What is Wealth?

Image by Kevin Dooley

I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.
— Sophie Tucker

If you were to survey a random group of people, chances are most would agree that, all else being equal, being rich is better than not being rich. Ask that same group of people what being rich actually means, however, and you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers. So ask yourself before you continue — what does “rich” mean to you?

What’s Your Number?

Most would say some number of millions of dollars. Of course these numbers are nonsense. If you were to win $10 million in the lottery tomorrow, you might well feel rich, but imagine if Bill Gates were suddenly stripped down to his last $10 million. Chances are he wouldn’t feel wealthy at all.

You might not feel much sympathy for poor Mr. Gates having to learn to get by on a mere $10 million. I wouldn’t blame you. Consider, however, that the average middle class American who is “just getting by” lives like Bill Gates compared to much of the world. If you’re having trouble making the payments on your SUV, I doubt a subsistence farmer in, say, Somalia has much sympathy for you.

If you’re Reading this, Chances Are You Already Live like a King

In point of fact, the average American lives a more luxurious life than a king would have not so many years ago. Don’t believe me? If you live in America, or any other first-world country, you have affordable access the electrical grid, highways, the Internet, vaccines, reliable sanitation, antibiotics, year-round fresh fruit and vegetables, natural gas, a nationwide cellular network, and a thousand other things I could name. A medieval king may have had lots of money, servants, and status, but he had none of these. Traveling to another continent would have taken him weeks instead of hours. And if he happened to catch, say, dysentery, well he was out of luck.

It’s staggering how much we take for granted, isn’t it? Isn’t it fair to call these things wealth? How about access to national parks and museums? Or simply being able to walk down the street in relative safety? And let’s not forget what’s most important — good health and strong relationships. Is anyone truly wealthy who lacks these?

Your Attitude is Everything

There’s a fundamental truth to be learned here, and that is that being rich has more to do with your mindset than your salary. You’re probably rolling your eyes when I say this, because it sounds like one of those “there’s more to life than money” platitudes, but it goes deeper than that. I don’t just mean feeling, rich. Your mindset is the key to becoming rich as well, in all senses of the word. This is fantastic news, because you have the power to change your mindset. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult for many people to accept (If this is true for you, then I hope you in particular will keep reading).

This site may be focused on growing your net worth, but that is only a means to an end. The true goal is living richly. That’s what real wealth means to me, and I am here to tell you that it requires a lot less money than you might imagine.

So how about you? What is wealth to you?


  1. Sean Owen

    Welcome to the first post of my new blog, by the way. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. KenP

    The article is insightful and well written, but I disagree with the analogy of Americans living better than kings. If we were to compare ourselves to those living 100+ years in the future, we would comparatively seem just as impoverished as the mentioned kings did. A true estimation of wealth would be determined by the goods and services available in the given period, not what is available in a future time.

  3. Dee

    To echo the previous commenter, I, too, found this to be a quality article but found one point to quibble with: the questioning of whether one can truly be wealthy without good health and strong relationships. I think this conflates wealth with too many other positive attributes. People who have disabilities, illnesses, or otherwise poor health, it seems to me, can nonetheless be wealthy. Having poor health is bad enough on its own without it meaning automatically that the person with poor health can no longer consider themselves truly wealthy or aspire to become so.

    • Sean Owen

      A fair point, Dee, and thanks for writing. The real point I was trying to get across is that wealth is more than just your net worth, and your state of mind has a great deal to do with it. The same thinking applies to people with disabilities or health issues – many continue to live wonderful lives simply by cultivating the right mindset.

  4. Sreenath PG

    I completely agree with the statement “being rich has more to do with your mindset than your salary.” Richness isn’t all about the amount of wealth you accumulate. If you have the right mindset you can live richly within your means or with the limited resources you have. Of course money is something inevitable in our lives but it is not everything.

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