What it means to be rich

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 3, 2010, 10:22 PM | comments: 0

Gonch made this post recently about what it means to be rich, and in particular how one guy didn't feel rich despite bagging a quarter-million annually. It does make a lot of sense, and I can't say that I'd quickly write off the guy as someone disconnected from reality. There's a song by James called "Sit Down" that says, "If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor." That has always resonated with me.

Like Gonch, I can't draw any real conclusions about the linked article, but I can appreciate different perspectives. I'm not even sure if people can arrive at an agreed definition of being rich. Being rich, to me, isn't the same as being wealthy. Then you have geography and other things to consider. I'll be honest, if I had my current salary and was still living in Cleveland, with only one house to pay for, I'd feel rich. But then I revise my definition to include some level of security, meaning that I could maintain the same lifestyle for years going forward, and then it doesn't feel so rich.

There's also a practical side to how a person likes to live. I've never had a desire to buy a "status car," despite it being well within my means to have one, and I only need as much house as it is practical (something reinforced after a year in a "small" apartment). Fashion isn't important either, so I'm content rocking the Old Navy catalog. I suppose the expensive computers aren't entirely necessary, but given my line of work, it's a lot like having great tools if you're a mechanic. Hot tubs aside, I don't use "stuff" as a measure of wealth either.

I guess I define being rich as basically not being financially restricted from doing stuff you like. The naive side of me believes that generally doesn't change if you're well grounded (as in, I can't imagine wanting to spontaneously go to Paris just because I can). But if I can decide that today I'll hang out with my family in a park, or tomorrow we'll go to great restaurants in Vancouver, or next month we'll go to Hawaii for a week... all without being accountable to someone or something else, that's being rich. It's financial self-sufficience.


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