Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I'm Not Rich

On my recent trip back home to the U.S., I had dinner with my cousin. She and I were really close when we were kids, and I've never understood why we haven't kept in better touch, because whenever we do meet, it's always fabulous.

Anyway, as we were enjoying our gourmet pizza and craft beer, she said: "You're so incredibly smart. Why aren't you rich?"

I had to laugh. I apparently still have my childhood reputation within the family as a genius, though I haven't exactly achieved fame or fortune because of my intellect. I mean, I haven't won the Nobel prize or discovered a cure for cancer, the way I thought I might. But then her question got me thinking. I realized that at least one reason I'm not rich is that I've never tried to be. Wealth for its own sake has never, ever been a personal goal.

It's not that I don't know the value of money. I've been supporting myself since my mid-twenties, and count myself as financially responsible. I work hard and I appreciate being well-compensated. As long as I have enough to meet my needs though (which are fairly modest, at least by some people's standards), I don't care that much about having more. I mean, I wouldn't be unhappy to win a lottery or receive an unexpected inheritance, but I don't spend much time thinking about that. Other things are more important to me.

The really rich people in the world - people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Carl Icahn, Carlos Slim - have put a huge amount of mental and emotional energy into the process of becoming rich, probably since they were quite young. They understand money. They love (I suspect) money. They find the process of pursuing wealth to be satisfying in a way that I never could.

Not me. I can't be bothered with all the hassle necessary to get rich. Okay, that's a bit facetious, but honestly, I don't want to devote my time to the process of accumulating money. I have other things to do.

For me, prosperity covers a good deal more than just having cash in the bank (or invested in the stock market). A companion that I love and whose company I enjoy - a job that challenges me and lets me make a difference in the world - good health - a comfortable home - tasty food - the occasional chance to travel - these are some of the things that contribute to my definition of  "personal wealth". I'm not rich and never will be, but I have a fantastic life - interesting, rewarding ever-changing.

I have a few friends and family who are much richer than I am. When I'm in their company I always feel a bit self-conscious, as though they might be judging me based on my income or my bank balance. Some people do feel that your net worth is synonymous with your worth as a person, and in many societies status and wealth are closely related. I fight that feeling. They made their choices. I've made mine. And I'm intensely grateful for the outcomes.

It's a day to count one's blessings, and I have many. So being rich isn't one of them... well, that's fine with me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
May you be showered with blessings!


Colleen C. said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Normandie Alleman said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I remember once being at a conference for bloggers. One of the most successful woman speakers said, "Everyone's basic needs cost about the same. Above that..." and she shrugged her shoulders. I've thought of that many times since then and realized how very right she was. Once our basic needs are met money does not have to be a driving force. It can be if we choose, but it's a choice whether or not to strive for wealth.

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