or even empathy -- for people who have more money than they can count. After all, what kind of problems could they possibly have?

Plenty, it seems, especially when the wealthy are women.

There are innumerable, so-called "women with inherited wealth" who feel isolated and "powerless": Having money, lots of money, becomes a threat to their personal happiness.

"I am terrified," revealed one millionaire woman, "that if I lose it all tomorrow, who am I? I have no control over my money. I feel inadequate and impotent."

"My parents always told me, 'Don't worry about money, it will always be there,' " recalls Marian, a 36-year-old San Francisco woman who, after inheriting a "sizable trust" when she was 21, became a "financial cripple," unable to control her income or even enjoy it.

"Both my mother and father never, never talked about money. My sisters and I didn't know how much was coming, let alone how to manage it. There was the understanding that 'there will always be a man around to handle your money.' "

Marian married a man who "never had money in his life," not uncommon for young, wealthy women. While Marian chose to wear financial blinders and raise a family, her husband "squandered away a major portion" of the trust in a matter of a few years.

"I discovered it in time," says Marian, "but it was an awakening that I was no longer a little girl being taken care of. When I went to my parents to discuss the matter, they had already known about it and even then insisted, 'Don't worry about it.' I felt betrayed by everyone. There was a tremendous resistance on my parent's part to allow me to handle my life. I felt they didn't trust me."

Marian joined the Women's Foundation, a 400-member San Francisco organization that offers a financial guidance and emotional support program, "Managing Inherited Wealth." In seminars, support groups and retreats, participants share their experiences anonymously and confidentially. Issues discussed range from "Living With Someone of Lesser Means" to "How Do I Explain -- Or Not -- To Others My Extraordinary Circumstances."

"The group is powerful for me," says Marian. "I never knew other people felt the way I do, so disconnected and frightened of handling money.

"My parents, who are generous people, always taught me that my sisters and I shouldn't work, we should give our money. I always gave philanthropically , but I gave indiscriminately. I'm always frightened: Am I giving too much, or too little? Going to the group has given me the incentive to hire and consult my own financial manager."

But most important, says Marian, she is discussing the issue of money and inheritance "openly" with her daughters, who know "exactly how much they have" and are "allowed to listen" to family discussions about investments and philanthropy.

"As I get strong, I want my children to have not just the money, but the sense that they can make it in the world -- that's the best advice I can give."

"There are three different kinds of women who seek our help," says philanthropist Tracy Gary, 33, founder of the Women's Foundation and an active national leader in the formation of similar groups in more than 20 major cities.

"First, there is the woman brought up in a wealthy family with all the chaos of travel and entertainment and parents not available. Her parents were virtually consumed by the community, not necessarily philanthropically, but socially.

"Her father usually made the money while the mother was involved in charity projects. But typically, she grew up in the '60s and '70s and is rebelling against the frills of money. She doesn't want the effect of the rich life style. The cost is too great."

The second type, says Gary, is the nouveau riche woman, the one who inherits wealth because of a recent death or divorce. "Unearned income becomes the issue," she explains. "There especially is discomfort if she grew up in the working class that values you by what kind of job you get and how much money you are making."

For this woman, says Gary, there is an "identity crisis -- too many choices in a society that has little understanding and sensitivity of what she is going through."

Often, both the first and second type seek relationships with others not in the same economic class. Unsure over whether having money will "make or break" a relationship, she often chooses to keep her wealth a secret, even from her lover and close friends. She becomes a closet millionaire, giving to projects anonymously, living below her means, tormented with the fear she may be found out and lose the relationships she cherishes.

Last is the woman whose family was considered "middle class." A daughter in such a family, Gary explains, usually is "prepared to work and inherit later in life. The issue of the father's perhaps premature death and the responsibility of the money was never discussed or planned for."

Dr. Harriet Lerner, a staff psychologist with the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., a national resource center for mental health, agrees with Gary, saying the "loss of the father" is one of the most important issues that needs to be "discussed and worked out with the siblings" involved in an inherited trust.

"Anxiety is high at any time of loss," explains Lerner, "but when a death allows a trust or inheritance to take place, it is an emotionally loaded situation."

While "fully optimistic" about support groups, such as those offered at the Women's Foundation, Lerner says that these groups "shouldn't preclude getting back to the family to discuss what they think the father would have wanted done with the money." Otherwise, she says, the woman "is left with fantasies with how the father would want her to spend it" and she is "totally distant from the rest of the family."

As Tracy Gary points out, the father's money may have been made in a specific way, such as in utilities, but the daughter should consider that her money can be invested in her interests.

For many wealthy women -- though certainly not all, says Gary -- their interests lie, not in the arts or the symphony, but in the needs of community minorities.

Because "wealthy people are expected by society to have no problems in the world," says Gary, they become a "minority," which sensitizes them to how other minorities feel, and they receive a "great deal of satisfaction in putting their money into projects for the underprivileged."

To Gary, it is noteworthy that women of inherited wealth often work better with other women, rather than with men, when learning the ropes of money management, because there is a "greater mistrust of the men as financial advisers."

Such mistrust, suggests Gary, may stem from the history of "the man always having the control" of family money and the woman feeling "left out," or disconnected from her wealth.

"But there is also the difference between how men and women see taking a risk in investments. If you ask men," says Gary, "the risk is a chance to gain, to make millions, to win."

And if you ask women, it's "a chance in losing, in not having enough, a danger in not being around when you need it."

Irene Crowe, a Washington heiress, first agreed only to be interviewed anonymously, but later changed her mind, saying, "I realize now that if it's so important to me that women take a stand, I should be up front about all this. After all, it might help other women decide what to do."

A sociologist at a local university, where few of her colleagues are aware of her financial worth, Crowe, 43, says she's "always honest when asked" about her money, but finds the admittance "very, very hard."

"I am not a millionaire," says Crowe, "but my mother and two sisters and I have a small, family foundation," Pettus Crowe, which for 10 years gave money to projects "without any of us" actively or "comfortably" participating in the evaluation of where the money is going.

"We gave grants without researching the projects," says Crowe, who as a teacher of social change "finally felt an obligation to take time out and learn" the difficult educational process of money management, financial growth and foundation giving.

"I have my family's blessings for what I'm doing," she says. "I know I've been ignorant and content to be ignorant. But now I'm on a crash program to learn, and part of that is putting my trust into an adviser."

Much of Crowe's "apprenticeship in philanthropy and management" is spent at the Windom Foundation, a Washington-based, 5-year-old foundation that "concentrates . . . on funding for women's and social change projects."

At the Windom headquarters off Dupont Circle, Crowe's key role model is Ellen Malcolm, 38, president of Windom and "former closet philanthropist."

Malcolm is candid about her young adult years, when she worked her way through the "painful" process of admitting to and controlling her trust from her great-grandfather, who founded IBM.

Until 1980, Malcolm, whose father died when she was 3, tried to keep the fact that she had money a secret from friends and colleagues.

While working at modest-paying, low profile jobs, "I could only spend a little on myself and was giving away a lot of money anonymously," she explains. "My income was increasing and I couldn't figure out how to investigate the projects."

While working at the National Women's Political Caucus, Malcolm met Lael Stegall, a trained social worker, political acitivist and financial resource consultant who, although "not a woman of wealth," is knowledgeable about the difficulties of public philanthropy.

Together the two women founded the Windom Fund, which, like the Women's Foundation, offers "specialized, personal low profile" guidance on the emotional and practical management of wealth. Under the encouragement of Tracy Gary, Malcolm has "come public" with her philanthropy; thus, says Gary, "inspiring others to be proud of the work they are doing."

"There's no way of knowing" how many women are uncomfortable with their money management and giving, says Malcolm, who has been hearing from such women on a nationwide basis. "Probably there are many because the system has always been that women are not supposed to be involved, certainly not named."

The Windom Fund is named after the "mythical" Henrietta C. Windom, whose Victorian portrait was found in a local flea market. It now hangs above the office water cooler.

"Note her eyes," says Malcolm. "They are very soft, almost loving. But her mouth is set firmly . . . she knows what she is doing. Henrietta's a very self-assured woman."