What is wealth?

Published: October 3, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Last Updated on

‘How does one define wealth?’ is a question that I often think about, often with a tinge of sadness that there is no universally accepted definition. A compilation of attitudes about wealth based on my insignificant experience.

Speaking purely from a financial point of view, wealth is the ability to tackle emergenciesWhen life chugs along like normal – we earn, spend, save and invest according to plan- wealth (the fruit of our income, saving and investing) has no role to play. It is when we incur an expense ((good or bad) unexpectedly that we rely on our wealth or be precise our liquid net worth.

The adage, health is wealth, makes a lot of sense to the sick man! Sometimes poor health originates from a lack of wealth and sometimes from too much wealth!

For many, wealth is fuelled by and is equated to desires or wants.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Hey, who am I to judge? Unfortunately, desires need to be backed up with planning.

Wealth is holism.  Wealth is about priorities. Speaking of which, found this nice image at Flick.

Having desires is as human as to err is, but not at the cost of abandoning priorities. I feel sad when people chase after wealth when their fiscal foundations are not strong. When people buy depreciating assets, extremely expensive to maintain (read car) just because they ‘want’ it and just because society judges people as affluent if they ‘see’ assets.

The sad truth is not everyone can afford expensive pleasures of life.  Afford here refers to priorities and not having enough money to buy something then and there. Simple common sense and yet people choose to gamble with their future by ‘living it up’. Priority is a wet blanket.

Wealth is what society cannot see. Friends and contacts make strong extrapolations and judgments based on what they see in our pictures and messages in social media.  How easy it is to equate a smile for the camera to happiness and trip abroad to wealth!

Assets* that grow are rarely in the public view,  unlike assets that depreciate -galath nazar or galath choice?!

(*) regulated assets like equity, gold, fixed deposits etc. not  unregulated ones like real estate.

Wealth is abundance. That is the traditional, or dictionary definition and that makes perfect sense. When do I know that I have assets that exceed my needs and wants? Only when I die.  Wealth is the estate I leave behind.

Wealth is identifying lasting happiness. Bette Davies once said that hard work is true happiness. That would require doing the ‘right’ kind of work. So, wealth is to be able to pursue our passions (regardless of outcome). Often such an ability is a luxury! Those who don’t have it, must learn to be “happy in our work”.

Wealth is time – or rather realising the importance of time … in time!

Wealth is choices – aka holism. Every action that we do today is connected to an outcome in future. That is not relativity, just finance.

Do you agree? What is your definition of wealth?

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About the Author Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates and associations on the basis of money management. Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, Cognizant, Madras Atomic Power Station, Honeywell, Tamil Nadu Investors Association. For speaking engagements write to pattu [at] freefincal [dot] com
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