Are You Rich Enough?

Two and a half years ago we published a Brief titled with the same question. Remarkably, it still attracts readers to this day. The question is both a simple one, often evoking just as simple and quick an answer “NO,” while at the same tugging at our logic, values, beliefs, and view of the world.

As Americans, we like to rank everything from the number of steps we take in a day (as measured by our fitbit tracker) to our favorite artists and sports teams. When it comes to wealth, it’s very human, and American, to measure our status and success relative to others – above and below.

In the first Brief on the subject, back in July 2011, we referenced the Rich-O-Meter – a creation of Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal. The Rich-O-Meter is no longer available, but Frank now points his readers to a group in London who incorporate income data from the World Bank to power their Global Rich List. Give it a try to learn how your income stacks up relative to those in the rest of the world. (Please note: you can scroll down on the website for other interesting wealth measures)

Now that you have a better idea of how your wealth stacks up globally, do you feel better or worse? Were you more impacted by the number of people ahead of you or below you? The answer might reveal something about ourselves.

Our views about money and wealth are layered with increasing complexity the deeper we go. On the surface rankings seem a good way to measure our status and success. Digging a little deeper we understand that past experiences with money can significantly impact our views of money and wealth. Our present circumstances and expectations for the future are colored both by our past experiences and our current means. We wonder if we will have the ability to do the things in life we are feel obligated to do, such as educate our children, and to do the things we want to do like travel, start our own business, or give more.

At the heart of the question of are we are rich enough lies the continuum of materialism and contentment. Our lives are rarely characterized by one extreme or the other, but we are always somewhere on that continuum, drawn by one or the other. It is vital to note, that there is no neutral or rest from the struggle. Just as materialism never truly satisfies, contentment can seem unreachable in a culture saturated with commercialism, and status.

The question of whether we are rich enough to face life’s challenges and opportunities should first be framed within the context and desires of our own hearts. A material-focused lifestyle will undoubtedly require greater risk and work to generate sufficient wealth than will a less material, more content one. It is perhaps one of the most important questions in planning that rarely gets asked. It impacts every other aspect of the wealth-building process over the entire life of that process.

Contentment does not mean settling for something less when we want something more. Rather contentment is learning how to find true satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment in whatever circumstances we are – rich or poor. In fact, through my experience, it is the content who achieve significant wealth far more often than those driven by materialistic values.

Contentment is an ongoing decision. It requires continued vigilance to avoid circumstances and outlets that subject us to the powerful pull of materialism. When we are tempted away from contentment, we have either our own resolve or our faith to rely on to resist the slippery slope away from contentment.

Every time we meet with our clients, their question spoken or unspoken is, are we rich enough? Through a planning process that addresses both their hearts and their minds we provide answers in which they can have confidence.