What Does It Mean to Be Rich?

If you wander by the personal finance section at your local bookstore, one of the first things you’ll notice is that a lot of books use the word “Rich” in the title. Rich Dad, Poor Dad. How to Get Rich. Smart Couples Finish Rich. I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Heck, one of the most popular personal finance blogs out there is named Get Rich Slowly.

Rich. What does it even mean?

I’ve said before that my idea of richness is merely financial independence and a full life. I truly don’t want to have mountains of money – if I did find some way to earn a lot of money, I’d likely give most of it away once I’ve established long-term financial independence for my immediate family. (Trust me, writing isn’t it unless you’re Dan Brown or Stephen King.)

But I’ve put a lot of thought into that question. What does it mean for people who are simply trying to make ends meet?

I asked a big handful of people on Facebook this very question. “How much money does it take to be rich? What would you do with that much money if someone just handed it to you?”

Most of the responses were very consistent with each other.

The amount of money it takes to be “rich” usually equals somewhere around one hundred times what a person has made in the last year (at least, based on what I could estimate that people make). So, someone that makes $20,000 a year would say that two million would make them rich. Someone making $100,000 a year would answer that ten million would make them rich.

What was interesting is the consistency in how they would spend it. Almost all of them mentioned buying material things. Out of the twenty people I asked, only two of them mentioned investing the money at all, although quite a few did mention paying off all of their existing debt. There were lots of mentions of ridiculously expensive cars and several mentions of new houses. A few people said they would quit their jobs.

Mostly, though, they would just spend their riches on a higher grade of the same stuff they already have. They’d buy a better car and a better television and a better house.

Obviously, many of the people I wrote to are perfectly happy with their lives and upgrading material elements of that life would just put icing on the cake.

But if you’re not happy with some aspect of your life, simply doing more of the same thing won’t help. You’ve got to do something different, and that often means completely changing the routine of your life.

If you’re happy with what you have in life, more money is just icing on the cake – a means to secure what you have and buff up certain parts of it.

If you’re unhappy with what you have in life, more money to buy more of the same stuff won’t help at all. Money helps in that it buys you the freedom to make the changes you want.

Having the money to buy that nice item you’re dreaming about won’t bring you happiness. Either you’re already happy with your life or you’re not. Money can, however, put a bit of sugar on the cookie if you’re already happy and allow you to find a new path if you’re not.

In the end, being rich has nothing to do with money. It has to do with being happy with what you have and not desiring more. Being rich is having enough. Some people working minimum wage jobs are rich and some people with millions in the bank are not.

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  1. wanzman says:

    My wife and I are currently considering some drastic changes to our life so that we can pursue financial free dom even sooner.

    This will involve downsizing to a smaller house/condo, and selling our boat (which is pretty much our one luxury item currently).

    Our dream is to get as close as we can to living off her salary alone, and for me to quit working while also buying a small apartment complex.

    Our goal is to both be self employed within the next 5 years within our own real estate company.

    To answer directly, rich to me would be about $2 to $3 million, after tax.

    If I were to suddenly have that amount, my wife and I would both quit our jobs, choose where we wanted to live permanently, and most likely pursue some business opportunity in that location.

    I don’t think we would make any large material purchases – maybe a vacation to celebrate. I haven’t had a day off in over a year due to taking anew job with a vacation waiting period.

    We both have jobs that we enjoy, but we would prefer to have more freedom in our lives from day to day.

  2. mollyh says:

    I agree – being rich in the very sense of the word is to be happy with what you have in life. That being said, my husband and I have talked about a financial number that we should strive for. It’s not as simple as ten times what we make in a year, though. What we want is to have enough money that the interest or other passive income covers our bills each month. Then, technically, we wouldn’t have to work anymore – which would be fantastic! The other good thing about this strategy is that as we pay off the last of our debts (we each have student loans still), the number we need to meet this goal actually goes down and becomes more and more achievable. I love it :)

  3. DJC says:

    Felix Dennis, in his book “How to Get Rich”, gives as good a definition as I’ve seen. To him, being rich gets you two things – time to do what you like, and “the option of not having to be in any particular place on any particular day doing any particular thing in order to pay the rent or the mortgage”. Whatever gets you there gets you rich.

  4. Rich is having enough to walk away from what you do today for money so you can do what you love.

  5. YC says:

    Although I can understand where this post is coming from, it is important to note that a suitable amount of money does improve life in a lot of measurable ways. And I’m not just talking about going from say 30,000 to 60,000.

    Consider: better healthcare; healthier foods; more efficient use of time (living in a location closer to your work/the city centre; maid service; paying others to do your menial work); better use of existing assets paying an accountant to structure a family trust); less to worry about and cleaner environments.

    Not to say that each of these cannot be gained through some alternative method.

    But remember that though frugality can play its part, some people might benefit just as much from increasing their salary.

    E.g. one person might use 10 units of effort/time to save $10,000 a year in cutting down on unnecessary bills. This is good. But perhaps that would diminish in marginal utility. E.g. a further 5 units of effort/time would only save a further $1,000 a year. Whereas diverting some of those units into working harder or smarter might result in a salary progression path that ultimately earns you, say, $100,000 over five years through an accumulated 50 units of effort/time.

    Gotta think about the opportunity cost.

    Furthermore, remember that cutting down on spending is non-iterative. If my expenses are $20,000 a year I can cut them theoretically down to 0 and invest the $20,000. Each year that $20,000 would be reinvested and compound.

    If I increase my salary by $20,000 a year (while expenses stay constant) then obviously the rate of compounding is faster.

    Not to mention that as your income or assets get higher, the opportunities to use tax planning, family trusts, personal companies and other investment vehicles get better.

    So it may be wise to apportion units of energy/time between frugality and earning more and see which has the highest net benefit in terms of overall utility gained (either better quality of life or overall savings in time/efficiency).

  6. I agree with Wanzman. The idea is to replace a certain level of income that will make you happy with investment/passive income – thereby achieving time freedom.
    Time freedom = Rich.

  7. Tahlia42 says:

    Throughout my career I have always chosen quality of life over salary. I could easily be earning twice what I do and do only that. I’d rather live than work. I have enough to cover expenses comfortable and to pay for my very expensive hobby that gives my life purpose and fulfillment. Despite the fact that I still have things that I want and can’t afford, I feel rich because my life provides me with more than what I need.

  8. Mike The Red says:

    I think Facebook, Twitter and social media spaces like them don’t really encourage deep discussion of a topic. That’s probably in part why you saw more “buy stuff” oriented comments. Those are the immediate, “fun” things people would go after if they suddenly found themselves with a lot of money.

    I consider “rich” to be:
    Financial security that allows my wife and/or I to work IF WE WANT TO, but not be forced to. A decent place to live (medium house, nice sized yard), decent but not super-fancy things (I don’t need a BMW, a Ford is just fine thanks), and the ability to travel once every year or two.

    That’s the benchmark.

    What would I do if I suddenly found I had a mountain of money? Of course the first thing I’d do is have some fun. Probably a killer trip somewhere we’ve always wanted to go.

    After that? Put the money places it will grow. Even an account with 1.5% APY gives you 15k/yr on $1 million. My personal goal with the money would be to work it so that the interest earned is equivalent to what I make right now in salary. Past that, it’s excess for exploring new opportunities.

    Other things I’d do with the money? Pay my parents back for college and all the ways they’ve supported me. I’d want to be sure they were set for a good retirement.

    Would I quit my job? Hell no. I actually like the work I do, and I would be bored to tears without some kind of work.

    Rich to me is the freedom to do what excites me the most. So hell, “rich” could be a $100,0000/yr job. No need for vast millions.

  9. Brent says:

    I think why materialistic things come up is because its what lack of money makes us think of. There are upgrades to my home, things I’d buy, but I’m holding off until I have the cash. On the other hand, in the long term I’m more concerned with not working a 9to5.

  10. Being rich requires zero dollars. It is a state of mind.

  11. ctreit says:

    I don’t even care whether I am “financially independent” whatever that means. In today’s world you can’t get around your own personal finance whether you have a lot or little money. I know that I will always somehow depend on my finances. It is just a matter of managing my money – income, assets, etc. Besides, I always want to have a job and some sort of activity that contributes to society. What would my life be like if I was just vegging out all day? That does not work for me.

  12. Jacob says:

    The rich person is not one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

  13. Rachel says:

    I just posted about this! Something in the air, perhaps? I certainly feel I’m living a more abundant life when the air is warm and the sun is shining.

  14. Harrken says:

    I have always though that I would consider myself rich if I had $5 million. I would quit my current job to persue my dream of having a small farm. I would want about 40 acres and it would need to have a 2-3 acre pond. I would build a small house designed to fit my needs. I would build the infastructure, i.e. fences, barn, etc; and purchase the equipment, i.e. pickup truck, tractor, mower, tools, etc. I would raise cattle, pigs, and chickens; and have a small garden. I would take care of my family and contribute to my community and charities.

  15. Kevin says:

    “In the end, being rich has nothing to do with money. It has to do with being happy with what you have and not desiring more. Being rich is having enough.”

    Trent, I agree with the bulk of your post, but this nonsense in the last paragraph is a pet peeve of mine. Why do people feel this incessant need to redefine words that already have a clear meaning?

    “Rich” absolutely DOES have to do with money. No, someone earning minimum wage with no savings is NOT “rich”, regardless of how happy they may be. And yes, a billionaire is most definitely “rich,” even if he cries himself to sleep every night.

    What you’re doing is trying to conflate spiritual and emotional wealth with financial wealth, and all it ends up doing is confusing people.

    “Rich” has a clear meaning already. It means you have a lot of money. It says absolutely nothing about a person’s level of happiness, satisfaction, or contentment. It JUST deals with money. That’s it.

    If you want to talk about the disconnect between money and happiness, then that’s fine, go right ahead – but please stop trying to redefine “rich” to mean “happy.” It’s annoying.

  16. Kevin says:

    @Steven:

    You’re wrong. No one looks at a penniless beggar and calls him “rich,” just because he has a smile on his face. Get real. It makes for warm, fuzzy rhetoric, but it doesn’t hold up to logical analysis. In the real world, that’s just not how people use the word “rich.”

    “Rich” means you have a lot of money. “Happy” means your happy. They are not interchangeable.

  17. Nick says:

    This could be written another way:

    “The key to happiness is not being rich but being independent. Being rich often leads to independence, and therefore, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not even the easiest way.”

    Another in a long line of posts at the Simple Dollar which are about determining what your true goals are, and what’s really valuable to you.

  18. John says:

    Do we not all know that rich, like many words has multiple meanings? see #5 and #10.
    rich
       /rɪtʃ/ Show Spelled [rich] Show IPA adjective,-er, -est, noun
    –adjective
    1.
    having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds; wealthy: a rich man; a rich nation.
    2.
    abounding in natural resources: a rich territory.
    3.
    having wealth or valuable resources (usually fol. by in): a country rich in traditions.
    4.
    abounding (usually fol. by in or with): a countryside rich in beauty; a design rich with colors.
    5.
    of great value or worth; valuable: a rich harvest.
    6.
    (of food) delectably and perhaps unhealthfully spicy, or sweet and abounding in butter or cream: a rich gravy; a rich pastry.
    7.
    costly, expensively elegant, or fine, as dress or jewels.
    8.
    sumptuous; elaborately abundant: a rich feast.
    9.
    using valuable materials or characterized by elaborate workmanship, as buildings or furniture.
    10.
    abounding in desirable elements or qualities: a man rich in kindness.
    11.
    (of wine) strong and finely flavored.
    12.
    (of color) deep, strong, or vivid: rich purple.
    13.
    full and mellow in tone: rich sounds; a rich voice.
    14.
    strongly fragrant; pungent: a rich odor.
    15.
    producing or yielding abundantly: a rich soil.
    16.
    abundant, plentiful, or ample: a rich supply.
    17.
    Automotive. (of a mixture in a fuel system) having a relatively high ratio of fuel to air (contrasted with lean).
    18.
    Informal.
    a.
    highly amusing.
    b.
    ridiculous; absurd.

  19. Leah Hokmah says:

    Who is rich? He who is satisfied with what he has.

    -Rabbinic quote from around 200 AD

  20. Stephen says:

    Agreed with Kevin.

    Redefining words is a counterproductive exercise. “Rich” is a word that, by definition, means having abundant material wealth. If you want to make the point that happiness/ debt freedom/ personal satisfaction is more worthy goal than being rich, that’s fine, but make that argument instead of trying to pretend that “rich” means something that it does not. At the very least, specify if you’re going to refer to “emotional richness” or something like that.

  21. DiscoApu says:

    There are 18 different definitions of “rich” Which one are you talking about? If you instantly asked someone how much money its takes to be rich. Well then you are leading them on the path of talking about the monetary definition of “rich” This conjures up images of Richy Rich, billionaires etc… But you are talking about what makes your life rich, so you essentially have tricked them. Throw in some financial independence and happy talk and you are mocking them for their answer.

    What you should have said, “How much money does it take to have a rich life?” You would have gotten very different answers, but I am guessing that was not you objective.

    I can tell you want is not rich, this post.

  22. gail says:

    i would travel! something i’m not doing much of now and would love to do more of. i would give to others (my love language). and my hubby and i would create new businesses.

  23. Christine T. says:

    My idea of rich is enough money so that I can make life decisions without money being the deciding factor. More money = more flexibility = rich.

  24. Monica says:

    I agree that one would not consider a penniless person rich, regardless of how happy they are. But perhaps “rich” should not be taken so literally here. I think what Trent is getting at is a “rich life” — a fulfilled life. And again, I would agree that you don’t have to have oodles of money to have a fulfilled life. I’m sure it certainly helps though!

    Here’s a unique perspective to consider: I have a cousin who is 25 and multi-handicapped. She cannot take care of herself, yet she is one of the happiest people I know. Her needs are taken care of and then some. She is loved. She gets to do her favorite activities all day long. She attends a great “school” for handicapped adults. She has no stress, no worries in her life. My aunt likes to joke, “T thinks she is normal and everyone else has the problems.” Now, would that be considered a rich life, despite the unusual circumstances?

    She has the mental capacity of a 3 year old and is unaware of how different she is from others her age. I know that some would argue that simply being handicapped means she can never have a completely fulfilled life, which I disagree with.

  25. Erin says:

    When I think of being rich, I think of having enough money to not have to work. It’s as simple as that for me.

    I don’t know what that dollar figure is. But if I could be home to put my daughter on and off the bus each day from school, my home paid off, and the freedom to do volunteer work in my community and have my basics paid for, I’d feel rich.

  26. Rhiannon says:

    If you want to feel rich, check out this website: http://www.globalrichlist.com/

    Although few of us want to admit or realize it, I bet almost all the readers of this blog are pretty darn rich compared to the majority of the world.

  27. Joe says:

    From this discussion, I realize that the word “rich” is not well defined. I am no lexicographer, but I think, by itself, the word “rich” should describe *relative* net assets. For example, if EVERYONE has a billion dollars in net asset, then no one is rich. It seems, also, that the word “rich” can be used to describe things other than net assets usually something abundant with a positive connotation. For example, this cake is rich in chocolate, and your life is rich in experiences.

    I agree with Kevin that one should not redefine terms because it ends up confusing people. The term “rich” is already overloaded and vague enough, and it shouldn’t be used in a logical manner. Perhaps, the title of this post should be “What Does It Mean to Be Happy?” In that case, we should try to define happiness. To be scientific, you’d have to understand the chemistry going on inside your brain that causes happiness. I hypothesize that this “happiness chemical” is triggered by different conditions based on the individuals. Perhaps, there’s a correlation between the release of this happiness chemical and financial freedom, however that’s defined.

  28. Kara White says:

    I just googled the definition of “rich.” There are fourteen different definitions for the word. Kevin, you’re right. The word “rich” does mean “Possessing great material wealth.” Trent is right too, though. The very next definition is, ” having great worth or value.” So, in the context of this post, the word “rich” does fit. The whole argument puts me in mind of J.D. Roth’s mantra at Get Rich Slowly…Do what works for you. If you value monetary wealth, go for it. But if money is not your first priority, that is okay too. Become financially independant and use the time you have left to do something you love.

  29. Ben P says:

    I think posters 1 and 2 hit on what I consider to be “rich.”

    Even though I enjoy my work, and In all likelihood will consider to work to some extent well past retirement age. I would consider myself rich when I’m earning enough passive income that I don’t have to work. Financial independence obviously has many levels, but I think in many ways that’s the ultimate goal.

  30. Stella says:

    Interesting post. Lots of food for thought. I’d like to think if I had a lot of money, I’d use it to live simply and basically do whatever I wanted (i.e.; not work for a living!).

  31. lurker carl says:

    Rich means having more than enough. Having enough is surviving.

    Using Monica’s cousin as an example, she is very happy (rich) because the life her family provides far exceeds what is needed for survival. If she was in a facility tending only to her basic needs, I doubt if her life would be as satisifing.

  32. William says:

    Wealth is made up of the things that make life worthwhile.

    -WR

  33. @Kevin- Are you implying that the poor cannot live a rich life?

  34. And what does “in the real world” mean anyways? Is there an “unreal” world? Maybe it is a matter of perspective and priorities…your definition of rich will leave people always wanting for more while my definition of rich will leave me satisfied with whatever I have, no matter how little that may be.

    I may find richness in my relationships with friends and family or in enjoying the songs of the birds while others are searching for richness in dollar bills, toiling away at a job where they are not happy, sacrificing time with family and not concerning themselves with the sounds of the birds…

    Their life, my life. We make our choices based on our definitions.

  35. Kris says:

    One thing about being rich is that it doesn’t mean you will stay rich if you don’t know how to manage your money. Many people have a definition of what it means to be rich, and then may blow it when they attain it. (for example, several former athletes that live in my area)

    I feel rich because I am totally content with my life. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but we have our health, a good roof over our heads, and my husband is employed (for now). I would feel more secure if the house was paid off, but that will come in time. Being debt free is a goal I hope to attain as soon as possible, and living cheaply to get to that goal is what might keep me ‘rich’.

  36. Des says:

    steven – you are speaking of riches metaphorically, Kevin is speaking of them literally. There is not “your” definition and “my” definition. Words have specific definitions. You can’t change their definitions to make yourself feel warm and fuzzy.

    You betray your own definition when you ask “Are you implying the poor cannot live a rich life?” The implication is that those without money are, indeed, poor.

  37. Thomas says:

    Being rich means getting enought money, to fulfill those two goals:

    1) Spent like 1/3 of it immediately on things like house, debts, stuff and some hard value like gold (to keep being rich during/after financial crisis, when paper money lose value, etc)

    2) Invest the rest in many distributed ways of how to get montly rent. Which should be high enought, to let me travel all those places around Earth, to try all those sports and hobbies,… Things, that I would, shouldn’t I have to work as corporate slave to pay all rents, food,…

  38. Kristine says:

    It’s Parkinson’s law at work. Expenses will rise to meet income. Being “rich” is in the eyes of the beholder. Good article.

  39. K.C. says:

    “What would you do with that much money if someone just handed it to you?”

    It is easy to blow money that isn’t earned. I think Trent would have received different answers if he had asked how much money they would have to earn to feel rich.

    Being rich and living richly are also two very different things. I can have a million dollars in cash and be rich. But I can’t live richly off of the income from that money. Conservatively invested, it would earn 5 to 6 percent, that’s only $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

  40. bethh says:

    I was talking this over with a friend recently. Yes, if I had unlimited funds I’d travel more. I’d definitely get a dishwasher, and would pay someone to clean for me! But for the most part my life is great and I know it.

  41. Tesla says:

    Wow, commenters sure know how to take a wam fuzzy, strip the fluff off, and then stick it in the freezer! I liked the article, it’s the message I like hearing in various manifestations to keep from envying the Joneses, while I wring satisfaction from the life I’m blessed with.

    I thought it was fascinationg that people’s idea of rich was so consistently that multiple of their own salaries. How interesting.

    We really do use up our riches on silly stuff sometimes! Britney, you listening to me??

  42. susan says:

    With the CA lottery over 200 million this week- it’s a topic I’ve thought of A LOT!

    I find that the perception of “enough” depends on where you’re coming from. I spent college helping my parents though bankruptcy and paying huge medical bills due to a painful illness. Being able to fix the car AND not worry about groceries in the same month is luxury to me.

    My husband is the brilliant well-paid son of a brilliant well-paid executive. He thinks his 100k+ salary is chicken-feed.

    We’re working on finding a happy medium.

    If I came into 10 million or so, I’d retire my parents, pay off my and my sibling’s student loans and mortgages, then settle down in a nice mid-middle class area of our city where the median income matches my husband’s work salary. Then I’d invest the remainder in a mix of bonds/stocks/income property where the 80% of the interest was deposited into pre-allocated accounts for spending/cash savings and the remaining 20% was divided between a charity/tithes and reinvestment.

  43. moom says:

    Well there is financial independence and then there is being really rich. The former would be being able to live your current lifestyle forever without working. The latter would be being able to live either a higher lifestyle or giving money to charity or startup investors or whatever all without having to work… For the former I reckon we need about $2 million. So double that for the latter.

  44. I’m not sure I am speaking of riches metaphorically. Can I not live a rich life without a lot of money? Can a poor man not be rich? Must richness be solely linked to money? I, personally, do not think so. With 18 definitions, not all linking richness to money, it is difficult to say that one person is speaking literally and the other metaphorically. It is a matter of interpretation but neither is more right than the other.

    While my life feels rich (abundant) without significant money, those who link a rich life to money will find dissatisfaction without what they perceive to be ample wealth in order to define a rich life.

    If nothing else, how we define rich speaks volumes about the person and what our core values are. Mine, unsurprisingly, don’t revolve around money…though I understand its importance.

  45. Johanna says:

    I agree with Des and Kevin about making up definitions. “Rich” means different things in different contexts, but in this context it means “having a lot of money,” and you don’t get to redefine it to mean something else just because you don’t think there should be a word that means “having a lot of money.”

    But state of mind is relevant too, since how much money is “a lot” is subjective, and relative. Most of us reading this blog have a lot of leeway in whether we see ourselves as “rich” or not. Compared to everyone else in the world, we’re rich. Compared to the people in our hometowns, we’re less rich, and compared to the people we see on TV, we’re downright poor. But a billionaire is rich no matter how you slice it, and someone with no income and no savings is not.

  46. Kevin says:

    @Steven:

    “Are you implying that the poor cannot live a rich life?”

    Not at all. I’m implying that a poor person is not “rich.” Mainly because the two words have exactly opposite definitions.

    The title of this blog post is “What does it mean to be rich?” It’s not “What does it mean to LIVE RICHLY” or “What does it mean to have a RICH LIFE”, it’s “What does it mean to BE RICH.”

    To “be rich” means you have a lot of money.

    That’s all.

    It means you have a lot of money. Any attempt to redefine it is arrogant and absurd. If you walk up to a stranger and show them a homeless person and Bill Gates and ask them “who is richer?”, they would say Bill Gates. Every time. Guaranteed. Not one single person would answer, “Well hold on a second – which one is happier?” That’s nonsense. Every single person would say “Bill Gates.” That’s just reality.

  47. It doesn’t take a lot of money to feel rich. We live very frugally, by design. I like cutting coupons, I like researching for a bargain, I am not too proud to have my little one run around in hand-me-down clothes. That frees up some extra money to feel rich — to buy the expensive toilet paper, the pretty handmade vase, etc.

    I think if you have enough food in the house every day and don’t have to stress where the next rent and health insurance payment is coming from, you are rich. How many pairs of jeans can you want?

    I blog about my frugal ways and much more at Dagmar’s momsense, http://DagmarBleasdale. I’d love for you to check it out — after you have starred enough at you new arrival :) Congrats! May he always be healthy and happy.

    Dagmar
    Dagmar’s momsense

  48. Mark says:

    Kevin:

    Arrogant and absurd? Really? Wow what a pathetic narrow view of the world you have. Rich is not defined “only” in monetary terms. It has many meanings. When you say a Chocolate milk shake is “rich”. Does that mean the drink has lots of money? Come on get off of your high horse.

  49. Brad says:

    I have often chosen career/happiness over salary. One of the times I enjoyed most was when I coached swimming from ’81 – ’86. Working with the kids was wonderful! My financial mistake was not starting to save even with a meager salary of $14,000 per year. If I had started saving then, I would be financially rich today. I tell my children the same story.

    But I certainly enjoy some rich memories – and it’s funny to reconnect with the “kids” on Facebook today; especially when someone posts a picture from back then….

  50. azz says:

    Have to agree with Mark! Why take it so litteraly, instead of just discussing it, pardon my bad dinglish :)

  51. I suppose I will be arrogant and absurd then since I prefer to define rich differently than you. This isn’t to say I am unaware of the other definition of rich in terms of money, just that I will not define the richness of my life or how rich I am in that way. It is exactly this attitude about money that I want to avoid in my own life. Money defines us. It is a measure of success for so many people and unless one has a lot of money, they cannot be satisfied in their lives.

    Why not look at it through another lens and see that richness may not have anything to do whatsoever with dollar bills but instead with the quality of life you are living and the amount of satisfaction within it. Be happy with what you have rather than focusing on what is “missing”.

    I’m sure there are people out there with money up to their eyeballs but are not rich. Even if you focus solely on the monetary definition, rich is about perception and situation and means different things for different people. A million dollars could be enough to be “rich” for one person but hardly enough to survive on for another.

    The title of this article is not, What is the Definition of Rich? It is, “What Does it MEAN to be Rich?” You define it with money, I define it by quality of life.

  52. Lance Newton says:

    Lance@selfdirectioncentral.com
    I am glad that you had the opportunity to do some impromptu research on what amount of money it takes to feel rich. My experience with investors is similar to yours. I would also note that many people who have been given stacks of money (lottery winners and recipients of homemakovers) end up broke after a remarkably short time. I have often felt that it made no sense to take a broke person and give them a ultra-luxurious house (many strip the equity and spend it as fast as they can, then can’t make the payments) as a solution to their needs or even as a reward for good deeds in the community especially if no effort is made to teach them how to use money.

  53. Matthew says:

    Well my attitude toward what it meant to be “rich” changed dramatically after I read the Millionaire next door… The Average Millionaire lives a very sensible almost frugal life, it’s not about bling, bling and conspicous consumption.

    While as a personal goal. 2 million is my retirement target, I began to feel “rich” in 995 when I became debt free, and my income always exceeded my expenses, I had the “choice” then the “rich” have.

  54. Congratulations on Matthew. What a beautiful little boy!

    When I speak about habits and attitudes related to money I frequently ask people to define “rich” and “poor”–related to money. When they were young did they think they were rich or poor relative to others? What led them to those conclusions? Who did they consider rich or poor? What attitudes did their parents have? Did they speak about “rich Uncle Joe” with admiration for his hard work or did they accompany his name with being dishonest, lucky or comments like–sure he’s rich, but he never does anything to help us out. When they talked about someone being “poor” did they associate it with bad luck, bad choices, being irresponsible, being admirable, being a burden? Did they feel they wanted to or needed to help that purpose and what was their attitude about that?

    I totally agree with all the comments that how we define ourselves in terms of rich or poor is completely unrelated to the amount of money we have, but is our perception.

  55. Janie Riddle says:

    How rich are you and your family with a beautiful baby. I am rich every day I can get out of bed and walk in the mornig. Thanks for reminding me.

  56. John says:

    Being rich means being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. Wealth and Abundance encompass much more than money.

  57. triLcat says:

    I know people who travel several times a year to exotic places, eat out a few times a week (at cafes, nothing fancy), have no debt, have savings, and stable income without working. They are able to help their children and grandchildren with expenses. They have a 10-year-old car and a house that isn’t huge. Are they rich? I think so. They may not have millions in the bank, but they live a fantastic, full life with no financial worries and are even able to help others.

  58. Rozann says:

    To me rich means having no debt, so that the money I do earn is MINE, and not someone else. I have always wanted to have enough money to help others, get started in a business, pursue something to do with the arts, or get a needed education. Our family is working to that end now. Someday!

  59. AniVee says:

    I’m with #2 Tyler @ Dividendmoney on this one – To have enough to invest and get back steady income sufficient to spend most of your time doing the things you love — in my case, travel, in other peoples’ perhaps charitable works or spending time with loved ones, or writing the Great American Novel, or painting watercolors —
    THAT’s being rich.

    As Peter Lynch once said, “on their deathbeds, no body says, “gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office …. “

  60. lynne says:

    What does it take to be rich? For me, enough to do some traveling, take care of monthly expenses, not worry about the car breaking down, a leaking roof, dental work, etc. I’d want to help my adult children to finally buy homes of their own, and make sure my grandkids could go to college. There are lots of charities I’d love to sponsor if I had the funds. If I won the lottery tomorrow would I quit my job? Maybe, maybe not. I really like what I do, but at my age there is so much I have wanted to do and couldn’t afford, that I would probably take a leave of absence, then return to work.

  61. Terri T says:

    I agree that rich does not translate into having mountains of money. Depending on what is most important to an individual, a poor person could indeed view their self as being rich. In any case, loving what life has given you certainly puts one on the road to riches.

  62. Jennifer says:

    If I thought about what it would take to be rich, that would take millions and would include nice cars and a bigger house and traveling likely mostly to visit relatives that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. And enough money to travel when my kids are older and start a bakery 10 or so years down the line. If I’m just talking about a rich life, I think I basically have that now. If someone handed me a check to pay off my credit card balances and my student loans that would likely clear up enough cash flow to meet the few desires I have now would be nicer (more money to retirement, college savings & insurance or possibly a car that can hold people in addition to the two car seats in the back).

  63. Dena says:

    What an absolutely beautiful baby boy!Matthew is a gorgeous little thing.You and your family are truly blessed.Best wishes……Dena

  64. Matt says:

    When I was shortly out of college, I got a free consultation from a financial adviser. While the adviser really wanted to sell me mutual funds, I learned one really interesting thing: he predicted that over the course of a 35-year career, I’d make about five million dollars.

    For reference, at the time, I was working as a programmer for a large manufacturing company in a small town in the Midwest, and making about $60k/year. I wasn’t “rich”, but I was certainly comfortable. I had everything I needed.

    Since then, I’ve always thought to myself: if I had that five million dollars now, in theory, I could live at my current comfort level without working.

    Consider, the 30-year US Treasury rate is currently 4.625%. They are sold in million dollar lots. So one 30-year US Treasury bond will provide over $40k of interest income per year. US Treasury bonds are the most conservative investment you can make; with five million dollars, you could diversify, and easily make over $100k/year in passive income.

    I certainly agree with the spirit of Trent’s post; that is, time has more value than money. So, if you have lots of time, you are rich. For those of you who are of the same mindset, I thought you might appreciate some numbers.

    And for what it’s worth, if I magically received a five million dollar windfall, I would certainly splurge a little bit, but the overwhelming majority would be invested to maximize passive income. In other words, my biggest purchase would be *retirement*.

  65. Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com says:

    I think that we all have to define what rich means to US so that we don’t just take the default definition given by society which is just “keep making money and retire at 30 and do nothing forever”. We are worth more than this.

  66. Ellen says:

    I’m still stuck on the first part of your post. If you could, you’d really give your kids long-term financial independence? And how do you think they’d end up? Or their kids? I’d much rather give my kids the opportunities to find things they love to do that also bring in some income rather than just money. If I had the income, that would probably mean some travel opportunities, some exploring time, but not “long-term financial independence.”

  67. Juan says:

    Hi everybody,
    Very interesting comments. In my point of view I think that richness has to do more with a state of consciousness than with the fact of having lots of money in assets. Obviously, there exists a correlation between such state and someone financial condition, because someone’s feeling of being genuinely prosperous and abundant automatically allows the manifestation of what is needed. But the thing is that we were never taught that. All this is intimately related to the state of happiness, fulfilment, health which are elements that allow to live a life in full. If we have the attitude in our life based upon these principles, all the channels will be open to experience in full, which means that if you wish money you will then create the conditions to make it, be it working for someone or for yourself. You will make as much money as you expect within yourself and when you act this way you will surely enjoy it, share it with your beloved ones.

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