I have been thinking about what it means to be wealthy. Once upon a time, people in America may have considered themselves wealthy if they could afford a home, a car, an education for themselves and their children and their basic day to day needs. Has that changed today? It seems that we continually compare ourselves to others when we think of wealth, or even financial well being. We are bombarded with the lifestyles of people who have money in the millions and seemingly not a care in the world.
What does being wealthy mean to you? Does it mean you have enough money to meet your needs, with a little left over for fun? Does it mean you have to have so much money that you can buy whatever you want, whenever you want, without thinking about it? Does it mean not having to work now or in the future?
Is wealth only defined by the amount of money you have? Could it also include a broader definition, such as wealthy in the way of health, love, and happiness? Could you be financially poor, but emotionally wealthy at the same time?
Even though this is a finance website, I can’t help thinking about the relationship between money and happiness. When we ask ourselves what we truly want in life, the answer is usually to be happy. What we believe will enable us to be happy is much more complicated, as it is unique to each individual. We all want to meet our basic needs, such as having a home, our health, food, and love. However, meeting the basic needs doesn’t always make us happy. In fact, not having our basic needs cannot even prevent some people from being happy anyway. There are extremely poor people who would say they are happy, and very rich ones who would say they are not. To be wealthy, then, in life is not just about money. Money is just a part of it.
When we begin to examine our financial plan, the first thing we need to decide is what is our ultimate goal? Are we hoping to make enough each month to meet our bills and save for retirement, or do we want our money to grow so we can quit work and perhaps leave a legacy? Those are very different paths, and require different approaches. The first requires a steady job and retirement plan and perhaps a monthly budget. The second requires early investing, multiple income streams, perhaps owning ones own business and a lot of planning and calculated risk taking. It is important to know what you want, so you can make an appropriate plan to achieve it. It is very difficult to hit a target you cannot see.
I believe it is important to define personally what being wealthy means to you. Make money a part of it, but remember that it isn’t everything. It is true that money cannot buy happiness, but it does make some things in life a lot easier. Aim for a happy life, and make money a tool to help you get there.
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