“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” ~Henry David Thoreau
When I was coming of age and venturing out into the adult working world, having wealth meant two things: you made a great income and you had a lot of expensive stuff to show for it. Sometimes it meant having a modest income but going into debt to get the expensive stuff in order to look wealthy.
During the last half of the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, the economy had rebounded from the recession of the ’70’s and was showing an increasingly healthy performance. The United States entered one of the longest periods of sustained economic growth since World War II. Consumer spending increased in response to the federal tax cut. The stock market climbed as it reflected the optimistic buying spree.
“Yuppies,” as we were called in the day (young upwardly mobile professionals), were spending their high professional salaries on shiny new Bimmers, designer wardrobes, and starter mansions. Some of the top-rated TV programs of the mid-80’s and into the 1990’s were Dallas, Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, Sex and the City, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Hair was big. Shoulder pads were big. Homes were big. Cars were big. Salaries were big. It was all about being seen and showing off. We filled the empty spaces with more stuff. Or if we didn’t have the money to keep up with the Jones-es, we were filled with a longing, an anxiety to prove our value by working ever harder to make more and more money.
Many of us spent beyond our means and built up debt because we felt entitled.
In recent years, this wealth attitude has shifted. I don’t know what has come first — a mass existential crisis leading to an economic breakdown, or an economic breakdown leading to a mass existential crisis. World events, 9-11, war, tsunamis, floods, mass murders, global climate change, financial collapse, and the constant influx of information and connection we now receive with the internet, all have contributed to a whirlwind of emotional trauma and confusion.
Most of us ask ourselves, “What is real, what’s important, how can I be happy?”
Over the last few years, the meaning of “wealth” has evolved. Not just changed — but in my opinion, it has evolved to a higher state of consciousness. Today this new sense of wealth is measured in terms of :
- enjoyment of life
- quality time with family and friends
- work/life balance
- travel and experiences
- culture and learning
- personal growth
- meaning and fulfillment
- enjoying and appreciating nature
Today, real wealth is completely intangible and unmeasurable in the traditional sense.
It takes some money to accomplish this kind of new wealth lifestyle, but it does not take ridiculous financial wealth. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Princeton economist Angus Deaton and famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman reveals that there is an income plateau, after which more money has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment.
The magic income is $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises, until you reach $75,000. After that, there is no real gain in happiness.
Even if one makes less money than $75,000, these new wealth by-products are not so difficult to attain. Seeing the world through new eyes, more appreciative, introspective eyes, allows us to take full pleasure in all that we have available to us right now. Or we can spoil that by wishing for more.
Now here’s the really amazing part of our new vision of wealth. The more we share it, the more of this wealth comes our way. When you give away this wealth, you don’t lose it. You get more.
When you give your time, love and energy to a relationship, you receive a wealth of love and well-being in return.
When you give away your knowledge and teach someone else, you receive a wealth of satisfaction, additional knowledge, and new ideas.
When you give away your appreciation of beauty, culture, art, and nature, you receive wonderment, inner peace, spiritual connection.
When you give away your creativity, you receive a sense of purpose, joy, and expansion.
When you give to others, they pass it on and it multiplies, and you receive the benefit of an evolutionary process for the entire world.
If you want to build a nest egg of new wealth in your life, practice giving, learning, sharing, growing, engaging, appreciating, listening.
Here are some specific ideas to help you on your way:
- When you worry about money, stop thinking about money and start connecting with all of the good you have right now.
- If you are out of a job, give away your time and talents to someone who can use them.
- If you are feeling lonely and disconnected, reach out to someone and listen to their story.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, examine your busyness to see where your actions are not serving your soul or the world.
- When you think you need more, take a look at all you have that you don’t use, and give it to someone who can use it.
- When someone hurts you or makes you angry, reach out to them with love and healing, even if only in your thoughts.
- If money comes your way, use it in ways that will create new wealth or to help someone else build new wealth.
Even in business, when you offer enormous amounts of value to your potential or existing customers, you are building relationships that will pay off in their trust, referrals, and respect.
What does wealth mean to you? Please share your thoughts about how you are wealthy and how you create more wealth by giving it away.