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Wealth Is Not A Number

If you are reading this, you are already extremely wealthy!  You may not be rich by your definition or even by the definition of the society you live in, but by the standards of a large percentage of the world's population, you are in fact, rich!  You can read, you have access to a computer and the internet - this makes you much better off than many people in the world.

What is the longest you have ever gone without eating?  Has it ever been even 48 hours?  Many people have gone without food for a week or more, or had regular but insufficient food for months or even years.  By these standards you (and in some countries, even the homeless) are in fact very wealthy, so what are you going to do with all your wealth?

  I know, you're thinking I'm nuts (true but irrelevant), you know what wealth is, and when you have $__________ (insert number of your choosing), only then you will really be rich. I've got news for you - whatever the number you fill in, for most of you it won't be enough.

I read a study years ago that showed that the average millionaire in the USA, if he lost his job, was just as close to losing everything as the average person earning something like $30,000 to $40,000.  At the end of 6 months after losing a job, both of them would lose everything.  The real secret to wealth and freedom is not in how much you earn, but in how much you spend relative to what you earn.  Someone who earns $20,000 a year, but lives on $8,000, is far wealthier than someone who earns $100,000 a year, but lives on $100,000 (and most people in the USA actually live on more than they earn).  The first person can live without their job for one year for every year they have worked (assuming that taxes took the rest of the money), the second person will lose it all fairly quickly once they lose their job, unless they can find a new one.  Perhaps you are thinking that a person who lives a $100,000-per-year lifestyle is better off than someone earning $20,000 a year, but that is far from a simple question.  What matters most to you?  Your possessions?  Your freedom to do what you want: travel, start your own company, go back to school, practice music all day long and become a rock star?  The person who lives below their income level has a much greater freedom - they can quit their job and try something new; whereas the person who lives at the limit of their income is trapped until they free themselves of the lifestyle they are living.

Now I am not saying you shouldn't have the $100,000/year job if you choose to, rather that you should live like the person with the $20,000/year income while earning the $100,000/year, then you are free to make real choices in your life and actually enjoy the benefits of all your wealth!

For those of you who read this and think, but I only make $_________ (fill in your income) so I can't do this because there isn't anything left at the end of the month.  It's likely that you have missed the whole point of this article, but possibly you are right.  Some simple questions for you will reveal a great deal:

  1. Do you own a car, and if so, does your boss require that you own one for work?
  2. When was the last time you ate food which was prepared by others (fast food, restaurant, deli at your local supermarket, etc.)?
  3. Do you have your own apartment / house, or do you share it with others, allowing you to split the rent or house payment?  Are there cheaper units out there that you could be living in?
  4. Do you ever buy junk food (sodas, candy, cookies, cakes, etc.)?

You get the idea!  Are you spending any money that you don't have to each month?  If so, then you have made a choice to be poorer, to live beyond what you can afford, and the "but I have children" argument doesn't really change any of the above arguments, it just raises the minimum amount you have to spend each month for food, clothing and possibly shelter.