Everybody wants to be rich. And there are many people in the world who certainly appear to have achieved it. What’s funny, though, is that I’ve never met a single person who says that they feel rich, wealthy, or well-off. (Granted, I’m not hanging with the Trumps, but neither am I talking about people who have a reason to feel “poor.”) When people talk about money, they’re either “struggling,” “barely making ends meet,” or, “getting by.” Yet if you look at the things they have, the homes they live in, and the cars they drive you know that, unless they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, they are, if not rich, at least comfortable.
Personally I consider myself well-off. Sure, I don’t have enough money to buy everything I want when I want it. I do have to budget and plan for big expenses. But compared to many people around the world and even in the U.S., I am well off. I have a roof over my head, a car to drive, money in the bank, and enough to meet my basic needs. I am rich in so many ways that it seems silly to me to say, “I’m struggling,” or “I wish I were rich” just because all of my recreational spending desires cannot be met instantaneously. I wouldn’t turn down a lottery win, but when I look at my life and my circumstances, I know that I am relatively rich, even if I don’t have millions in the bank.
So why do so many people think that they aren’t “rich” or “well off?” In the “first world” many people have so much more than many others even dream of. Even the “lower class” in the first world is exponentially better off than many people in the third world. So why this reluctance to feel rich? Most people go around saying that they aren’t rich and, worse, that they never will be.
I think it’s partly that our expectations are desperately out of whack. We’ve become conditioned by the media to think that only millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) of dollars in the bank counts as rich. We see the winners of giant lottery jackpots and say, “They are rich. I’m not.” We see celebrities and athletes getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode or game and say, “That’s what it means to be rich.” We see CEO’s and coaches who pull in millions even when they get fired and say, “That guy is rich.” Yes, they are wealthy. Yes, they can have almost everything they want. But wealth like that is not the norm and it’s often excessive. If your only definition of “rich” is to have as much money as those people, you’re not likely to ever achieve it.
We’ve lost the ability to simply look inside ourselves and our circumstances and say, “Hey, I’m doing pretty well.” Our objectivity is shot. We see excessive wealth in the media and think, “Hey, I’m nowhere near that, so I’m broke.” It’s like the size ten woman who feels overweight and unattractive compared to all the unrealistic six-foot tall size zero models in magazines. The comparison is all wrong because it’s not based in any kind of normal reality.
I think most people need a new, healthier definition of what it means to be rich. Maybe being rich simply means having enough to meet your basic needs with a little left over to save. Maybe it doesn’t mean enough to live in a 10,000 square foot house with a six car garage. Maybe you can be rich in a 1,000 square foot house. I know some people who would likely admit that they are rich and they live in tiny houses. Maybe you can be rich and drive a used Chevy rather than a brand new Mercedes. Maybe you don’t need a house full of brand new, matching furniture to be rich, maybe you only need a bed, a few chairs and a table.
When you’re tempted to say you’re not rich and never will be, stop and look around you. Do you have a roof over your head? Food to eat? Some extras? A little money in the bank? Then maybe you’re already rich. Stop and think about people who don’t even have that much. There are plenty of people who have far less than you. You might even be richer than you know if you’re fortunate enough to have plenty of non-monetary richness in your life. If you have a family that loves you, friends that care for you, pets that need you, your health, and/or a job that challenges you, you’re so far ahead of a lot of people in the world that you might as well be rolling in millions.
I think that if more people would adjust their expectations and realize just how “rich” they already are, a lot of the grasping, commercial craziness would stop, or at least slow down. When you already have a lot, you don’t need to buy more. When you can look around you and say, “Man, I am okay. More than okay, I’m doing well,” you feel much less need to try to keep up with (or become) the Jones’s. And that right there is a significant step to saving even more money and becoming even richer.
(Photo courtesy of quinn.anya)