4 Signs of Wealth that Don't Need to Cost a Lot of Money

What does it mean to be wealthy?  Different people have different ideas.  Many think it means a six-figure salary, although a "mere" $100,000 per year is less and less acceptable as living costs continue to rise.  According to a recent Bankrate survey, the salary Americans said would make them feel rich hovered above $480,000 per year. 

However, according to Charles Schwab's June 2023 Modern Wealth Survey, many people are starting to equate wealth with things other than a high salary.

white sand beach

More valuable than money

That's right – nearly two-thirds of survey respondents included physical health and good relationships among the assets that would make them feel wealthy.  Nearly 70% agreed that being generous toward others and enjoying special experiences makes them feel rich.  Owning high-end merchandise, having more money than others they know, and leaving a large estate fell much further down the list than we might expect.

Perhaps less surprisingly, among those who didn't feel rich, social media comparisons were the primary hindrance to a sense of contentment and well-being.  Schwab's survey indicates that "social media can create new uncertainty and doubts for Americans when it comes to how wealthy they feel."  It called social media "a distraction from your own goals," and labeled the social media pressures from friends and influencers "toxic."

The good news is that the wealth indicators that most Americans felt were of highest importance don't necessarily come with a price tag.

How to feel rich

Physical health can be very expensive to maintain if you're already suffering from disease or injury, since medical costs continue to skyrocket in the U.S.  But maintaining an already healthy body doesn't have to be expensive.  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – perfect foods for optimal health – are among the least expensive items in the grocery store if you buy your produce in season.  Walking, biking, hiking, yoga, and bodyweight exercises (calisthenics) don't have to cost anything but your time and effort.  The vast majority of us enjoy high-quality drinking water right out of the faucet, but using a filtering pitcher isn't expensive either.  Sleep is cheap.  All of those things contribute greatly to good health.

Happy relationships and generosity are certainly not limited to high earners.  In fact, there's plenty of evidence that the highest earners are the least generous.  But many studies show that giving money to a cause you care about, volunteering your time, even being emotionally available to your friends makes you happier.  Psychologist Raj Raghunathan explains that this is because

...the acquisition of wealth – and more generally, possessions that signal high status – makes us want to distance ourselves from others.  This may be due to a feeling of competition and selfishness that sets in with the acquisition of wealth or status.  It may also be because, quite simply, we don't need other people to survive the way we did when we were poorer....  The wealthier we become, the more likely we are to erect boundaries between ourselves and others – for example, by living in a bigger house with a fence around it.

So having less money might be a factor in greater generosity as well as improved relationships.

As for enjoying special experiences, one might think that the more money you have the more experiences are available to you.  And on one level that's true.  But having the time to try new things or do what you already know you love can help you feel fulfilled even if it's not an activity that rich people are doing, such as sunbathing in the Caribbean, skiing at Aspen, or indulging in space tourism.

What is it about travel that's so special, anyway?  If it's a new cuisine you want to try, look for ethnic restaurants in your nearest city.  (There are hundreds in my nearest city, Sacramento.)  If it's art, look for student shows near you, or (again) visit a nearby city.  (The San Francisco Bay Area is home to hundreds of world-class museums I can visit on a day trip.)  If it's natural beauty you're looking for, a nearby state park or wildlife refuge might be just the thing.  Whatever your interest, I bet you can find ways to enjoy it far more regularly than a once-a-year vacation, and for a much lower cost than a luxury destination.

Daily wealth

It's possible that having time to do the crossword each morning while sitting on your back patio, savoring the warmth and flavor of a homebrewed cup of coffee, inhaling the scents from your small rose garden as the sun warms it, and observing the hummingbirds that visit your feeder, could be the perfect experience to increase your day-to-day happiness.

That sense of being wealthy and blessed might be more affordable than you think.

Have you been waiting for Volume 4 in my new Minimalist Basics series, Exploring Minimalism: Begin the Journey to a Life You'll Love?  It's now available on Amazon.*

Minimalism is more than a fad, more than a design statement, and more than decluttering.  It's an effective tool for living an intentional life.  If we all woke up from our consumerist dream and stopped being influenced by the influencers, I think we'd all want this.

Exploring Minimalism will help you discover the whys, hows, and simple first steps to a more fulfilling life.

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