With the holiday season in full swing, and with a new year approaching, many people are starting to think about their financial situations. Is there enough money for the holidays? What goals can I set in the new year to help me build wealth?
This time of year, my thoughts usually turn to my family and to my lifestyle. It’s a time of reflection. Am I happy with my life? Do I feel as though I have enough money to accomplish what I would like to accomplish?
These thoughts bring me to questions of what makes me feel wealthy. Are there things that make me feel rich? And is wealth really more of a relative thing?
What Makes You Rich?
One of the problems with trying to figure out whether or not you are rich has to do with the fact that, so often, you compare yourself to others. Does being wealthy mean you have more money than someone else? But do you have enough to be classed with those who might have more money than you?
Sometimes, we like to assign dollar amounts to labels like “rich.” In the United States, politicians often cite an income of $250,000 a year as the point at which you might be considered rich. But if you “only” make $250,000 a year, are you really rich when you compare yourself to someone who makes $800,000 a year?
Of course, you might not compare yourself to others to determine whether or not you are rich. Perhaps you feel wealthy when you look at your situation a few years ago and compare it to the progress you have made since then. I know that I look at my lifestyle now, and compare it to when my husband and I were both in grad school with a toddler. We feel rich indeed when we compare our situation with what it was eight or nine years ago.
Other definitions of wealth include more than just income. What does it matter if you make $100,000 a year but live in a city with a high cost of living? You might actually have more disposable income if you were move to a small town — with a low cost of living — and make “only” $60,000 a year.
Perhaps, instead of looking at your income, it makes more sense to consider your net worth. Perhaps being rich is about amassing more assets than liabilities. If you concentrate on building your net worth, rather than getting hung up on your income (and perhaps spending all of it), you might feel as though you are wealthy.
Is It Just About Money?
In many cases, wealth isn’t just about money. It’s about how we feel about our money, and the assets we do have. Do you feel as though you have “enough.” Feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs and some of your wants might make you feel wealthy, as compared to someone who never feels as though he or she has “enough” — no matter how much money is coming in.
Your feelings about your life situation also come into play. Do you have a good family life and enjoy time with friends? If so, you might feel as though you are rich in ways that don’t include money. Your health can also contribute to feelings of wealth and happiness. It doesn’t have to be just about the money all the time, especially when you have a wealth of intangible and satisfying interactions to fall back on.
Security, though, seems to be important no matter what. It’s hard to feel wealthy, no matter how much love and health you have in your life, when you are scraping to make a living. However, financial security often has less to do with dollar amounts and more with how you manage your assets. If you manage your assets well, it might not matter how much you make (although you might like to make more) if you want to feel rich.
What makes you feel rich? How do you define wealth in your own life?