J.D. had a thought-provoking post the other day at his blog, Get Rich Slowly. He told the story of a friend asking him what is was like to be rich. Well, J.D. doesn’t think of himself as rich, and the question got him to thinking about why he doesn’t feel rich.
The question of defining “rich” has even made its way into the presidential election with both candidates recently sharing their ideas on what level of income defined someone as rich. I think they are both missing the point. In my opinion, being rich has little to do with income, and more to do with quality of life. I will share with you my definition of having a rich life, and I encourage you to share your definition in the comments.
I Have Enough Money to Meet My Family’s Basic Needs
When it comes down to it, the only things I really need to survive are food, shelter, utilities and transportation. If I lived within walking or biking distance of my employer, and the places I need to shop for food, then transportation would be debatable. I am fortunate to have these basic needs met. Anything above and beyond this level of spending is really just luxuries. If you don’t believe me, visit a homeless shelter in your town, or a foreign country with limit resources and an overcrowded population. You will find a lot of people who are struggling to meet these basic needs. In this regard, I am blessed.
I Have Enough Money to Indulge In a Few Wants
Above and beyond those basic needs, I also have a few wants, and so does my family. We are fortunate to earn the resources to allow us to occasionally indulge in these wants. It could be as basic as cable television or cell phone coverage, or as elaborate as surprising my daughter with Hannah Montana tickets last year (no, this was certainly not frugal, but like I say here often, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses!). Because we can indulge in those occasional treats I certainly feel like I have a rich life.
I Can Afford to Give to Others
Our family has felt strongly about being in a better position to give to others. In fact, it is one of the primary motivators behind our desire to be completely debt free. Once we are on solid ground we will be able to give to others in a variety of ways. One special idea we plan to incorporate into this year’s Christmas spending is to take $100 from our Christmas savings fund, visit a local diner on Christmas Eve, and leave the $100 as a tip to a hard-working waitress. If someone if out working late on Christmas Eve you know they are working because they have to, not because they want to. You never know whose life might be forever changed by this single, random act of kindness. We plan to take the kids along this year and let them experience the true meaning of Christmas. Because we are able to give to others, we have a rich life.
The Richness of Our Lives is Not Measured in Money or Things
I know, it sounds cliche, but we really try our best not to get caught up in the materialism of today. We enjoy spending time with our kids, having frugal family fun nights, or just sitting down together and reading books. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. In fact, we have found the simpler the better! Ten years ago or so, I didn’t feel this way. I remember sitting in a cubicle at my first professional job staring at a picture of an SUV I wanted to buy (and eventually did). Now, I sit in my office and look at the pictures of my kids, and just outside my window I can see the beater I drive sitting in the company parking lot. What a difference a decade makes!
To sum things up, my definition of being rich is having enough money to meet my family’s basic needs, a few of our wants, and to be able to give some away to others.
What is your definition of being rich?