might not have otherwise made. Sudden wealth syndrome symptoms can include feeling isolated from former friends, feeling guilty over their good fortune, or an extreme fear of losing all their money.


HOSTED BY: Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA® and Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®

Mentioned In This Episode

Christian Financial Advisors
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Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA®
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Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®
Investopedia – Sudden Wealth Syndrome
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Welcome to Christian Financial Perspectives, a weekly program where we talk about ways to integrate your faith with your finances. This is Bob Barber.

This is Mary Jo Lyons.

Are you ready to learn the truth about money from a biblical perspective?

Join us as we discuss what God’s Word says about money and integrating your faith with your finances… If it’s your first time listening, welcome to the program. If you’re a returning listener, welcome back.


Bob: Sudden wealth. It can be a blessing or curse. As Psalms 49:20 tells us people who have wealth but lack understanding or like beasts that perish.

Mary Jo: In Ecclesiastes chapter five verses 12 through 14 – “The sleep of a laborer are sweet. Whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun. Wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner or wealth lost through some misfortune so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit.” If you or anyone you know has suddenly come into a large amount of wealth, or soon will, then you will want to listen to today’s podcast. It’s about a phenomenon called sudden wealth syndrome.

Bob: First, let’s go into nine ways that we’ve seen sudden wealth obtained. The first one I have written down here was such a big one four or five years ago, and that was an oil and gas discovery on your land. And what we’re going to be sharing in today’s podcast is a lot of the workshops that I did with those down in like Cuero, which is about 45 minutes south of the New Braunfels, Austin, and San Antonio Corridor, and that was called the Eagle Ford Shale for those of you that are listening that may be not familiar with that. Well, four or five years ago there was this huge discovery people went from being poor to extremely wealthy overnight. So, a lot of what we’re going to share with you today is about that type of wealth that can come on quickly through an oil and gas discovery.

Mary Jo: That was such a big thing for this area in our neck of the woods. We should all be so lucky, but it was a blessing and a boom time. But then it also was a crash and not so good at times. So, there is a lot tied up in that, and it’s very real for us in central and south Texas

Bob: Hitting the oil and gas was like winning a lottery. And you know that’s another way that sudden wealth is obtained. One of the most common ways sudden wealth is obtained is from a large inheritance from a wealthy relative. We see this a lot, don’t we? Boy, it can be spent so fast. Another way is a large lump sum benefit at retirement. Maybe you knew that was coming, but we call that sudden wealth because it’s suddenly the sell of a valuable piece of real estate, a personal injury lawsuit, taking a company public, company stock options. Then, we have those that are very blessed physically. The Lord just blessed them and they’re good athletes and that’s a sports contract with a professional team. Boy, they just come into all this sudden money that they just don’t know how to handle it. And again, we call that sudden wealth syndrome.

Mary Jo: You know Bob, Investopedia defines this phenomenon called sudden wealth syndrome as a distress that afflicts individuals who suddenly come into large sums of money. Becoming suddenly wealthy can cause one to become stressed and make decisions they might not have otherwise made. Sudden wealth syndrome symptoms can include feeling isolated from former friends feeling guilty over the good fortune of an extreme for and extreme fear of losing all their money.

Bob: So, there’s four psychological traits that we’re going to go through for sudden wealth syndrome also referred to as SWS, and we’re going to break that down into detail. The first psychological trait, it makes you different. That’s because all of a sudden now you can drive nicer cars if you want to. You can live in a larger home in a nicer area and even possibly buy a second vacation home. You can buy different clothes and accessories. You can even fly first class to far away places like Hawaii and Europe and anywhere else you may desire. You can eat at nicer restaurants and even buy food that’s better for you, such as organic, non GMO at places like Whole Foods that can be very expensive but it’s healthy. You can buy the latest iPhones and computers, technology and other electronics and get the best medical care for you and your loved ones that before this you couldn’t do.

Mary Jo: You know, Bob, all of these are nice things and it’s a great blessing to have, but I want to go back to the different clothes and accessories. You forgot shoes. We could buy more shoes. Second, sudden wealth can also cause isolation. Your old friends can’t go everywhere you can now. Your old friends can’t afford to stay at the hotels you can like a Ritz Carlton, a JW Marriott, the Four Seasons, or a Grand Hyatt. They can’t afford season tickets to professional sports teams on the floor at the 50 yard line or in a suite and they can’t drive luxury automobiles like Mercedes, Lexus, Land Rovers, BMWs, and of course that King Ranch edition, big truck that you’ve got sitting outside like so many of our neighbors do. They can’t afford these things and they’re uncomfortable when you offer to pick up the tab, so the dynamics can change in those relationships, and it can create a feeling of isolation.

Bob: Third sudden wealth syndrome can create a dangerous mindset. We’ve seen this a lot. I’m now smarter than everyone else because of my new found wealth, and I no longer need to listen to the advice of others. Boy, we’ve seen that one online. I can buy whatever I want whenever I want it without regards to any budget. I can manage it better than others now that I’m wealthy. No one tell me I can’t have it when I can pay for it now, and I can afford it all because I have plenty, for now at least, and I’ll never run out. So, how many times have you heard about that professional athlete who signs a big contract and then is broke in a few short years. They end up with an injury and can’t play any longer or they end up having to support family members and/or they end up supporting lots of other folks that just kind of come out of the woodwork wanting some money.

Mary Jo: So Fourth. Sudden Wealth Syndrome, it can create stress and anxiety and lack of sleep over things like the sudden reality of the income taxes at this high income tax bracket you’re suddenly in because you always heard that wealthy, they don’t pay their fair share from all the liberal politicians out there. You’re also impacted with capital gains taxes. There are increased expenses on living wealthy, increased maintenance cost on larger homes, luxury automobiles, et cetera. Not only are they more expensive, but they cost more to maintain. You’ve also got the envy of others and demanding that you share it. Also, there’s a liability, exposure and legal expenses that come with that. You’ll need your own attorney on call due to a larger footprint and extravagant lifestyle and some of the high risk activities that you may now be participating in. And not to mention every other attorney just waiting to sue you over something, so they’re all waiting in line out there. You’ve got investment volatility that you need to be suddenly concerned about. You’ve got pent up material once of things you’ve always wanted. Those childhood dreams that you have. It kind of reminds me of a certain celebrity stardom, who was that name and that ranch – Neverland. Does that ring a bell? The need to have more and more. There’s lack of contentment and self worth. There’s also a fear of losing it all, becoming lonely and depressed that it can provide real joy like you thought it could and a lack of significance.

Bob: So Mary Jo, I don’t know if I want to be suddenly wealthy now after hearing all this.

Mary Jo: I know. It might be a dark space.

Bob: Okay, so we’ve talked about some of these issues, but we do want to share with you solutions. So we’ve talked about four major issues. So let’s get into some solutions and healing with sudden wealth syndrome. And the first solution is what we define as what the purpose of wealth truly is. Because remember that money is basically only spent on four things. And you’ve heard us talk about this many times on the podcast living, giving, what you owe, which is debt and taxes and you’re always going to owe taxes, and growing some for the future. So, when you think about the purpose of wealth categorize it. Categorize your wants versus your needs, and it’s really only going to be spent on clothing, shelter, health, and medical needs, education, create a well thought out giving strategy for those that you want to help. How can that wealth that God’s blessed you with glorify him? Really, the bottom line to this first part is don’t think selfishly, don’t think just about yourself when it comes to what the purpose of this wealth is.

Mary Jo: The second solution is to seek counsel. Seek counsel from others who’ve been in your situation for many years, and they’ve learned from their mistakes. Seek counsel from those who’ve gained wealth entirely on their own over many years and have learned how to handle it well. You also want to seek counsel from a fee only, fiduciary based, financial planner that aligns with your values and the virtues of an overseer that we have found in the first book of Timothy Chapter three. From Solomon’s writings in the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes found in the old testament who was the wealthiest man to ever live on this earth. And lastly, do not seek counsel from friends, family, and others who have not obtained wealth on their own or come about it suddenly. That’s the last place you want to go for wisdom.

Bob: Yeah, Mary Jo, I remember when we did our third podcast about how to find that fee only planner, and we went over all those virtues in 1 Timothy 3. That was a good while ago. We’re coming up on a year now. So, the third solution when it comes to sudden wealth strategies and sudden wealth syndrome is establish written financial goals. You know the book of Deuteronomy sixth chapter in the ninth verse. It talks about this, writing things down like scriptures on your door frames of your homes and your gates, and write them on a tablet and scribe them on a scroll. Write them in your heart. So important. Write things down and look at those financial goals and cultivate a longterm perspective for making all those financial decisions, not a short term one. You need to determine how much is enough. What do I really need to support a reasonable lifestyle for the rest of my life with this sudden wealth that the Lord has blessed you with?

Mary Jo: Do you want to leave a legacy? You want to develop a plan to establish this. What impact do you want to have on the next generation? You also want to develop a giving strategy. We mentioned that a little earlier. In 2 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver.” You also want to diversify using biblical principles. In Ecclesiastes chapter 11 verse 2 it reads, but divide your investments among many places for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. Stay consistent and be wise without getting caught up in making monetary gains quickly.” You also want to avoid risky investments if you’re not willing to lose it all.

Bob: And for all means in this stage, why would you need to borrow money? So, avoid using leverage and borrowing money to invest. Proverbs 22:27 speaks of this. “If you lack the means to pay, you’re very bad could be snatched out from under you.” So if you overextend yourself, there’s just really no reason to do that, but that’s what could happen. Monitor all your anxiety and emotions. Establish limits on the amount you’re going to invest, and pray about it. Share and discuss all your financial decisions with your spouse, and if you’re not married, with a close brother or sister in the Lord that can help you. Well, you know we like to use scripture and we’ll refer to this one. for that – Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Mary Jo: You know, Bob, I think that is just one of my all time favorite scriptures. Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything. And that is so true in this situation and with this very important topic. And the last solution is understanding the different perspectives of wealth, and one perspective in particular is a secular worldview. And in a secular worldview, you think about it, it’s all about me getting rich quickly, thinking short term. It’s all about spending and consuming. Time is the enemy. You begin to think about things like day trading and gambling in the markets, and it’s so easy, anyone can do it. That’s not the case, however.

Bob: And the other perspective though is a biblical worldview, and that’s preserving and growing wealth little by little. Like Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Another worldview is thinking longterm about wealth. I love the scripture from Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it.” That’s thinking long term. And saving and investing from a biblical worldview too, which is investing in good companies while avoiding the bad and looking at values based investing and doing that in a wise way.

Mary Jo: You know, time is my friend and a tool so we want to remember that. In Proverbs chapter 6:6-8, “Go to the ant you sluggard. Consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Diversification is wise. In Ecclesiastes 11:2 it tells us, “Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do know what disaster may come upon the land.” And especially seeking experience counsel, so much biblical wisdom here. In Proverbs Chapter 15 :22 we learn, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” You’ve heard us repeat that scripture many times on our podcast, but it’s so true in this situation.

Bob: So there you have it. We’ve gone over 4 psychological traits of sudden wealth syndrome and 4 solutions. You know, Mary Jo and I, we’ve seen it all when it comes to sudden wealth, and we want to guide you and coach you through all these maze of questions if you or anyone you know is coming into a large amount of money. The main thing in hearing all of this is realizing that it can all be gone in the blink of an eye and not to make any quick spending decisions until you seek professional counsel from a well qualified financial advisor that’s going to put your interests first. We recommend using the services of a fiduciary, fee based advisor that gets paid by you, not an annuity firm or a brokerage house in the form of a commission. Again, that can create a huge conflict of interest. If you have any questions, feel free to call one of us at (830) 609-6986 or visit our website at


You’re listening to Christian Financial Perspectives. Join us next week as we explore what God’s word says about money. Don’t forget, you can sign up for our free newsletter on or give us a call at 877-71-TRUTH. That’s 877-718-7884. To make sure that you don’t miss any of our podcasts regarding the truth about money, make sure to subscribe to Christian Financial Perspectives at for free. If there are any specific topics you would like to hear more about, we would love to hear from you.

That’s all for now, until next week!


Comments from today’s show are for informational purposes only and not to be considered investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any company that may have been mentioned or discussed. The opinions expressed are solely those of the hosts, Bob Barber and Mary Jo Lyons. Bob and Mary Jo do not provide tax advice and encourage you to seek guidance from a tax professional. Investment advisory services offered through Christian Investment Advisors Inc. DBA Christian Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor.