The meaning of wealth: When is it enough?

                                     “…all the gold and the guns in the world….is it ever going to be enough,  it is ever going to be enough, is it ever going to be enough…”Metric: Gold,Guns,Girls”

We have been working for many years with “wealthy families”, so the meaning of wealth should be a very simple question to respond, however it is not.Some time ago a friend of mine asked me “How much money do you need to be considered wealthy?” My answer was, “it depends, what is enough to be wealthy FOR YOU?” His answer was US$ 100 MM. His answer, as most of us will answer, was a number. I would like to introduce a definition of wealth as a direct consequence of your intentions for life, and it goes beyond a simple financial definition.

As Charles Collier mentions in his outstanding book “Wealth in Families”, when you consider a family (and this could be extended to an individual) , there are four kinds of wealth: human, intellectual, social, and financial.Most of us understand wealth just from a financial perspective, but in doing so we are letting aside a whole arrange of values and intangible assets that are part of who we are and that not only make us wealthy in a total human sense but contribute to the increase or decrease of our financial wealth.The phrase with which I started this post is from a song by Metric, one of my favorite bands.

Emily Haines the lead singer and composer says the song was inspired by the movie Scarface, where the main character, interpreted by Al Pacino is never satisfied with what he has got. In a nutshell, the song as the movie, just bails down human greed.Greed is an inherent characteristic of the human being, and that is the main reason why we should consider the four types of wealth to get to a definition of what wealth really means for each of us. Following Colliers’ definition of each type of wealth: “Human capital refers to who individual family members are, and what they are called to do; intellectual capital refers to how family members learn and govern themselves; social capital denotes how family members engage with society at large; and financial capital stands for the property of the family. Based on these four pillars of wealth, each family or individual has his own definition of wealth, which in turn, depends on his intention for his life. I believe each of us has an intention to fulfill during his or her lifetime, and wealth plays an important part on it. These intentions will differ from one individual to the other and the differences will be based on how much weight each of us gives to each component of wealth. The weight we give to each component changes along our lives. When we are in our twenties we look forward to fulfill some material needs as a home (at this age probably rented), education, basic needs, and of course, partying. Is normal and is expected. In our thirties, we
want to consolidate our financial life, buy a house, start a family, maybe get some postgraduate education, etc. In our forties, the meaning of life starts to change, we see our kids growing up and we realize the importance of the other components of wealth. We want to give our children better opportunities than the ones we had, we want them to become successful in their own terms, most of our “money” will be invested on them. This will continue in the fifties and maybe some will be ready to start a new chapter in their lives. Usually is in this stage when the social aspect of wealth starts kicking in, if not has happened before. For most people is when they realize that what they want to accomplish with their wealth is more than just financial.

This is when your expectation of your life really turns into an intention of what your life should be. For those of you who practice yoga, the difference between an expectation and an intention will be very clear. I learnt it that way, through yoga. I learnt that to have an expectation of my life will make me miserable, because expectations are rarely met, the greed on us will kick in and we will always be unhappy with the results. But if we don’t have an expectation, but we based our goals in life in a wider concept as an intention, acceptance will be easier to achieve. I will never forget the day I saw a picture of Bill Gates not so long ago, and for the first time in my life I found him a very attractive man. I am in my mid forties so my short sight is not very good, but I really saw the difference. From one day to another the nerdy face of one of the richest men in the world had become a glowing reflection of what he had obtained with his wealth. He has been extremely rich for several decades, but it wasn’t until the last years that he got the glow. I believe that glow comes from the satisfaction of being able to fulfill your intention in life, in his case, to be able to help with the big problems in our world, like malaria. To give health to people whom because of lack of money doesn’t have it, what a great intention for his life.

So what is wealth? Each one of us will have to get to his own definition, we hope this blog helps you get there.  Just remember, we look better when we glow, lets be financial blissful…

Finbliss team

It’s your financial life. Embrace it. An educational community of financially aware women helping, supporting and guiding one another.

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