What Is True Wealth?
Updated: Jul 20
Most people confuse wealth with money. I have been observing, analyzing, and interviewing people (wealthy, famous, influential, and ordinary people) worldwide for the past twenty years about wealth, abundance, and financial freedom. Wealth, indeed, is not money. Have you ever asked yourself this question – what is true wealth? Most people have probably not. Wealth is not about lifestyle, money in your bank, or the luxury goods in your possession. Assuming you are a wealthy man but trapped in the Sahara desert, you will die without water; what can you do in that situation even if you have a billion dollars in the bank? Money means nothing at that moment, right? A man trapped in the same desert, who has no savings in his bank, fortunately, has enough water for himself; enough for him to walk out of the desert, and he refuses to sell his water to you even when you offer him all you have in the bank. Facing life and death, which man is wealthier, the billionaire or the man with the water?
Many people think wealth is printed on paper, like stock certificates, bonds, and other online stock trading accounts. The paper wealth could drop to zero overnight, just as with those bankrupted IT companies over the past twenty years. "Wealthy" billionaires can lose everything in a few weeks, months, or a year if the stock market changes. So, paper money is not wealth. SpaceX beats Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin by wining in time, cost-effectiveness, and dependability. So, Elon Musk's wealth is not money but the opportunities to lead the future. The genuinely wealthy companies are the ones that drive forwards to achieve long-term growth rather than short-term gains by exploring new opportunities, creating better products or services, improving current operations, and having a vision for human development. The majority of the top 500 companies from 60 years ago no longer exist. Most of today's wealthiest people in the world are self-made, not from inheritance from their parents or grandparents, but they could also lose everything if they stopped their burning desire and effort to continue to grow and develop.
We all have public wealth as long as we have access to good roads, utilities, city infrastructure, quality education, clean water, fresh air, efficient government, public communication systems, safety, peace, and security. Some people can claim the wealth of quality life, which includes comfortable housing, stable income, food supply, and other basic living materials. Social status and luxury wealth are the types of wealth most people have in their minds. One lady friend refers her wealth to luxury brand bags, diamonds, famous paintings, racing cars, big mansions, yachts, boats, private jets, high-valued stocks, and private servants. After getting bored with those tangible goods, she desires social status by participating in charity activities, social galas, and joining local clubs. Sadly, she is still not happy even now she already has everything. "I want true friends and family to chat and laugh with now," she told me a few months ago over the phone.
It is almost impossible to define wealth due to its multitude of layers of measurement, control, impact, and resources. I like to offer the generic realms of wealth based on my study and experience. In general terms, wealth includes good health, loving family members, loyal friends, romantic lovers, self-confidence, self-esteem, unconquerable intelligence, freedom of speech and thought, freedom of action, genuine behavior, faith, values, ethics, discipline, compassion, and a kind heart. Savings in your bank and cash in your hand, real estate properties, mutual funds, company shares, privately owned business are your assets, not your wealth. Your spiritual awareness, mental wellbeing, physical health, and emotional stability are your wealth.
Assets refer to objects or materials that you can convert to tangible values using money. In contrast, wealth refers to your possessions that have meanings and intangible values with the measure of happiness, contentment, satisfaction, joy, peace, calm, consciousness, mindfulness, and enlightenment. Rich people have more tangible assets than others living in the same community, but wealthy people enjoy their life more than those living in the same neighborhood. The richest people might not be wealthy because many of them are owned by their assets, pressures, and greediness. The wealthiest people might not have many assets or be rich, but they have enough money, good health, and time to live the quality life they deserve, want, and enjoy. Rich people become slaves to money and assets, and wealthy people are the masters of their own life by taking charge of the future.
Many economic experts define wealth as all things with monetary value in terms of cash, property, goods, assets, capital, fortune, and tangible resources. After all, these are all material possessions, not real wealth. You can consider yourself as wealthy if you have time to spend with family and friends regularly, have extra funds to travel at least once or twice a year with loved ones, go to a few sports games or concerts every year, read good books on the beach, and have an above-average life span.
Do you know Queen Victoria never had the chance to visit India even though she was called "the Empress of India?" You are wealthier than her in this regard if you have ever seen India. Queen Victoria could not set herself free from the royal restrictions despite her material assets, title, status, power, and influence because she lived in an invisible royal cage with no way out. Victoria had to give up her freedom and life choices when she took on the duties and responsibilities of the Queen when she was 18 years old after the King passed away. Rich, influential, and powerful life did not give her the freedom of choice. Was she wealthy? Probably yes if she enjoyed the powers of commanding armies of men to conquer the world with ambitions of governance.
That is why you can consider yourself wealthy if you have the luck and privilege to have seen and done much more than most people can ever imagine in their lifetime. "I am a happy and wealthy man because I have dated women of every skin color all over the globe with more romantic experiences than other men," a male friend bragged with pride and self-assurance. "I am wealthy because I have traveled to over 50 countries and made more friends than I can ever remember," a soul sister texted me from Kenya last year. "Twenty fancy handbags and a two-million-dollar car do not bring a smile to my face, but a big hug at my birthday from my father, who has a lot of money but no time for my mother and me, does make me happy," a college girl told me with tears in her eyes.
A wealthy person is happy and healthy with enough money to live a quality life and have the freedom to make decisions based on free will. A female billionaire in Hong Kong refused to pay the ransom to save her husband who was kidnapped and killed by angry gangsters. A few years after her husband's death, she passed away with a lot of money in the bank but with no friends, no love, and no happiness. So, wealth, in short, means health, happiness, knowledge, wisdom, friendship, freedom of decision, and well-lived quality life. Of course, wealth also refers to the overall health of mother earth and to the advanced technologies that help humans convert natural resources into needed products without damaging the ecological systems.
Achieving wealth by personal effort is much more honorable than inheriting from parents. Without hard work and valuable skills, those rich-born people end up with anxious personalities, wild lifestyles, miserable traumas, and bankruptcy of life. A 15-year-old young man from Singapore who inherited over 500 million dollars from his parents when they tragically died in a plane crash got himself killed at the age of 22 due to alcohol and drug addictions. The so-called lucky people with too much spare time and free access to money quickly fall into a dysfunctional lifestyle. They never know how to use their wealth to do the right thing or to double their wealth sustainably. Self-made wealthy people understand the importance of useful education, hard work, persistence, courage, social connections, determination, and sustainable freedom.
To summarize, wealth means different things to different people based on multidimensional angles. Money is only a small portion of true wealth. Real wealth includes tangible assets, money, happiness, time, health, attitude, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, relationships, lifestyle, consciousness, peace, calm, love, gratefulness, awareness, friendships, free will, honor, respect, contentment, and social recognition, etc. Yes, wealthy people do face challenges and crises, but they can overcome such obstacles by using their wealthy resources and intellectual skills. Among the things that wealth represents, time is the most precious measurement because rich people have money, and wealthy people have time. After all, wealth is not what you have, but what you can enjoy and experience.