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What's It Like To Be Rich? Ask The People Who Manage Billionaires' Money

Sociologist Brooke Harrington says "the lives of the richest people in the world are so different from those of the rest of us, it's almost literally unimaginable."
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Sociologist Brooke Harrington says "the lives of the richest people in the world are so different from those of the rest of us, it's almost literally unimaginable."

What are the lives of the planet's wealthiest people really like?

Several years ago, sociologist Brooke Harrington decided to find out.

She knew she'd have a hard time gaining access to the world of the über wealthy, so she did something unusual: She took courses to become a wealth manager.

In the course of this training, Harrington met other wealth managers, who agreed to be interviewed for her research.

She discovered that, in order to manage money for the super-rich, these professionals learn a lot about the private lives of their clients.

What they shared, Harrington says, shocked her.

"The lives of the richest people in the world are so different from those of the rest of us, it's almost literally unimaginable. National borders are nothing to them. They might as well not exist. The laws are nothing to them. They might as well not exist."

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Rhaina Cohen, Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, Renee Klahr, and Matthew Schwartz. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.
Parth Shah is a producer and reporter in the Programming department at NPR. He came to NPR in 2016 as a Kroc Fellow.