BY ADELE CASANOVA
What does it mean to be rich? How do we define wealth? Where and how we live will influence the answers to these questions. Wealth can be defined by two measurements: standard of living and quality of life. Understanding the difference between the two can help us evaluate our true wealth.
Standard of living is measured by material aspects. This represents the availability of goods and services, some necessary and some for added comfort. In other words, how much is available to us that we can afford to enjoy? Income versus the cost of living. When rating over 190 countries by assessing the individual’s purchasing power, Global Finance Magazine rated the U.S. as 12th with the median annual wage of $64,000. Rated at the bottom is Brundi in East Africa where the median annual wage of $727 leaves little room for the average person’s purchase of luxury. We have all experienced leaner financial times and would consider more money welcome to improve our lives, but next time we feel like complaining about the financial pressures we face daily, it might be helpful to keep these global comparisons in mind. In comparing wage against cost of living, Global Finance states, “When considering whether it is better to be rich in a poor country or poor in a rich one, the best chance of enjoying an excellent living standard is to reside in a richer nation,” regardless of how your wage compares to the average. The United States is rich with opportunities and ways for us to manage and spend our money.
Quality of life refers to a more subjective measuring of wealth that may include happiness, safety, health, freedom, and the value placed on the worth of life itself. Certainly quality of life can be influenced by the availability of a high standard of living, however, in asking “Am I rich?” perhaps it would be easier to answer if we look closely at our quality of life, which tends to be less influenced by the availability of material things and more by our attitudes and choices.
With this in mind, does material wealth in dollar figures determine the answer to the question, “Am I rich?” Perhaps if we step back and think of all that we have instead of all that we don’t have, we will sense a greater quality of life. Quality of life is basically a measure of happiness. Happiness is reinforced by the presence of options. We are free to pursue many options in our country. We can make personal choices in education, job training, career paths, diet, and healthy lifestyle. We have the freedom to marry who we want and build unique family units that are inclusive of everyone. We have freedom of expression and freedom of religion to follow our chosen faith. These freedoms and choices determine our quality of life, our wealth of satisfaction, and happiness.
People who enjoy this happiness and satisfaction with life often have a positive attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit. Gratitude can play a large part in quality of life, as well as management of one’s wealth and assets. Ask yourself what being rich means to you. Is it being able to pay for basic needs without scrapping money together? Are you rich because you have a car, a washer and dryer, a bicycle, a flat screen television, a cell phone and can still afford to go the doctor if needed? Are you rich because you have running water, heat, air conditioning, and leisure time? Are you rich with caring loved ones and an inclusive culture and freedom to pursue the lifestyle of your choice? More importantly, how do you want to define being rich? By material wealth or quality of life and happiness?
Evaluating our level of happiness and satisfaction is an easier measure of wealth and can be influenced by us through our attitudes and our lifestyle choices. A high level of material wealth never guarantees happiness. So, “Are YOU rich?”