This isn't Plato's "Leisure Class"

Wealth Manager is delighted to introduce a new blog, Managing the Risk, by Andrew McElwee, about the special risks faced by very wealthy clients.

Some quotes travel well across the centuries and into our Internet age. Take this gem attributed to Plato: "The wise man speaks because he has something to say; the fool because he must say something."

Were I to update those words for today's post-now, think-later digital times, I'd add this: Many younger people (and a few older ones) have been culturally conditioned to not only say something, but to include regrettable photos and videos, too, if that's what it takes to get some attention.

Interestingly, Plato also contended that creating more leisure time in a civil society was vital to mankind's pursuit of truth. In fact, he saw that lofty pursuit as a critical obligation of the leisure class of his day. Of course, these days the Web devours the leisure time of the tech-savvy, be they affluent or not, in ways that Plato could never have pondered.

In a recent USA Today article, "Real-time Web keeps social networkers connected," the newspaper reported Facebook users have GPAs of 3.0 to 3.5, and study one to five hours a week, while non-Facebook using students have GPAs of 3.5 to 4.0 and study 11 hours or more weekly. It also noted that the hyper-connectivity of the new-and-improved "real-time" Internet (think Twitter) has led younger, heavier users of social networking to be more reflexively reactive to e-stimuli than ever. That's fine when they're being mobilized for the greater good, but not so great when they're being stimulated to act impulsively and dishonorably.

The article also cited a nationwide survey that found 20% of teens admit to "sexting," emailing naked photos of themselves to "friends" by cell phone with blithe disregard to possible "forwarding" opportunities.

That the newly adult children of baby boomers might feel liberated to outdo the exhibitionistic exploits of parents who danced naked at Woodstock or streaked across campuses in the 1970s shouldn't surprise anyone. The important difference is that today's moments are virtually guaranteed to be instantly and irrevocably etched in the online annals of our pop culture.

Readers of my Wealth Manager article, "Majoring in Risk Reduction," on the risks wealthy college students face, already have some appreciation for the danger the young, wireless and well-to-do increasingly encounter. Still, on this subject, I'd argue our modern day philosophers--bloggers--should do more to sound a warning. The "Net Generation" needs to be constantly reminded that to whom much is given, much can be taken away, both financially and in terms of reputation. For those who came of age during the 1990s, that can be very difficult to accept after being subjected to a steady stream of reality TV programs in which participants gladly share all about themselves in exchange for nominal wealth and fleeting celebrity.

Wealth managers, too, can help protect their clients. The message to them and their children must be simple: Value your privacy and the privacy of those you love, and use discretion in revealing yourself to the wider online world. It is, as you might expect, a message that should be delivered in private, and with the utmost discretion.

Andrew McElwee, (amcelwee@chubb.com), EVP of Chubb & Son and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance, is a regular contributor to Wealth Manager.

Read more Managing the Risk articles and blog posts

Majoring in Risk Reduction September 14, 2009 Wealth managers who've readied clients financially for sending a child to college face an even harder task: Helping them prepare for the increased risks their kids will be shouldering away at school....
Drivers' Ed June 30, 2009 Exotic cars--sometimes called "super" cars--are rare and magnificent. They outperform ordinary cars in terms of styling, precision, power and price. ...
Playing It Safer May 19, 2009 Being "the one who dies with the most toys" isn't quite the measure of success it once was. One can give credit to these hard times for the healthy change. ...
The Emperor's New Swimsuit April 28, 2009 Amid today's receding economic waters, such indecent exposure isn't exclusive to those who risked wealth on supposedly can't-lose investment opportunities. ...
'My Fair Lady' of Means April 01, 2009 Wealth managers--the overwhelming majority of whom are male--still have much to learn about catering to the modern woman of means. ...
Wired for Trouble March 01, 2009 Technology that does more harm than good is a familiar sci-fi theme. For people who can afford the best, however, truth often proves scarier than fiction. ...
When Home is Where the Employees Are February 01, 2009 For most people, the twin challenges of managing professional and personal risk are separate and distinct. Clients who rely strongly on domestic help are not most people, however. ...
BEWARE THE DEVIL'S BARGAIN November 30, 2008 For clients of wealth managers, the souring economy is a mixed bag. On the upside, a credit crunch gives those with lots of ready cash greater buying power. That makes it easier to pick up bargains in...
Managing the Risk October 31, 2008 No one takes a trip expecting something bad to happen. But despite the best-laid plans for risk management, something often does. In fact, according to the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies survey ci...
RISK COUNSEL FOR THE WEALTHY WORLD TRAVELER: PART 1 September 30, 2008 Significant net worth provides much more than financial security. It enables the wealthy to leverage a world of exceptional experiences--from skiing in Chile to a Kenyan safari to yachting the Mediterr...
Protecting Passions August 31, 2008 Benjamin Franklin, one of America's first self-made men of wealth, once noted, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." That's good advice, though Ben would probably admit it's easier given...
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