July 4, 2012
Who decides if someone is rich or poor? Is it how much you make, how much you have, how happy you are or how much you owe in relation to how much you make? Who decides? What’s the magic formula?
I think rich versus poor is in many cases an arbitrary measure. I don’t think wealth can be measured just in money or possessions alone because each of us has a different yardstick by which we’re measuring wealth.
Using happiness as a measure of wealth is as arbitrary as any measure I’ve seen but it certainly is a valid method of rating wealth. You could have the best house/car/yacht with servants at your beck and call and plenty of discretionary income but, if you’re miserable, you’re pretty darned poor. You’d trade a lot of that “wealth” just to be truly happy.
Do you owe a lot of money? What percent of your income goes to paying consumer debt on a house, a car, a boat . . . a condo on Maui? Is lack of debt a measure of wealth?
Freedom is my favorite measure of wealth. The wealthiest people in the world are those with the most personal freedoms. The US used to rate at the top in personal freedoms, but each year we let the government further strip us of our liberty, we sink in the world ratings. How does this degradation effects your personal wealth?
Income is also used as a measure of wealth, but I think it’s a largely illusory measure. If you lost your source of income today, how many months could you sustain your standard of living before you lost your home, car and health insurance and were out on the street living hand to mouth? So, how wealthy are you really? Is it gloss or substance?
There are other ways of looking at wealth. If you lost your source of income today, what adjustments could you make to continue to live in comfort if not to the standard of living you enjoy today? Is that ability a measure of wealth?
Disaster preparedness is an infrequent measure but one with validity. Maybe we should look at wealth as a measure of the level of self-sufficiency we could maintain in the advent of a global disaster. Could you generate your own power if the grid went down? Have you got a clean source of water and food stored? Is your residence still going to be standing if there’s a fire in your neighborhood or an earthquake that flattens everything in your area? Based on that measure, how wealthy are you?
So how do you look at wealth? Fancy car? Big house? Lots of flash? Trips to here or there on a whim? If it’s any of those things, you might want to rethink how those things will serve you in the advent of a disaster. You may not be as wealthy as you think.
Is wealth a measure of how smart you are? Not book learning or ability to make money but ability to survive if disaster strikes? Depending on your point of view, that’s a valid measure of wealth.
So is wealth a formula? Personal liberty+happiness+absence of debt+survival ability+income stability? Or is it a different formula altogether? What’s your formula?