I once believed wealth meant having the resources to use as I wanted. I had entirely bought into the consumer culture. I lived paycheck to paycheck, and I owned lovely worthless objects. The weird thing is — I felt wealthy. I was healthy, I was loved by and love my family and friends. I read somewhere that, “The poorest man is he whose only wealth is money.” Sounds like something said by a person with money. Bottom line, feeling wealthy is not being wealthy. Health is essential. And family and friends are indispensable to living a full life. But let’s be clear, without financial resources life in the modern age isn’t worth living.
At various points between 1999 and 2009, I owned, literally paid off a “96” Dodge Stratus, “99” Cadillac Seville STS, “02” Cadillac Deville DHS, “04” Volkswagen New Beetle, and “04” Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport Kompressor. The cars are just half of the story; I financed a lifestyle that made me feel good and entertained but kept me from genuinely building financial wealth. I had a financially lost decade.
In 2005, I began to manage my finances. It took me five years, 2005 to 2010, to become solvent and stable financially.
A Wikipedia entry describes wealth as the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions.
The Wiki entry continues with a brief description of wealth as it applies to sociology, informing, social class is not identical to wealth, but the two concepts are related. This leads to the combined concept of Socioeconomic status. Partly as a result of different economic conditions of life, members of different social classes often have different value systems and view the world in different ways. As such, there are different conceptions of social reality, and different aspirations and hopes and fears. The way the various social classes in society view wealth vary and these diverse characteristics are a fundamental dividing line among the classes.
- The Upper Class. Upper-class values include higher education, generational transfer of wealth, interest and relationships with other the wealthiest people, the maintenance of wealth, social networks, and the power that accompanies such networks. Children of the upper class are typically schooled on how to manage this power and channel this privilege in different forms.
- The Middle Class. The middle class places a greater emphasis on income. The middle-class views wealth as something for emergencies and it is seen as more of a cushion. This class comprises people that were raised with families that typically owned their own home, planned ahead and stressed the importance of education and achievement. They earn a significant amount of income and also have significant amounts of consumption. There is very limited savings and investments beyond retirement pensions and home ownership. They (the middle class) have been socialized to accumulate wealth through structured, institutionalized arrangements. Without this set structure, asset accumulation would likely not occur.
- The Lower Class. Those with the least amount of wealth are the poor. Wealth accumulation for this class is to some extent prohibited. Most of the institutions that the poor encounter discourage any accumulation of assets.
- a great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches: the wealth of a city.
- an abundance or profusion of anything; plentiful amount: a wealth of imagery.
- Economics: all things that have a monetary or exchange value; anything that has utility and is capable of being appropriated or exchanged.
In answering the question today, I affirm wealth means having health — physical and mental, family, friends, and enough resources.
I was born into the “lower class” where the consumer culture discourages the accumulation of wealth and strongly encourages us who can least afford it to keep up with the celebrities. I’ve earned my way into the middle of the “middle class” and increased my consumption accordingly, bought a house, and began contributions to my retirement plan. I had bought into the institutional arrangements established for the middle class.
Don’t be defined by a class. I could be defined as middle class, but I consider myself wealthy. I am not under any illusions about my net worth. I am not Oprah wealthy, I’m not President Obama rich, and their financial achievements aren’t my goals. However, I do have and am pursuing “upper class” values.
I am wealthy because I do have my health — physical and mental. I’m wealthy because I have a great family and great friends. I am wealthy because I have resources to live a modest life compared to that of Oprah, and an extravagant life compared to that of the homeless. I am wealthy because I have the resources to live a respectable life based on my value system. I’m wealthy because I enjoy the fruits of my labor within my means based on my reality, not that of the expectations set by others. I save, I invest, and I will provide resources to aid my children as they become adults to prevent them from starting from scratch. I will provide assets that can be passed down from my children to their children. Hopefully, they will build on what I offer and by the fourth generation be wealthy members of the upper class financially and socially.
The definition of wealth is open to interpretation. A monetary value is not the only way to define wealth. Someone is living right now that earns $1 million and spends $1 million and are living million-dollar paycheck to million-dollar paycheck and are one paycheck away from being broke.
Are you wealthy?
What does wealth mean to you?