When we think of wealth, our thoughts automatically jump to money. Maybe things like real estate, stock options, or large houses are also included. But that’s just one definition of the word “wealth.” Other definitions include, “A plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing.” That definition takes money out of the equation and applies the word “wealth” to almost anything that you, personally, find desirable.
So while many of us are not wealthy in the monetary sense, most of us are wealthy in plenty of other ways. We have a plentiful supply of desirable things and gifts that can’t be measured by a net worth calculator. Maybe it’s because I’m writing this on Memorial Day weekend, but it’s not a bad idea every now and then to stop and take an accounting of all of our “wealth” besides money. You may have your own list, but here is mine.
Without good health, everything is harder and some things are downright impossible. If you have your health, you already have something that many people would love to have. Even if you have health challenges, if you can get up and breathe every day on your own, you’re better off than many and that’s something to appreciate.
Most of you reading this live in a free country. You can move where you want, get an education, work where you want, marry who you want, say what you want, have an unrestricted number of children, and you are largely free from government oversight. Freedom is a form of wealth that many people cannot enjoy.
If you have some form of love in your life, be it romantic love, the love of family or friends, or the love of pets, you’ve got real wealth.
They may make you nuts sometimes, and there may be some rotten fruit on the family tree, but for many of us our families are the source of some of our greatest joys. They’re there for us when we need them and they provide us with love and companionship.
Sometimes friends are better than family. If you’ve got great friends who will help you with and through anything, consider yourself wealthy.
Pets provide love and companionship. They need you. There’s something to be said for coming home everyday and having someone/something who is thrilled to see you.
Self-Actualization / Fulfillment
Humans are unique among the animal kingdom in that we can go beyond just meeting our basic needs and strive to become the people we want to be. Whether that’s working in a certain field, being the best mom or dad in the world, or some other goal, we can strive for something. If you’ve reached your potential or are actively working toward it, you’re building wealth in your life.
Many people in the world don’t have food, shelter, clothes, or basics like plumbing or power. Those of us who have those things are already wealthier than those for whom everyday life is a struggle.
Education / Knowledge
The more you know, the more wealth you’ve built up. There’s a reason they say that an expert in a subject has “a wealth of knowledge.” You don’t have to be a genius, but pursuing education and general knowledge gives you a currency that you can trade in the job market (and use to win some trivia games).
Just being here on Earth and having the time to do anything at all is a form of wealth, to me. Whatever your religious stance on creation, there’s no denying that the fact that we’re here at all is a mind boggling series of events and confluences. That I have the time to find a career, marry someone I love, read all the books I can get my hands on, and go for a walk outside makes me feel very wealthy.
If you can go to bed at night or walk through your neighborhood and feel safe doing so, you’ve got it better than a lot of people.
Many people take an active interest in their community and work to develop stronger ties. Volunteering, neighborhood watches and block parties, community gardens, charity drives, and other activities build strong neighborhoods and communities that become the kind of places where people can feel comfortable giving and receiving assistance and enjoy living. If you’re lucky enough to live in such a place, you’re enjoying the riches your community has to offer.
Faith / Spirituality
Many people feel wealthy when they have a strong faith or spiritual life. Whether you go to church and participate in religious activities, or whether you just enjoy your own rituals, there is solace to be found in an active spiritual life.
For many people, the ability to give something back to the world is a measure of their personal wealth. They may not be able to give money, but they can give time, ideas, and personal attention.
I consider my creativity one of my greatest assets. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to write here week in and week out, as well as pursue my other writing and graphic design opportunities. Even if you don’t make a living from your creativity, an ability to problem-solve and think outside of the box is valuable in life.
If you have ever received spontaneous kindness from someone, you know what a blessing it can be and you’ve probably made it a point to pay that forward. Giving and receiving kindness is a form of wealth because it means that someone thought enough of you to be kind to you.
Enjoyment of Life
This is one I haven’t always enjoyed, thanks to depression. When I am able to enjoy life to its fullest, to appreciate the sunrises, silly moments, and awesomeness of simply being alive, I know that I am experiencing a form of wealth that money can never buy.
If you have your memories, you have the ability to look back, relive, and enjoy some of your best moments again and again. You don’t realize what a blessing this is until you spend time with someone who has dementia and realize that this simple gift is lost to them.
If you’ve earned the respect of your peers, consider yourself wealthy. If people respect you for the work you do or the contributions you make to society, you’ve achieved something that few people ever do. (Some people bully their way into getting “respect” from others, but genuine respect isn’t born of fear. You want people to respect you because of what you contribute, not how loudly you yell.)
As you can see, there are many forms of wealth. Money is just one tiny form of wealth, and not even one that measures your worth as a person. I’d much rather be wealthy in love, respect, kindness, and enjoyment of life than have a huge net worth. Sure, money makes things easier and, sometimes, more fun. But once your basic needs are met, large chunks of money aren’t necessary to live a wealthy life. Some of the wealthiest people in the world monetarily are miserable in the rest of their lives because they haven’t cultivated other forms of wealth.
(Photo courtesy of brett jordan)