I read a number of articles recently about Americans’ income and how wealthy they feel. I fully understand why a single mom living in a typical American city earning $30,000 a year or less might not feel wealthy. What shocked me was the number of families raking in $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year who also do not feel wealthy! After carefully reading their comments, I then realized these folks do not understand wealth.
Those conducting the survey also do not understand wealth, evidenced simply by the way their survey was written. The assumption was that a “feeling of wealth” is somehow defined by how much money you make. This thinking is wrong!
Wealth is not defined in terms of money. Instead it is defined in terms of time. If you chase money instead of time, you will not feel wealthy regardless of how much money you make.
Definition of Wealth
Wealth is defined as the length of time you can go, while maintaining a desired lifestyle, if you were to stop earning income today. If you can maintain your desired lifestyle indefinitely without having to earn an income through working, then you can be considered wealthy.
The amount of money it takes to feel wealthy with this definition will vary depending on your desired lifestyle. If you wish to live in a tiny cabin on a small piece of land in the woods, it probably won’t take a lot of money. But if you want to maintain a lifestyle of the rich and famous, it will take much more.
People who define wealth in terms of their income find themselves working long hours, micro managing every second of the day, staying up late to catch up, eating unhealthy fast food, and talking in sound bytes. They may feel angry, as they work and work and work, often away from their families, to bring home that paycheck. When they don’t get the feeling of wealth they want, they work more, perhaps going for the promotion, thinking an even bigger paycheck will help. It won’t.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get up in the morning because you are done sleeping instead of because you have to go to work? Time causes the feeling of wealth, not money. When you choose how you spend each day, the feeling of wealth is abundant.
So if you find yourself on that work treadmill chasing an ever higher income, perhaps with debt up to your eyeballs, consider shrinking your lifestyle. Do you really need a 5000 sq ft house? Or would an 1500 sq ft home work just as well? Really, how much satisfaction do you get from that $120,000 BMW when a $30,000 Chevy will serve the same purpose?
Instead of buying the toys, consider buying time. Time is what it takes to be wealthy, not things. As the saying goes, it is better to appear poor and have great wealth, than to appear wealthy and be very poor.