If I asked what “true wealth” means to you, what would you say? Money, fame, prestige, respect, freedom, power, health? It certainly means different things to different people.
Some people might say that owning several multi-million-pound companies, a big mansion with a yacht and a helicopter means true wealth. To others, owning a house in the countryside with a vegetable plot and having the time to write or meditate and spend time with their loved ones in true wealth.
There is no right or wrong answer. We all value different things in life.
The interesting thing is how these values can change. There are many examples of people who had “everything” and decided to give it all up, voluntarily making themselves homeless.
Achievement without fulfilment is the ultimate failure. People who can’t find happiness in life will not be happy with lots of money. They will focus on what they don’t have or haven’t achieved rather than appreciate what they do have. It’s a mindset.
Financially, you can be the richest person in the world, but if you’re emotionally poor or have poor health, you cannot be truly wealthy. It’s one of the conditions that needs to be met to enjoy everything else in life.
Unfortunately, most people live a life that is unfulfilled. They are stuck on the hamster wheel, chasing something without knowing exactly what it is they want. People work long, hard hours just to get a bigger house, a better car, the latest gadgets and expensive clothes. This lifestyle is not cheap. Today’s society is so focused spending and consumerism that people need to work round the clock to keep up with the Joneses. They worry about what others think of them.
And this mindset is not reserved only for adults. Young kids end up wanting more and more because they compare their possessions to what their friends own.
A lot of businesspeople I know wear themselves out building their empires, always chasing more and more and never stopping to appreciate what they’ve already built. They work so hard that they forget to live and reap the rewards of already being successful. Building a business becomes just a numbers game and doesn’t translate to an improved lifestyle.
For me, true wealth means freedom, security and the opportunity to help others. It means having the financial freedom to do the things you enjoy and which make you feel truly alive. True wealth is having good health, contentment, personal growth and being surrounded by people who inspire you. It’s about new experiences and travelling. It’s all the things that money cannot buy.
It’s not about buying a big mansion, always flying business class or having a flashy wardrobe. It’s not about having more material possessions cluttering your home because advertisers led you to believe you need more. A minimalistic approach helps to keep a clear head.
How much, actually, does it cost to do the things that fulfil you emotionally? Very often it doesn’t cost much at all. Spending time with the people you care about, reading a book, competing at a sport, volunteering or learning a new skill can be just as, if not more, fulfilling than any gadget or flashy car. Having meaningful experiences and personal growth make you truly wealthy. Material things might give you happiness for a few weeks, until you realise you need something else.
It doesn’t take long before we stop appreciating what we do have.
Researchers calculated that there is a point in one’s income after which the amount you earn doesn’t affect your outlook on life. It’s equivalent to $75,000 per year. Beyond this threshold, additional increases in income result in reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of emotional wellbeing, according to the study. Having too much money can also give you stress.
To truly understand what true wealth means to you, there’s a very simple exercise. Make a list of things you want to be doing each year and how much income you actually need. Then, analyse your current spend and how much extra you need.
You might find that some of the current spend can be reallocated to give you a better quality of life. You might be spending money on things you don’t need, which means you don’t actually need to work more to have them.
My motto is: spend your money on experiences not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
- Written by Anna Bastek: multi-award winning entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, owner of Wolfestone, VoiceBox and Robertson Languages International, Welsh Government Dynamo Role Model, Ironman triathlete, traveller.