Book Review: Strangers in Paradise by James Grubman

Strangers in ParadiseStrangers in Paradise: How Families Adapt to Wealth Across Generations (FamilyWealth Consulting, 2013) by James Grubman, Ph.D., was required reading for my Bentley University Graduate students. The class was the psychology of financial planning, and it was a course that I inherited from Dr. Grubman in 2009. At the time I took the teaching position, Jim said to me, “There really is no textbook written for this class.” I replied, “Write it!” And it looks like he took my advice.

Strangers in Paradise is a wonderful book that lets readers know how the journey from middle class to affluence can be a bumpy ride (click to tweet). In a world where “wealthism” prevails (prejudice against those with affluence), this book is an insightful look into Dr. Grubman’s decades of work with high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth families. The book is based on a theory that he developed along with Dennis Jaffe, Ph.D., in a paper they co-wrote in 2007. They draw a parallel between the experience of an immigrant acculturating from a foreign land and the experience of a wealth creator entering the land of wealth. The struggle between what is familiar and what is new and the questions about how to survive and thrive without losing one’s history and culture abound. The analogy is strong and the insights are many. Some affluent families avoid acculturation, others assimilate slowly and the healthiest families find a way to integrate and adapt to this new culture. Grubman calls this “adaptation” and offers tips and tools for helping your clients make their way through this often unrecognized but challenging time of transition.

If you are a wealth manager, estate attorney, wealth creator, family member or a family business consultant, this book is a must read. It will help you challenge your own assumptions about what it means to be wealthy and assist you in being a valuable resource to your high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients.

Strangers in Paradise is much more than a textbook. It is a long overdue, well-written addition to the field of wealth psychology and wealth management. I highly recommend you add it to your reading list this year, not because Jim is a professional friend, but because your clients need a safe place to talk about their journey.

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