Calculating Wealth

When we think of wealth we tend to think in terms of financial wherewithal, the more the better. But is that an accurate perception of wealth? Is that how the vast majority of us view wealth? The simple answer is ‘no.’

Wealth defined

Realize that people define wealth differently. Some don’t consider themselves wealthy unless they possess millions of dollars. Many of these folks view money as a way of keeping score…of affirming the progress they’re making in terms of their professional growth. We need these folks.

Others feel wealthy when they have the money they need to provide the lifestyle they desire. When I worked for a residential homebuilder, we couldn’t find a carpenter in early November, they were out deer hunting. These folks consider themselves wealthy when they have the money they need to enjoy their hobbies. We need these folks as well.

Then there are those who define wealth in non-financial terms. They measure their wealth in terms of a loving family, the number of friends they have, their ability to serve others…to enrich others’ lives. Still others view wealth in terms of the self-awareness they’ve gained…with the sense of being one with the universe.

We need all of these folks. We also need to recognize and respect everyone’s right to calculate wealth based on what’s important to them.


We need to get out of the habit of thinking that different means better or worse. Each of the choices identified above are legitimate. Each is needed for a growing, thriving society. We need people who are money motivated or who view money as a way of keeping score for they help drive economic growth and provide jobs for those who view wealth as the ability to enjoy their hobbies.

We need people who are willing to trade financial wealth for the ability to enjoy other aspects of their lives. They do the work that’s needed to produce the products and services we all enjoy. And they do so with a sense of pride in the quality of work they perform.

We also need those who are community minded…who have a burning desire to help those less fortunate, whose lives are more challenging than what most of us face. These folks remind us of the importance, and joy, of being other centric…of considering what’s important for the general good rather than simply our own welfare.

For you

We all have a natural tendency to judge those who have a different way of calculating wealth and it’s often not in flattering or encouraging terms. Money-motivated people are often labeled “Greedy. Money-grubbing.”

Those who forego financial wealth for time with loved ones or on their hobbies, are often called “Lazy. Slackers. Unmotivated. Unthinking. Robotic.” None of which is true for the vast majority of these workers.

“Bleeding heart. Polyannish. Do gooder.” are often used to describe those who devote their time and talents to helping the less fortunate. The implication being that they are encouraging dependency instead of self-sufficiency when indeed they are striving to help others become independent and self-sufficient.

Let’s stop judging others’ motivations, others’ calculation of wealth. Instead, let’s appreciate and respect others’ views of wealth. When we find ourselves judging, let’s remind ourselves that all are needed for society to thrive. Let’s appreciate the fact that there are others who calculate wealth differently than we do.

For our kids

Teach your kids that there are many ways to calculate wealth, that each is a legitimate measure of wealth…and that they’ll know they’ve chosen the right measure when they’re enjoying life and doing good.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share them in a comment.

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