The Financial Downfall of a Narcissist

[Tom: This is a guest post from a reader that wished to remain anonymous.  He/She said that this story made a great impact is his/her life and wanted to share the difficulty one family faced with this personality disorder. The story is a hard one, but also very important. I see the signs of this personality and behavior frequently in my own career field. It usually isn’t as destructive as this story but narcissism does cause plenty of problems.]


Steven grew up in the 1960’s. He was a good looking guy. He made great grades, especially in mathematics, and had big ideas after graduating high school.

After graduating, he went on to the local university for a couple years but he didn’t like what the professors were selling, plus he was smarter than all of them anyway. He could easily pass his classes if he would stop smoking weed and drinking long enough to attend.

He had a decent job at a local electronics company while going to college. You have to remember you still got your televisions and radios fixed back then. The job wasn’t in an industry that he wanted to work in for the rest of his life. He could have done quite well if he studied electrical engineering or some other facet of the industry but it wasn’t for him.

He was a couple years older than the pretty blond he was dating (who just so happened to be the bosses daughter) and after she graduated high school, he convinced her to run away with him.

Steven could charm just about anyone, at least at first. It also helped if he was sober but he could still do pretty well even if he wasn’t. Seeing sales as a great way to express his gift of gab, he went on to find success in television advertisement sales. The late 1960’s was a time that advertisers really honed their skills. Television emerged as the news media of choice and ad wizards created new and innovative ways to sell soft drinks and automobiles over the airwaves.

Steven was doing quite well. His commissions were always increasing but he soon grew tired of his boss’s advice. He saw potential and intelligence but he knew better than his boss and didn’t want to deal with his criticism and instruction.

When he would tire of the authority, he moved on to the next television station and the next.

He continued to sell well at first and then move on because station managers didn’t let him practice his trade like he saw fit. This was a strain on his wife. She wasn’t used to moving so much, but she was committed to her husband. Plus they had a baby on the way and she needed him to take care of them.

Sooner or later, he found that he needed to be the boss. He could run any business better than the losers he was working for up until then, so Steven thought.

He started a business equipment company. Copiers, printers, scanners, and fax machines were his new products. He could set his own hours, run things the way he saw fit and make his own rules. The business grew, but every time a customer disagreed with him or an employee had some advice about how he could run the business better, he let them go.

He was the boss. He knew what customers needed.

Employees certainly didn’t have anything to offer. They worked for him after all. Why should he listen to them?

At home, when he did come home, it was pretty similar. By now Steven had a son but he didn’t spend much time with him or his wife. When he wasn’t at the business he liked to go drinking. Smoking a joint every now and then helped him relax and forget all the troubles of employees, difficult customers and a wife that wanted him home just so he could play with his son.

Steven didn’t even know how to be a dad. He thought, “I’m providing a good living for my family, I need time for myself too.”

His own dad wasn’t around very often. He worked out in the oil fields in west Texas and made a lot of money, but he was gone for weeks on end. He didn’t know what his dad did while he was gone but his parents didn’t seem to have a great relationship because of it. They fought some but his mom, Lois, seemed content with buying groceries and putting he and his brother in clothes and shoes.

Lois figured as long as the paychecks didn’t bounce and she could take care of her two boys, life wasn’t so bad regardless of what her husband was doing.

Steven tired of going home to a wife that expected him to be a husband and a father too. He had enough pressure with the business. He needed to blow off steam with a few drinks every night.

Ya, sometimes he didn’t get home until after midnight but sometimes you meet someone that could help you forget your troubles and why shouldn’t he be able to forget his troubles. He deserved it after all.

Time went on and Steven did okay with the business but as two more children came along, the pressures grew.

More income was needed. Sometimes he needed a couple of drinks during the day to get through it. He thought it wasn’t a big deal. Customers and employees wouldn’t notice. Just a breath mint and some coffee and nobody would notice a thing. So what if he drove around in this state. He was lucky and was never caught by a police officer after a six pack or so before lunch.

As time went on Steven was sick and tired of his wife expecting him to be around for his children when he was working so hard and providing for them financially. He found another lady that didn’t care about the inconvenient fact he was married and already had three children. She was happy to drink and party with Steven as long as he paid.

Steven loved the escape and this new woman didn’t expect him to do anything he didn’t want to do. It had been going great and there were having fun.

All this fun wasn’t helping the business but if Steven drank enough, he could forget the troubles and he could borrow money while the business took a little dip. The credit cards were still working.

Weekend trips to Vegas and a breast augmentation for his new girlfriend were small prices to pay for happiness. He could always make up the difference by working a little harder or trying a new business since the customers at his office equipment business were so demanding. The next deal will be better and he could pay back all the debt he was racking up before he got in real trouble.

One day Steven walked in and his wife confronted him about a new tax appraisal bill they received for an unknown house. She wanted some answers. She didn’t know anything about owning this property.

He lashed out. Why the hell should he have to explain himself to her? She didn’t run the finances. She didn’t know how hard it was to make ends meet. He told her not to worry about it and it wasn’t her business anyway.

Why should his wife worry about the house he bought for his girlfriend, Lori. He needed a place to hideout anyway. It kept him in good spirits for the most part. Lori didn’t expect him to act like a father or put up with fixing things around the house. He deserved to blow off some steam.

Steven was able to juggle two lives for a while but some of those debts he ran up to the tune of $400,000 plus were starting to come due. He was having trouble getting business credit.

He needed to fix things fast.

Earning some extra cash quick was priority one.  He came across a guy that was selling new office equipment very cheap. Maybe too cheap, but Steven didn’t care. He could turn those products around quickly and dig himself out of the hole he was in.

It was working at first. He could sell this equipment quickly but there was a problem when the sheriff’s department came to his office and asked him to come down to the station. They had some questions about all this equipment he had in his possession.

It turns out the prices were too good to be true, especially for a business man that had sold this type of equipment for the last six years. His supplier, who the sheriff caught earlier, told the authorities that Steven was in on the deals. Steven said he didn’t know how the supplier came into the equipment. The cops didn’t buy it. He must have been drunk or high (which he was) to not realize he bought stolen merchandise.

Just before his arrest, Steven’s wife was bothering him about some credit cards he opened in her name with her social security number. There were another six figures in debt in her name. She had no idea where this debt came from. Creditors and collection agencies were calling her around the clock demanding payment.

Steven gave her the brush off just like before when his wife confronted him about the mystery house.

She had no choice but to file for divorce to clear her name even though she hated the idea and still wanted her marriage to work.

Steven’s lawyer worked out a deal since it was his first recorded offense. He was sentenced to six months of weekend prison.

He lost his business in the divorce.

Thankfully for his wife, the building Steven bought was in a rapidly growing part of town and had tripled in value since he bought it. All the proceeds went to pay off her debt and the house she lived in with the children.

A noncollege educated mother of three with no work experience for the last 25 years didn’t make her very marketable.

She persisted and found a job that paid the bills. Now with no debt, her own job, and two boys and a daughter that could help her with the bills, she had an opportunity to get back on her feet.

There were no more nights worrying about when or if her husband was coming home, who he’d been with and what was in his system. She had a job, a paid-off house, a car, and no other debt. At 49 years old she realized this was the most financially stable she had ever been.

Steven disappeared for a while. Partly because he was in jail and partly because he did what he always did when someone did something he didn’t like. He pushed them away. To him, they were stupid and didn’t know how important he was. They were lucky he gave his time to them in the first place. If his wife and family didn’t know how good they had it with him around he would punish them by not allowing them to see him. If they didn’t think he was doing everything great, then they didn’t deserve him anyway.

A few years later he emerged back in his ex-wife’s and children’s lives. They had forgiven him by then but were very wary of dealing with his games. He offered some half-hearted apology. It was one of those apologies that basically said he was sorry he was caught and also sorry they didn’t like what he did to them.

His family didn’t buy the apology since it wasn’t really an apology at all. Now they were out from underneath his financial thumb. They didn’t want the same malignant guy back in their lives. In fact, Steven didn’t know it but they really pitied him.

Steven lost his business, his family, and his freedom.

Unfortunately, after all he went through, he didn’t learn much. He tried working for someone else again but it didn’t work out. He tried to get back into the advertising game but he left too long ago. There wasn’t anyone in the industry he knew that didn’t think he was an alcoholic dirtbag.

He’s still jumping from job to job, knowing the next deal is gonna be the big one that makes him rich. In reality, he lives in a small apartment hoping from job to job waiting for social security to kick in. His family has talked to him and tried to help, but he doesn’t want to hear any criticism. He keeps them at arm’s length and they continue to pity him.


The traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an “injury” in the form of criticism or rejection.


Other psychological problems are often associated with this disorder like anxiety or depression. Those can lead to drug and alcohol dependence like they did in this case. It is one of the hardest disorders to treat because the person routinely doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with him and refuses help.

It is tough to deal with people like this. The only advice I can give is to be careful when dealing with people like this. Intertwining your finances can result in a major loss. My experience is that if I keep giving constructive criticism to them, they eventually push me away. It’s sad but probably for the best.

The Financial Downfall of a Narcissist

Have you experienced a story like this? How do you deal with coworkers and family members that have traits like Steven?

Tom is a doctor, husband and father of five with a passion for parenting and finance. When he isn't skateboarding, riding BMX, or jumping on the trampoline with his kids, he is reading and writing about personal finance. He helps high income parents educate and mentor their kids to become financially, emotionally, and intellectually self sufficient.

8 Responses to “The Financial Downfall of a Narcissist

  • Oh wow, what a read. I don’t think I currently know anyone like this, but I have in the past and it is hard to see this type of behavior (it was not as extreme, but some elements ring true).

    What a good reminder to remain humble and that grateful for the talents and gifts we have been given. And also a reminder that, when someone is suffering from a disorder like NPD, it would be much more advantageous to try to direct them to seek help vs. just getting annoyed and fed up with this behavior.

    • This is an extreme example but it happens. The biggest problem with this personality disorder is they never think they need help. It’s always the other person that is wrong. That makes it very difficult to help the person. They usually run away from criticism and never improve.

      Tom @ HIP

  • Tough story. Drugs and personality disorders do not mix but often go hand in hand for self medicating. I have dealt with very few truly narcissistic people and when I have I always tread carefully and tried to get out of the way. No need to get tangled up in craziness. Much like investing, it is better to keep life simple.

    • If I remember from psych I think codependents and narcissist tend to gravitate toward each other. That is a bad combination. I’m with you. Don’t make these people a big part of your life in the first place and keep it simple. Sooner or later you get burned.

      Tom @ HIP

  • The story sounds so similar to what I went through. Just replace ABC with XYZ. It’s the same story line. Unfortunately a person with NPD will never see that anything is wrong. There is so much pain and heartache in the struggle to get a NPD person to see that anything is wrong and/or important if they are not in the limelight of it (good or bad). And that person just kept moving forward with “life is great” and “you should smile more”. In that sense, I “envy” that an NPD person seems naive to it all. but I do feel pity for this person too.

    the only way to deal is to walk away, temporarily feel defeated, and stop all contact if possible. It’s only years after that I am thankful I am not under this person’s constant need to search for a high; whether emotional or physical. It caused a lot of emotional and financial damage.

    • I’m sorry you had to go through that. It’s so hard to deal with folks that have this disorder.
      Like you said, It seems to be the way to cope is by walking away.

      Tom @ HIP

  • Thank you for sharing the story! It’s really sad what happened to him and his family. I particularly feel sad for his wife and kids. They have gone through so much just to hear an half hearted apology.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of men like that out there living like they don’t have a family to take care of. I hope one day Steven will wake up from his fantasy to build a new life.

    • I do too but it’s not common to recover. Its one of the toughest personality disorders/mental illness to improve because the person doesn’t think there is anything wrong with him. I couldn’t find much in the way of psychiatric breakthroughs that could help these people.

      Tom @ HIP

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