What Does Wealth Mean to You?
I hope you don’t mind me asking…
Are you wealthy?
It might sound like a strange or overly personal question. But “wealth” means so many things to so many different people.
It can vary based on your current age, the generation you were born into, how your parents raised you or what your lifestyle looks like… among many other factors.
Your notions of wealth may even change from year to year.
But it’s time we sit down and consider what the pursuit of so-called wealth is doing to us.
What is true wealth? What are we trying to achieve… and how do we get there?
The Price of Comfort
According to Charles Schwab’s 2021 Modern Wealth Survey, a person needs to have an average net worth of $624,000 to be “financially comfortable.”
To achieve “financial happiness,” the average net worth gets bumped up to $1.1 million.
And true wealth can be had at an average net worth of $1.9 million.
Now, all of these numbers are down considerably from those of the 2020 survey. Hardship will have that effect…
But even the lowered $1.9 million threshold is out of reach for many hardworking people.
Prior to the pandemic, the average net worth of a U.S. household was $748,000, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. That’s less than half of the amount the same population thinks is required to achieve wealth.
Still, that doesn’t begin to put things in perspective.
In 2019, the median net worth (the midpoint of American households) was just $121,700.
Feel free to check my math, but these numbers tell us that the vast majority of Americans live nowhere near the expected level for financial comfortability or financial happiness.
But I’ll bet that more than a few of them consider themselves wealthy…
Freedom From Finances
The question I wish that survey had asked is this: What does wealth mean to you?
Here at The Oxford Club, we (of course) want to help you add zeros to your bank account. But beyond that, we want you to live your best life socially, culturally, mentally and emotionally.
Because wealth doesn’t just bring you financial freedom…
It brings you freedom from finances.
Troubled by this survey’s poor word choice, I reached out to our fearless Oxford Club leaders.
Here’s what they had to say in response to the question, “What does wealth mean to you?”
Chief Trends Strategist Matthew Carr says…
To me, wealth isn’t merely about money or a fortune. It’s about freedom. It’s freedom from worry, freedom from anxiety, freedom of fear of the future. To me, the pursuit of wealth isn’t about greed or accumulating more than anyone else; it’s about actually allowing one to enjoy their time on this planet, being truly free to pursue what makes one happiest. Now, can you do that even if you’re poor? Of course. But I’ve been poor and I’ve been wealthy, and I can tell you that you have more freedom being the latter.
Engineering Strategist David Fessler has his own view on wealth…
There is a quote that [my wife], Anne, framed and gave to me as a gift back in 1988 when the two of us were still dating. “Wealth is not how much you have… or where you are going… or even what you are. Wealth is who you have beside you.” And she’s been by my side ever since, through both the good and the bad times. And I’ve had my share of bad times. I’m not sure who originally said this, but it hits home with me. All the money in the world won’t make you any happier. Having the right person to share your life with is all the wealth you really need. The rest usually takes care of itself. That’s not to say proper financial planning isn’t important. But having a lot of money won’t necessarily make you wealthy without someone to share your life with.
My Cup Runneth Over
So I’ll ask again… Are you wealthy?
I’d argue that there’s no price tag on wealth.
If having a few extra zeros in your bank account gives you peace of mind… then that’s worth more than the numbers on the screen.
Sure, there are varying degrees of financial stability. We are often lumped into categories of “has no cash,” “has some cash” or “has plenty of cash.” And this lens affects how the government, our neighbors, our co-workers and our family members perceive us.
But a statistic of perceived net worth is, well, worthless. You shouldn’t feel “less than” or feel pressured to reach a certain net worth just because you think it’s expected of you.
Investing – as a practice – is a means to earn money. But that money is worthless if it’s the only joy filling up your cup.
Go forth and make money. Be rich! But, more importantly, be wealthy.