What Being Wealthy Actually Means
Wealth is among the most prominent desires that human spent their life in pursuit of. It is paid with blood, tear, anger, efforts, one’s own happiness and sometimes one’s own life. However, little were discussed why we actually sacrifice a great deal of our life pursuing wealth.
There’s a difference between being wealthy and being rich. I focus on discussing about being wealthy here, i.e. the abundance of materials and resources. Being rich maybe interpreted in many different ways that are non-material, such as being rich of thoughts, of life experiences, of physical capacity and of skills. I’ll narrow this down to a simple question: Why should we, or what is the main aim of, acquiring such increasing level of material wealth? Are we interpreting what wealth can do for us in the right way?
I believe clarifying the aim of material wealth is an important distinction to be made. People’s confused minds to pursue wealth blindly have slowly taken over them with such a burning desire. In other words, without knowing what they actually acquire wealth for, they have let their wealth, or at least the idea of it, control their purposes and life. This may even escalate to a high level of severity where one’s define themselves, their values and their identity, by their wealth. As most tangible assets, material wealth may come and go, and the identity crisis they face was a result of the reliance on wealth as a purpose, an ultimate pursuit, and a meaning of life.
One should learn how to be the master of their wealth, not the other way round. Many aspire to be wealthy, not so many knows the true purpose of what this pursuit is actually for. I don’t claim to have the absolute answer to this thoughtful question. However I may suggest one that I believe is the fairest, which I was told by many well-off people. This is the answer that an average earner or low income would never expect nor understand in the first instance.
Wealth is not to make you happy. Wealth is to create the opportunity for you to acquire happiness from other non-material sources. I usually think of wealth as freedom. Although many have said that freedom is priceless, I believe the price of the wealth pursuit is the closest measure to the price of freedom.
Being wealthy gives you the freedom to use your constrained resources in the most effective manner. More specifically, being wealthy means financial freedom, time freedom, relationship freedom, spiritual freedom and physical freedom.
Take time as an example. The wealthy places a huge value on their time, usually in monetary terms. Being wealthy means that you are comfortable to trade your financial wealth to free up your time, in order to do what gives you more enjoyments. Take chores as an example. Being wealthy means you’d rather hire a cleaner to free up three hours of cleaning to see your family. Being wealthy enables the highest authority of yourself over how your time is spent, and you can tailor it to the schedule you wish.
Other types of freedom are, in a similar way, explanatory. Spiritual freedom is when you buy peace of mind with wealth. When concerns of money and making ends meet are no longer a bother, one has more mental capacity to be thoughtful, creative and philosophical.
Relationship freedom is when you are free to hang out with most people of all types without feeling the constraint of keeping up with them financially. Physical freedom is when you buy health with wealth, e.g. keeping fit and eating healthy because you have total choice of your lifestyles. Financial freedom is when you may spend on what you like without second doubt of your enjoyments from it.
Thinking of wealth as freedom will give you a drastic change in perspective. Because in that way, being wealthy is a way of life, not a destination. It’s about the relative wealth. If a person with a lower net worth can achieve all those freedoms, he’s considered much wealthier than a millionaire who can’t.
You may have met many people who are loaded with jewellery, branded bags and expensive clothing. Some of them never made you feel like they are wealthy. For example those who spend thousands on a newest branded bag, but still spend half an hour bargaining in a market over a few dollars. They might have high level absolute wealth, however in relative term, they are very poor. Wealth should be internalised as a way of life i.e. freedom; Being wealthy is never about showing off. Externalising its influence is the fastest way to slavery to money.
Illustration: John William Godward (English, 1861 - 1922), Reverie, English, 1904
Copyrights: Open Content License from J. Paul Getty Museum