Book Review: Strangers in Paradise: How Families Adapt to Wealth Across Generations

Strangers in Paradise, written by psychologist and wealth advisor, James Grubman, is a captivating look at how families cope with wealth across generations. In his book, Grubman theorizes that, much like immigrants to a new country, families new to wealth need to learn to adapt to unfamiliar cultural norms and responsibilities in order to survive and thrive in their adoptive country – the “Land of Wealth.” Grubman aptly points out that “arriving in economic paradise is not the end-point envisioned by wealth’s Immigrants. It actually begins the real work of adjusting to a new culture in all its complexities. The stakes are high and the clock is ticking as newcomers start down their paths of adjustment.” As we so often see by the third or fourth generation, the fortune that was once enjoyed by the wealth creator and his/her inheritors is all but gone. Those that are most successful will be able to strike a healthy balance between retaining values from their middle-class or working class backgrounds while embracing the opportunities that prosperity has to offer. Grubman examines the reasons for success and failure through the lens of cross-cultural psychology in the eyes of three families who approach their attainment of wealth very differently.

The strength in this book is that it provides sound first-of-its-kind theories and also offers strategies for practical use. The importance of not just offering examples of what successful assimilation looks like, but a roadmap on how to begin to get there, cannot be understated. Strangers in Paradise provides an additional element of understanding the challenges that these families face and has become “required reading” for those I work with.

Whether you are new to wealth, an inheritor or an advisor working with families, Grubman’s writing is sure to resonate as his examples touch on every one of the experiences in the spectrum of adjustment to affluence.

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