What Does “Rich” Mean to You?

Part of Financial Liberty is thinking about things differently, and more importantly, understanding what’s important to you. That’s why I want to pose the question: 

What does being “rich” mean to you?
(photo by M at Unsplash)

Maybe we can ask the question another way. What does it really mean to be “rich”? 

My wife and I were recently talking about this as we were driving out for a weekend camping trip. Is it income? Savings? A fancy car and a big house?

I grew up on the lower end of middle class, so anytime I saw someone with stuff that I didn’t have, I thought they were rich. I imagined that some day I would also be rich and then I could have all that stuff too. I also thought it didn’t take that much money to be rich. When you only have a few hundred dollars to your name, even a couple thousand dollars sounds like a ton. 

My first job offer out of college was a comfortable salary, and it Blew. My. Mind. I thought I could afford anything and everything, maybe even a yacht! 

LOL.

It was definitely a good salary, but it didn’t afford the lifestyle I originally imagined. I just had no context. My parents never made that much, and I didn’t know anyone at the time who made that much money (even though it really wasn’t that much). 

Now that I have some experience under my belt and a dose of reality, I still think this is an interesting question. 

There are a few ways we can measure “rich”:

  • Income
  • Stuff (material possessions)
  • Wealth

Is someone who makes $500k a year rich? What if they spend $550k a year and are accumulating debt to make up the difference?

What about someone with a Range Rover and a 3-story house on the lake? Well, what if they’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck and would have to give it all back if they lost their job?

I had a realization a few years ago when I lived in a really “nice” neighborhood. My commute to work was in a long line of Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, even an occasional Ferrari. I would see this and think “Wow, nice car! They must be so rich.” Yet, they were still stuck in traffic on their way to work next to me and my $4,500 car. Now, I don’t know any of these people personally, or where they were going, but if I were “rich”, I would prefer not having a shitty commute to work, even if it was in a Ferrari (i.e., I’d rather quit my job).

As my wife and I talked about this, we both agreed that rich comes with some layer of security. This security comes from wealth, but it also takes lifestyle into account. 

For example… If you have a million dollars in the bank, but you spend a million dollars a year, you’ll only be able to cover a year of expenses. You could definitely buy some nice things spending a million dollars a year, but it doesn’t seem rich to me if it’s not sustainable.

But, if you have a million dollars in the bank and you live on $50k a year, you’re set for at least the next 20 years! If you invest it, it would last even longer!!

To me, that seems rich.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments what you think it means to be “rich”.

4 comments

  • I enjoy your perspective on what it means to be rich! I agree that rich is not about how much money you have, but how you spend it. Living beyond your means or just meeting your means can make for a comfortable and slightly risky lifestyle, but living responsibly and less than extravagantly is a more sustainable way to live.

    I do believe money is only good for spending, though, as that is its only use, but that does mean is should be spent poorly.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Like

  • mummyconqueringanxiety

    I love this way of thinking about money & wealth. I think everyone’s circumstances are so different but I often wonder about someone’s personal wealth from the cars & houses they have. I think it’s a natural human instinct to wonder, haha

    Like

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