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What Being Wealthy Actually Means

14/10/2014

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Mai Le

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Wealth is one of the most prominent desires humans spend their lives pursuing. It is often paid for with blood, tears, anger, effort, personal happiness, and sometimes even one’s life. However, little has been discussed about why we sacrifice so much in this pursuit of wealth.

It’s crucial to distinguish between being wealthy and being rich. In this discourse, I will focus on “wealth,” which refers to the abundance of material assets and resources. “Rich,” on the other hand, can be interpreted in non-material ways – like being rich in thoughts, life experiences, physical capacity, or skills. This brings us to a central question: Why do we seek an increasing level of material wealth? Are our perceptions of what wealth can do for us accurate?

Clarifying the purpose of material wealth is a vital distinction. The burning desire, born from confused intentions, has led many to chase wealth blindly. In essence, without understanding the reason for their pursuit, they allow the idea of wealth to dictate their goals and life’s direction. This could escalate to a point where individuals define themselves, their values, and identities by their material assets. As with most tangible assets, material wealth is transient. The identity crisis some face stems from relying on wealth as a definitive purpose and life’s ultimate meaning.

Everyone should strive to control their wealth rather than let it control them. While many aspire to be wealthy, few understand the true purpose of this pursuit. I don’t purport to have a definitive answer to this, but I can offer an insight I’ve gleaned from many affluent individuals, a perspective that might surprise the average or low-income earner:

Wealth is not the key to happiness. Instead, it creates opportunities to derive happiness from non-material sources. I equate wealth with freedom. And while many say that freedom is priceless, I contend that the pursuit of wealth is the closest approximation to the cost of freedom.

Being wealthy affords you the freedom to allocate your limited resources effectively. Specifically, wealth grants financial freedom, time freedom, relationship freedom, spiritual freedom, and physical freedom.

Consider time as an illustration. The wealthy place immense value on their time, often quantifying it in monetary terms. Wealth means having the luxury to exchange financial resources for more time to pursue what brings you joy. For instance, if you’re wealthy, you might hire a cleaner, saving three hours that you can spend with family. Wealth allows you to exert more control over how you spend your time.

Other freedoms follow suit. Spiritual freedom emerges when you can purchase peace of mind, free from financial worries, giving space for contemplation, creativity, and philosophy. Relationship freedom means mingling with diverse individuals without financial pressures. Physical freedom means leveraging wealth for better health and lifestyle choices. Financial freedom is the liberty to spend without doubting the value derived from your purchases.

Reimagining wealth as freedom offers a transformative perspective. In this light, wealth becomes a way of life, not just an end goal. It’s about relative, not absolute wealth. Someone with a lower net worth who achieves these freedoms is, in essence, wealthier than a millionaire who doesn’t.

You’ve likely encountered people adorned with jewelry, brand-name bags, and pricey attire. Some might never strike you as truly wealthy. For instance, those who splurge on the latest designer bag but haggle over a few dollars at a market. They might possess absolute wealth, but in relative terms, they remain impoverished. Wealth should be internalized as freedom, not flaunted. Showcasing it externally is a sure path to becoming a slave to money.

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Illustration by my friend at ANML Studio. Support her by checking out her art on Instagram @anmlstudio and consider making a purchase.

I’m active on Instagram as well! Follow me @official.mai.le 

Written by Mai Le

My name is Mai. I am originally from Vietnam. After my university years at LSE, I worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After a wonderful time there, I started several of my own business as well as helping others on theirs. I've always been building communities and businesses for as long as I can remember, and absolutely thrilled to see others enjoy what I've built.

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