Wealth Means so Much More Than Money
Wealth is typically associated with money. Many believe that if you have true wealth, then you have a lot of money. But, according to dictioinary.com, the definition of wealth is multidimensional :
- “A great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches.”
- “An abundance or profusion of anything; plentiful amount”
In fact, it’s said that one of the fastest ways to become wealthy is to desire less. Simply, the less you need or want, the more you have.
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What is True Wealth?
In a monetary sense, true wealth means having more money than you need for now and the future. In theory, that should lead to contentment, joy and inner peace. Yet a friend and financial advisor to the wealthy shared that even her wealthiest clients, feel that they would be content if they just had 30% more money.
Can you imagine having $20 million, $30 million or more and feeling like it wasn’t enough to feel secure?
Sure, having a lot of money solves some problems. You don’t have to worry about a surprise car repair or a big cable bill. But true wealth goes beyond money.
True wealth is personal and might not be the same for you, as it is for me. For some, true wealth means having a family, community support, a dog or cat, a church, mosque, or synagogue, a job with meaning, contributing to causes, and a nice apartment. Personal growth and purpose might mean more to your well-being than attaining the outward trimmings of financial success.
For others, true wealth means having $1 million dollars. Or maybe for you, true wealth is simply having your health and a roof over your head.
Then there are those people that are tough for most of us to identify with, the super rich, the folks with tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. They certainly must have true wealth. But wait, maybe not. Gazillions of dollars doesn’t protect against disease, car accidents, mental illness, stress or anxiety. Discomforts and bad things happen to everyone, regardless of your net worth.
No one is free of adversity. Coping with problems and struggles is required to feel strong, contented and even wealthy.
Financial wealth doesn’t necessarily lead to contentment. Yet, true wealth, possessing what matters to you, is more likely to lead to a more satisfying life.
How Much does it Take to be Wealthy?
Schwab’s Modern Wealth Survey found that to be financially comfortable you need $624,000, and to be considered wealthy you need a net worth of $1.9 million. But, what if you live in San Francisco or New York? That nearly $2 million dollars won’t go as far in a major city as it would in a less populous spot like Little Rock, Arkansas.
When it comes to true wealth, Schwab’s survey is deceptive.
Folks with $2 million might feel poor and unhappy and those with $50,000 might believe they are set.
Sure, it takes a certain amount of money to live. You need to pay for your housing, food, entertainment and expenses for the kids. But beyond that, is true wealth really measured in dollars and cents? I don’t think so.
You are Wealthier Than you Think
When my husband and I were just starting out we lived in san Diego, California, an expensive city. He was in graduate school and I had a good job as a Career Counselor at San Diego State University making about $40,000 (in inflation adjusted dollars that would equal about $85,000 today). I visited a financial advisor for investing advice and he gave me a questionnaire. He was shocked when he saw that our monthly spending was only $2,000.00 (in today’s dollars that equals $4,266/month, a bit over $51,000 per year). We had so much fun, enjoyed the weather and California beach lifestyle and didn’t determine our value, wealth or success by what we bought or how much money we had!
Actually, our lifestyle was incredible. We partied with our friends, played football on the beach, went hiking, went to happy hours with free hors d’oeuvres, watched TV, and went to movies (but only the bargain matinees). For vacation we drove to Las Vegas, stayed in discount hotel rooms and took advantage of buffets and coupon books with lots of freebies! Our net worth wasn’t much, but we were so rich!
We had true wealth.
Although, you may not be at the career, financial or personal success level you desire right now, you may be better off than you think. Have you set some goals in those areas, and are you working towards them? If you answered yes, then you may already be rich! Maybe not rich in money, but rich in life purpose and meaning.
Now, I’m no Warren Buffett, Oprah, or Bill Gates, but my family’s net worth is above average for our income and age levels. We have always lived beneath our income and have been fortunate not to crave an extravagant lifestyle. Combine our lifestyle with the habit of steady saving and investing and we are content with our financial lives. Our financial net worth is not what makes us rich, although it does offer some security.
What makes us wealthy is being clear about what’s important and living in accord with our values. Jacob of the Early Retirement Extreme runs an early retirement website, seems to have what he needs, lives on $14,000 per year and teaches others the path to early retirement. It’s unfortunate that there are fewer models like Jacob in the media.
Working toward our goals and having meaning and purpose made us wealthy. My husband was in graduate school, I had a good job, we were working towards buying a home and hoped to start a family soon.
Financial Components of True Wealth
If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, then it’s difficult to feel financially secure. So, all this chit chat about what’s important in life is less significant if you’re not building towards a solid financial future. That’s why, in spite of being happy with what you have it’s important to take simple steps to build wealth for your future.
The best steps toward financial security are:
- Contribute the maximum to your 401k workplace retirement account.
- Contribute as much as you can to a Roth IRA.
- Build up an emergency fund that equals 3-9 months of living expenses.
- Spend less than you earn.
- Create multiple streams of income.
The easiest way to implement these steps is to automate them. Set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck or banking account into your 401k, IRA, and emergency fund cash account. Over time, as you income grows, avoid lifestyle inflation and use your raises to open an investment account, for additional financial security. I like the opportunity to choose pre-made investment portfolios and to choose ETFs and stocks on your own at M1 Finance. In fact I have an account there myself.
How to Build True Wealth – Wrap up
Do you keep track of the good things that go on in your life, or are you always wanting more?
What did you get for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukah last year?
If you are like most of us, you can’t remember. Yet, were you one of those who were paying off those presents well into the next year? Think about how much value you and your family got from those hundreds or thousands of dollars of holiday spending? Now think about a fun activity or vacation you participated in the past year; maybe it was a day trip, concert, show, vacation, or even a project around the house. The memories of activities are more powerful than those of things and usually more pleasurable. And many activities don’t require lots of cash.
Think before you spend. Consider what’s really important to you. Focus on your own values and live in accord with what’s important to you. If you live with intention, you’ll be on your way to achieving true wealth.
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