A Counterintuitive Way To Build Wealth

“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
  • contribution
  • 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.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 22 comments
Doug Armey


Great thoughts. Money is not the most important thing but intersects the most important things. Money is important but only as a means to enjoying the true riches of life. But the pursuit of money, if we’re not careful, can keep us from true wealth. Paradoxical.

This is the “new wealth.” I write about it too.


    Barrie Davenport

    I know you do Doug, and very eloquently! I hope you will visit again and let my readers know more about what you do and your blog. Thank you for commenting.

Dante Romero

Great post.

I look forward to future ones. 🙂

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you Dante!

John Sherry

In ancient times wealth was never measured by financial worth but by knowledge and wisdom so it would be good to return to that ethos. Those with a wealth of love, support, understanding, love of life and the world, and appreciation and kindness, will be those that will always be rich in things that will never ever be bought. So, where we have struggled is where we have become dependant on this thing called money when the real pricless treasures have always been there and available in abundance waiting merely to be realised. Gold is old because inner wealth is true health.

    Barrie Davenport

    That’s lovely John. Why does it take us so long to figure this out? I guess that’s part of personal growth — we have to go through it to get to the other side.

Timaree (freebird)

This is so true. When my dad was dying 11 years ago from a fast growing brain cancer people came to visit. Everyday for a couple of weeks (which is all he had to be consciously aware) people came. So many people came to see him that one of his friends commented that he didn’t know that was the real meaning of wealth but he could see how wealthy my dad was. Mind you my dad had a small house needing lots of repairs he couldn’t afford, he’d been called “my poor brother” in an introduction by one of his sisters and he lived in a bare bones manner and his friend knew this and his friend was busy building money by being a lousy low-income landlord. This friend realized what real wealth was because of my dad and started cleaning up his own act during the next year till he dropped dead suddenly. When my dad died, every neighbor on the block put up a flag outside in honor of their old veteran neighbor. It was a sight to see (this was before 9/11 and it was not popular to honor vets so much). So I learned from my dad what to value. Money has it’s place and that is to use it as a means to an end not as the end to a means. Thanks for letting me tell about my dad’s “wealthy” status.

    Barrie Davenport

    The is such a moving story. Thank you so much for sharing it. That’s a wonderful way to learn the truth of wealth.


Barrie nice post. I especially found the what you can “give away” aspect helpful, things like time,listening,love, support. IT helps to diminish the sense of tightness that can come up when we worry about were we are financially. It is tough times now for many and I do think the most important thing is to mentally stay positive, hopeful and joyful with what we do have. Namaste.

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you so much Kala. Tightness is a good word for it — we want to hold on for dear life. Staying hopeful and positive and living in the moment help so much.


Truly, thank you for sharing this post. Call it what you will. Karma, God, the Secret, etc…but it’s pure and simple truth that you gain more when you give. Although it works against our human nature; it truly works. When we give we receive a better sense of peace and self worth, wealth return & happiness in life. I only wish more individuals in this world understood and practiced this principle.

    Barrie Davenport

    I do too Christian. Imagine what the world would be like if all world leaders and religious leaders practiced this! Peace would be possible.

Peter G. James Sinclair

Great article Barrie.

What does wealth mean to me? A lot of things, and here are just a few..

I have just celebrated my 28th wedding anniversary.

I have developed and sold two businesses in recent times – the latest being a successful web design company that I developed with the assistance of my two eldest children for 7 years. One of the motivating reasons to sell the business was to allow my children to be released to pursue their individual passions, and so they have, over the past 6 months, launched their own global online businesses. I’m totally debt free.

I have just purchased my first hair salon as my youngest daughter graduated as a professional hairdresser at the end of last year. My wife loves the idea of having her own personal salon.

I have self published my own books and now write my Motivational Memo blog in the pursuit of now monetizing it – and am learning from a professional blogger. I also coach other businesses to help them grow, and have the wonderful opportunity to speak professionally – inspiring, motivating and equipping others to be all that they have been created to become.

So in summary – I feel the wealthiest when I can share the wealth of knowledge that I have picked up along life’s journey and help others to maybe sidestep some of the many holes that I’ve fallen down along the way – and let me tell you that there have been many.

But when it comes to wealth – there are no greater riches received that can replace the feeling of giving another fellow traveler a helping hand up.

    Barrie Davenport

    It sounds like you have a wealthy life indeed. You are an inspiration, and I hope you continue to share your “wealth” to help others grow their own. Thank you for sharing some of it here! 🙂

Ande Waggener

Beautiful post, Barrie! I recently did a values exercise where I listed the things I treasure most and then looked at what feelings I get from them. I discovered that nothing material (other than my bathtub 😉 ), was on the list. For me, wealth is in experiences. Yes, I do like having the things that provide comfort, but the wealth isn’t in the things, it’s in the comfort.

So I am wealth, oh so wealthy, in love and laughter and creativity and nature and fun, and I give all of those away on a daily basis and get them back tenfold! 🙂 Woo hoo!!

    Barrie Davenport

    Woo Hoo back at you Ande! Isn’t it wonderful to be so joyous about life. Once you discover what’s really important, most worry flies out the door. Glad to see you here again. Thank you for commenting.

Marci | Liberating Choices

I so enjoyed hearing your perspective on how history and culture has shaped and transformed how we view wealth.

Wealth, to me,, is a fullness, an abundance. What makes me feel “full”? Moments. Connections. Laughter. Passion.

I’ve been working on redefining my wants as I try to teach my kids about wanting vs needing. 4 months ago, we started 12 months of giving (instead of waiting until Christmas). I’ll write about it i the fall. 🙂

WP @ The Conscious Life

When one’s self-worth is tied to the size of the bank account, the crave to have more and the fear of losing what one has erode whatever ‘happiness’ that wealth brings. So the new definition of wealth that you talked about in this article is certainly more enduring and balanced. We can have wealth no matter what situation we find ourselves in. This is the gem I realized in this post. Thank you so much!


Hey Barrie,
Thanks for the great post, and perfect timing for me to catch it at the beginning of a New Year. Where did you get the $75,000 income level and happiness information from? Was there a study or anything like that? It’s very intriguing.

Thanks again,


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