What It Means to Be Wealthy

So I know I’m a personal finance blogger and everything, but I’ve noticed that I’m not quite as focused on earning lots of money as many of my fellow bloggers.  Maybe I’m suppressing those desires in myself because of our current necessarily limited income or perhaps I’m wired a bit differently.


I asked myself whether I really want to become wealthy.  I don’t think I want to be independently wealthy particularly early – I don’t see both Kyle and I not working at the same time by choice until we’re pretty old.  What does it even look like to be wealthy?  I’m not a flashy car person and I think a large house just generates more work.


Money is important, but it’s only one of many important areas of my life.  I’ve imagined what aspects of my lifestyle will make me feel wealthy.  For many of them, a modicum of money is necessary but it is sufficient for none.  Not surprisingly, these areas line up very well with my top five values!


Rich in Security


This is the only directly money-related area that would make me feel wealthy.  Anything is possible so we can never be fully secure no matter how much money we have, but there are few layers I like having in place: some cash in the bank, no consumer debt, and adequate insurance.  Not living paycheck to paycheck like I was in my first couple years after undergrad has been really nice.  🙂


Rich in Relationships


Marriage: My marriage is my #2 value and priority and I never want that to change.  I picked (and was picked by) a truly exceptional man and I want to be an excellent partner to him.  We have had a great start to our marriage so I already feel very wealthy in this area.  I don’t expect it to all be rainbows and butterflies but we are committed to one another and I hope we’ll have a general upward trajectory.


Family: My father has always told me that my relationship with my siblings will be lifelong (so I’d better put some effort into them!).  Blood is thicker than water, I suppose.  My family isn’t perfect but I would like to be geographically and emotionally closer to them, and Kyle’s family too.  And in a few years we’ll probably add some new people to our family.  I’ll feel wealthy if I have time to invest in these relationships.


Community: Similarly to our family relationships, I will feel wealthy with meaningful friendships and church community.  Kyle and I are both introverts but we enjoy hanging with friends in low-key situations and of course cheering on our basketball team alongside other friends.


Rich in Wellness


After I graduated from college I started sleeping and it was, like, the best thing ever.


I found out that I have a predisposition to a certain disease and that news helped motivate me to keep my weight in a healthy range.  Through my weight-loss journey I developed certain convictions about what healthy eating is – and it turns out my preferred way is rather more expensive than the conventional American diet and not one that we have chosen to afford right now.  A higher income (keeping our same budget priorities) is needed for me to be fully wealthy in this way.


Wealth in this area means the time and flexibility to sleep sufficiently, exercise regularly, and prepare my own food, and the disposable income to buy good quality food.


Rich in Openness


In reflecting on the people I know who are wealthy, one common thread that I admire is that they open up their homes and lives.  Kyle and I already enjoy being hospitable but I would like to be even more generous with our home and time and resources.  Having a nice home that we keep up well is a nice start toward being wealthy in this way but it’s mostly about the attitude, and Kyle and I are still developing in that respect.


Similarly, I want to cultivate the mindset of holding what is ours loosely – with an open hand.  God can use us and anything we have in any way He pleases and I want to have a joyful attitude to participate in that.


Rich in Freedom


I love our current flexible schedule and having some control over my time makes me feel wealthy.  In addition to reasonable work hours and some flexibility, I would like in the future to feel that we aren’t chained to our income.  We would be wealthy if we could realize the dream of one of us becoming a stay-at-home parent for a time if our family would benefit or take leaves of absence from work to travel or spend time with family.


Rich in Christ


There’s a bit of a tension here.  I’ve already accepted the greatest trade-off in history: Jesus took the punishment for my transgressions and I received his perfect record.  So in some sense I can’t be any wealthier because I have been reconciled to God through Jesus’s sacrifice.  But I think that I could experience the peace of the Gospel more fully.  Wealth in this area would constitute the time (and motivation) to study the Bible and pray as well as participate in a vibrant church community.  We are part of a wonderful church currently and certainly hope to find other similar ones where we live in the future.


If you were wealthy, what would you life look like?  In what areas are you already wealthy?  How much does money have to do with being wealthy?


photo from Free Digital Photos

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19 Responses to "What It Means to Be Wealthy"

  1. I agree with you for the most part. I don’t desire to be filthy rich at all. What I do desire is security, freedom, and having more time to do what I want.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..What I Want My Kids to Know About Money

    1. Emily says:

      That is really the millionaire next door kind of way!

  2. Emily too says:

    Thinking about this makes me happy because I realize this is where my choices are already! Maybe we can’t help ourselves from building up wealth where it really matters 🙂

    I actually couldn’t express my values any better than you do here. My marriage, family and friendships are the most valuable things I have, the freedom vs money tradeoff of grad school is absolutely worth it most of the time, and I’m doing my best to plan for security and be generous with what little money I do have. I know what you mean about richness in Christ – on the one hand there is nothing more we could ask for than what we already have, and on the other, I could be making the choice to shape my life more around Him.

    The only other thing is that I would like to be rich in experiences of the world, but I’m learning that there are tradeoffs between jet-setting to new places for research/short-term living and spending a long time really putting down roots in one place. So I’m not even sure what that means to me at this point.

    1. Emily says:

      Maybe we appreciate these areas because that’s all we have and we’ll recognize the value of additional cash flow once we experience it! 😉 Just kidding, I think these values will be pretty stable.

      I feel similarly to you about moving/traveling around a lot – I like experiencing living in different places but it really fragments our relationships. + side: have more friends, – side: less invested in each relationship.

  3. I’m a big believer in that study that showed that money stops bringing in happiness after $75,000. All I want in life is a simple lifestyle, being able to pay my bills and not worry about money, and be surrounded with friends and family.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Why Former Olympic Rower Turned to Minimalism to Pay Down $82,000 in Debt

    1. Emily says:

      Very good point. I haven’t surpassed that income level in my life yet and I do often think things would go a bit easier with a larger income but I’m pretty satisfied where I am so I don’t think having gobs more money would make an enormous difference in that feeling.

  4. I think wealth has a different meaning for everyone. If I had a billion dollars but no family or friends in my life it wouldn’t be a very happy existence at all. You have outlined somem very great points. If we all look at what we have in our lives, we might be wealthier than we think. I think health, raising children who go on to be productive adults, and having a partner to share with are most important, but having enough money to not have to struggle would be great as well.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Can’t Take My Eyes Off These Blogs #10-Ed McCaffrey Edition

    1. Emily says:

      I do want enough income to not have to struggle… But I think my take-away from this post was that there are so many things that add wealth to my life that would founder if I didn’t invest time there, so I’m not willing to spend too much of my time pursuing a high income.

  5. jefferson says:

    Love this post, Emily.

    I do love my job right now, but it isn’t my number one priority in life. If it takes working 60 hours weeks each week to raise my income to the point where I will never have to worry about money, than I am just not willing to do that. I work so that I provide a good life for my family, and it is my family life that defines me.
    jefferson recently posted..Shortcuts to Financial Freedom

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds very sensible to me. It’s so important to keep in mind the real purpose(s) behind working. You can add so much more value to your family by being present than with the additional income.

  6. We can be rich in so many ways, and money is just one aspect of that. Being rich in relationships and health are two things that I absolutely believe are more important than money. What’s the point of money if we don’t have good realtionships or health?
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Would You Want a Gift Card for Christmas?

    1. Emily says:

      I can imagine that for some people money would take a higher place on the what-makes-me-wealthy list, but I don’t want pursuit of it to detract too much from my health and relationships.

  7. I love the last point and it’s something that I’m trying to strive after more. It’s exceptionally difficult to balance life while pursuing multiple facets. I don’t have any specific desire to have “$X” amount of money in my life, but it would be nice to have enough to not have to worry. Saying that, I read a great post at Mr. Money Mustache awhile back where he talked about how much life you miss out on when all you know is comfort. It was an interesting read.
    Jason @ WorkSaveLive recently posted..Boys Becoming Men: It Doesn’t Happen On Accident

    1. Emily says:

      I haven’t read that post so I don’t know what aspect of comfort he was talking about, but I’m sure there are ways to challenge yourself immensely in all the areas I listed, not only increasing income.

      I don’t like that I often let my walk with God get pushed to the back burner. I try to preach the Gospel to myself as often as I think of it so that my motivation for spending time with Him is love and gratitude instead of guilt.

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