Now, after 25 years and two debilitating bouts of clinical depression, Peter Grandich, author of Confessions of a Wall Street Whiz Kid, says Americans’ market-driven fixation on amassing a fortune is driving us crazy.
“The fight to keep up with the Joneses is leading to more people with intolerable levels of anxiety and stress, which contribute to serious mental health problems,” says Grandich, who runs Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management Co., a firm that specializes in offering professional athletes, celebrities and the general public estate planning from a Christian perspective.
A January Gallup poll found Americans at their highest money stress levels in 10 years, with 51 percent worried about maintaining their standard of living.
“Our whole culture now is built on the premise that we have to have more money and more stuff to feel happy and secure,” he says. “Public storage is the poster child for what’s wrong with America. We have too much stuff because we’ve bought into the myth fabricated by Wall Street and Madison Avenue, which rely on millions of people driven to make more money so they can profit from this insane quest.”
Grandich was one of those people, he says. He loved making money, making more, and spending it. By his mid-30s, he was a multi-millionaire suffering his first disabling panic attacks. Looking back, he says, part of the problem was a life out of balance.
“My priorities were, No. 1, me, my reputation and my ego, and then my wife and our daughter,” he says. “There was not much else.”
Everything rode on how he did in the market, and when that wavered, Grandich grew increasingly anxious. Within a year of his first panic attack, bouts of crippling anxiety and hopelessness rooted as a deep and pervasive depression. Twice, he came to the point of attempting suicide.
In 1995, Grandich left the professional money management and brokerage business, but it took him several more years to find his way back to enjoying his life. He wants to warn others caught up in the money chase, and to offer hope to the one in 10 Americans who suffer depression.
He offers this guidance from his own experience:
• Anybody who has suffered depression more than once is at risk to go through it again. Grandich says he learned he is genetically predisposed to clinical depression because of his family history. “Be prepared to understand that it will always be with you,” he says. “It’s medically driven due to chemical imbalances in the brain.”
• Get professional help. Without medical help you have no chance. “For me, it was talk therapy and pharmaceutical intervention to flip that chemical switch in my brain,” Grandich says. “You can’t just ‘snap out of it’ because you don’t think rationally.”
• It’s not a sign of weakness and nothing to be ashamed about. With men especially, the “macho thing” gets in the way of seeking help, Grandich notes. It’s not something that can be fixed with will power or that you can just snap out of; the brain is injured.
• Get seriously reacquainted with your Creator. Grandich grew up without religion and became a Catholic simply to marry his wife. He had no spiritual anchor and his relationship to God was “the occasional 9-1-1call.” He has found comfort in recognizing that there is “someone bigger than me” in control and in having rules that make sense for governing his life. When friends ask, “What if it turns out there really is no God and no afterlife?” he says, “It’s still a better way to live.”
Grandich says he’s grateful for the revelations he experienced, and that he found a way out of the painful darkness.
“I’m satisfied it happened for a reason, and not to use my experience to help others would be unfair,” he says. “The blessing for me is, I’ve been shown the mess I was. There are still a lot of people out there who don’t yet realize that, if money is their god, they’re headed for a lot of suffering.”
Peter Grandich became renowned in the financial industry when he predicted market crashes and rebounds in The Grandich Letter, a newsletter he created in 1984. It’s currently a blog featuring his commentary on the world’s economies and financial markets as well as social and political topics. Grandich is co-founder, with former New York Giants player Lee Rouson, of Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management Co., a firm that specializes in offering guidance from a Christian perspective to professional athletes and celebrities.