What Does Wealth Mean to You?

Riches, freedom, comfort, prosperity, abundance, luxury – all of these words are synonymous with wealth. Today we may think of wealth in terms of a big house in a ritzy neighborhood, a superstar on Hollywood Boulevard, or a lottery winner’s big break. But wealth wasn’t always measured in terms of money.

In Middle English, wealth came from the word wele, or “well-being.” The people in the 1200s used wealth as a way to talk about the health of a person, implying that the word’s origin prioritizes physical health and wellbeing over material prowess.

This distinction, while interesting, may not be so distant from the meaning of wealth we hold today. A large amount of wealth even in the 1200s would be indicative of a person being well-fed, clothed, and groomed which would have taken a decent amount of capital, implying that physical wellbeing and monetary comfort are not so distantly related.

It is also interesting to note that the first antonym that comes up for wealth is poverty. A state of impoverishment would include a lack of these same basic necessities like housing, clothing, food, and water. With such a lack of resources, one’s health would be subject to compromise.

Maybe we aren’t so different from our ancestors after all.

We can think about wealth in a myriad of ways from physical riches to health to well-being, even to happiness. Jazz guitarist Johnny Smith wrote on wealth in his later years and one thing he said is particularly striking:

I realized everything in life that I ever wanted to do. Fortunately, getting rich wasn’t one of them. I’ve always believed that wealth isn’t measured in money– wealth is measured in good friends and experiences.

There you have it! I have just provided you with definitions for the word wealth. But which one resonates with you? It does not have to be just one. Think about why some definitions make more sense to you than others. What can you learn from other ways of looking at wealth? How does your idea of wealth inform your relationship with money?

For me, wealth means freedom of choice and the increase in options. For example, a person who can live comfortably with some sort of passive income will likely have a stronger chance in succeeding if he or she ventures into entrepreneurship.

Idea Into Practice

What does wealth mean to you?

The title of this post challenges you to tap into your philosophical side to think about the different ways that money interacts with your emotional, physical, mental, and social health. When trying to answer some of these big questions, it is good to start as simple as possible; to go back to the beginning.

How did you learn about money?

Childhood development informs many of our adult decisions. Money and financial management are things you inherently internalize as a child. Did your parents or guardians struggle with finances? Were you involved in financial decisions? Were you blissfully unaware? I ask these questions so that you can actively think about your history with money. History is an interesting animal; it can teach us things about ourselves that we never knew and can help mold our decision-making for the better.

If you struggle with building wealth, that is ok! We all struggle with the best ways to handle our finances and sometimes that hinders us from making the best financial choices. It is time to learn about your relationship with money.

Relationships are present in every facet of our lives from colleagues, to family, to a spouse, and to friends. But it is often forgotten that we have relationships with inanimate objects as well. Think about the first scarf you sewed, an ornament you decorated, your graduation shoes. These objects hold meaning, therefore you have an attachment to them and the memory they spark. Money is no different.

The way you interacted with money in the past can inform your feeling toward it in the present. If that emotion is negative, don’t be afraid to explore that negativity; understand how the relationship evolved and why it has remained stagnant. The good news is that relationships are always in flux. They are subject to change. You may be thinking, how can I make that change?

A New Path

Change is difficult, we get it! But not all change has to be mentally draining. Now that you have taken some time to examine your own history and relationship with wealth and money, you can begin making strides to change that relationship for the better.

  • Set new goals
    • Since you are starting fresh, make some new financial goals for yourself. Look at the goals you may have made in the past and why they did not work. This examination will help you make better goals for yourself in the future. Start small. Do something that is attainable in order to give you momentum to keep going. 

By removing the roadblocks in your way, you set yourself up for wealth generation and growth. Just remember, there are many definitions of wealth; maybe now is time to write and live your own.