Wealthy or Rich? Which Would You Rather Be?

During recent discussions about a book by Thomas J. Stanley called “The Millionaire Next Door” over on the Rockstar Forum, I was reminded of the true meaning of wealth.

In Western society, we tend to equate being wealthy with being rich, but that's like comparing apples and oranges.

What does "being rich" mean?

Being rich means having gobs of money and showing the world we do. Rich people have a lot of flashy stuff and many of them seem to never have enough…enough money, homes, cars, jewelry, clothes and any other status symbols they may desire. Some rich folks even end up in the poor house in their constant striving for this elusive state we call “more”—amassing tons of assets and tons of debt to support the accumulation of said assets.

There’s not much difference between living this way and living paycheque to paycheque. The Queen of Versailles documentary epitomizes this state of being. 

If we never feel we have enough, if we never feel we are enough, then it doesn’t matter how much bling we wear or the poshness of our ride or the ostentatiousness of our lodging, we never get off the hamster wheel. We keep hoarding: stuff, money, square footage, status, power, attention.

Having gobs of money does not equal wealth.

What does "being wealthy" mean then?

Wealth is a different animal. Being wealthy means you’re not chasing “more”. (Though, ironically, the wealthy tend to attract “more” in part because they’re not in a desperate chase for it.)

Being wealthy also doesn’t require achieving the outward status of “rich”. Being wealthy is a state of mind. It’s the state we reach when we feel we have enough. What is enough? Enough security to not have money influence our decisions And, if your concept of “enough” is modest, you can achieve wealth quite early in life. 

The wealth equation is a simple one: 

Needs < Means = Wealthy

When our needs are comfortably addressed by our means, we believe we can live life on our terms. We feel self-sufficient. We feel we have options. We feel we can live life in line with our values and be our truest selves. We don’t chase what doesn’t matter to us. We pursue what we’re passionate about and we don’t give a rat’s behind what other people think. We’re secure in our abilities, both to provide for ourselves and to live a good life—whatever that definition might be for us.

There are many benefits to being wealthy. When we’re truly wealthy, we have:

If you’re not yet wealthy but want to be someday, never purchase a home that requires a mortgage that is more than twice your household’s total annual realized income.
— Thomas J. Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door, p. 68.
  • Fewer preoccupations because fewer people have dominion over us; we have fewer obligations.
  • Better relationships because we know they’re worth investing in as opposed to stuff. 
  • Better health thanks to the lower level of “bad” stress that can cause so many issues, not to mention better quality sleep.
  • An appetite for investing in ourselves and others through lifelong learning.
  • Higher life satisfaction in part because we can pay attention to it and because we feel we’re the ones steering the ship.
  • Direction because we don’t get stuck in the rut of the everyday hoping for a better tomorrow. We can think in the present and evaluate whether what we’re doing is really what we want to/ought to be doing. If the anwer is “No”, we know it's time to pivot.
That man who keepeth in his purse both gold and silver that he need not spend is good to his family and loyal to the king.
The man who hath but a few coppers in his purse is indifferent to his family and indifferent to the king.
But the man who hath naught in his purse is unkind to his family and is disloyal to his king, for his own heard is bitter.
— George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon (1955), p. 144.

Wealthy people are generous because they know they have what they need. More generous in time, attention, money, support. Wealthy people are also kinder and tend to get what they want with patience and without coercion because they lack the feeling of scarcity, which makes us focus on the self, on what we don’t have.

Wealthy people are happy to let others live their lives as they see fit and they expect others to respect their choices as well. Live and let live is a great motto and an easier one to adhere to when you're living life on your terms and are in need of nothing more. 

Is it possible to be wealthy and rich?

Yes, of course. It is possible to be wealthy and rich, but it often doesn't work the other way around. Having a lot of money doesn't mean you feel you have enough, but you can feel you have enough and have a lot of money. Warren Buffett is the traditional example when it comes to the wealthy rich. It's nothing more than a state of mind once the basics are addressed and more money doesn't tend to change that state of mind.

So what would you rather be? Rich or wealthy?

I’ll take wealthy, hands down. There’s a reason the saying “mo’ money, mo’ problems” resonates with a lot of us. When we focus on the green backs and what it can buy over time, we lose touch with what it is that really makes us happy, and that’s not having to focus so much on accumulating more of them once we have “enough”.

What do you think? Rich or wealthy…or both?

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