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What is wealth? Let’s face it. We live in a society where money matters a lot. Unfortunately, the value placed on wealth in North American culture means that money seems to become a yardstick to measure people’s relative value. And, this can lead to people who have less feeling like less.
I want to offer some inspiration for folks like me, who may have less cash, but have lots of value! In this article, I provide an opportunity to consider what exactly wealth is and some different ways to think about it other than the worldly water we find ourselves swimming in. Given the times we live in, this is not an insignificant thing. More challenging times may be ahead.
I offer you…
Free Frugalite meditation for perspective and strength to face challenges
I think of it this way: Your problems might be like your hand.
Look at your palm close to your face. That’s all you can see, right? It’s huge! It blocks your view. Take a step backward. You see the sky, the horizon, maybe some trees. Perhaps the sun is shining. What size is your palm? Is it smaller? For the moment, perhaps it is a bit more manageable.
I know this article can’t take away serious money problems. I have been there and have felt that pain. (If you are dealing with poverty, check out this FREE book.) However, I am trying to offer a mental way to step back from that pain to take a larger perspective. Meditation is something that I practice regularly (certainly not perfectly!) and it does help me. I hope it will offer something helpful to you.
What is wealth in our world?
In these days of the concentration of extreme wealth, so many people worldwide still go without. Even today, over 700 million people, about 10% of the total population in the world, live on less than 2 dollars a day. Yes, indeed, this fact may not help you pay that utility bill that is a hardship this month. However, recognizing that you are fortunate in the global context could help you feel more grateful for the things you do have.
When considering the global context, it is helpful to consider relative poverty, which looks at people within a country and compares their relative wealth and absolute poverty, which compares everyone in the world across countries.
Here are some numbers on relative poverty in America: “In the U.S., 10.5% of the population – 34 million people – live in poverty as of 2019. For an individual in the U.S., the poverty line is $12,880 a year, or about $35.28 per day.” [source] Being poor in the American context (or the Canadian context, which I have lived myself) means going without and facing an enormous amount of hardship and unrelenting stress.
Let’s consider absolute poverty in the world context
Beyond considering living on less than $2 a day, there are quality of life issues with absolute poverty, which means many basic needs are unavailable. These challenges for a person can include:
- little access to food and basic nutrition
- children dying young due to poverty-related factors
- limited access to schooling-or you can’t attend as you must walk to get water for the family
- hard to find fuel to cook for your family
- no toilet/plumbing-outdoor toileting is contaminating local water supply
- little to no access to clean drinking water locally
- no electricity
- you are homeless or living in a huge slum
- you own little to nothing
How will this help me with my current struggles?
You may be going through a difficult time, and you might be thinking, “Yes, I know these things, but it doesn’t affect my struggles daily. This isn’t really helpful.” I know this perspective will not be convincing to everyone, and that’s ok. I will share one final statistic with you that got my attention: “While the average person in the United States lives to be 78, the average person in Sub-Saharan Africa lives to be 60.” [source]
Yes, that really sums up the effect of absolute poverty. (And certainly, as 78 is an average: there would be effects to living in poverty in America, which I do not intend to minimize.) However, if you consider the global context, if you are born in America, on average, you have an extra 18 years to live. What can you do with those 18 years? Can you learn something new? What can you do to enjoy those 18 years? Is there something you can accomplish in your retirement that is a dream you have always had? Being born in North America can be something that can allow us to connect with a feeling of gratitude and recognize that there are blessings in our lives in the global context.
There are significant health benefits to simply feeling gratitude. Considering where you are in the larger world context might be one way to tap into the feeling of gratitude in your life. I use this gratitude as fuel to look around and find a way to make a difference.
What is wealth according to YOUR values?
Beyond considering the global context, I believe another way to connect with a feeling of personal wealth is to reflect consciously on your values. With so much focus on material wealth around us, it is difficult to oppose these values unless intentionally.
Which raises the question: To what extent have you defined your own values in your life?
Where does money/wealth fit into those? What are the ten most important things in your life? What and who can’t you live without? Who are the people who have been there for you in difficult times? Who have you been able to help out yourself? Take a few minutes today and write this down. You won’t regret it! Doing a personal inventory during a difficult time could help you see what you still have going for you, both in terms of personal qualities and people in your life.
Putting material wealth in its place in your life can help you live more contentedly through times where money is tight. If you feel strong in setting priorities with your life, you can stand stronger against the bombardment by the advertisements trying to make you feel “less than” if you don’t own this or that product. Daisy is a wonderful example of setting her values regarding wealth: She lives her dream life traveling the world, spending on what she sets as her priority.
What is wealth according to YOUR context?
A final point I would like to leave you with is that only you understand your context. Society may only look at your pocketbook or what you own and judge you. Do you have a disability, visible or invisible, that has created challenges in your life? Have you had to climb your own personal Everest to get out of bed in the morning?
I have faced times of substantial disability in my life; sometimes, this has affected my ability to earn. One of the biggest lessons I learned from this was to have the same compassion for myself that I like to offer others. Others can’t see the mountain I climbed to get where I am, but I can take pride in my accomplishments and my ability to survive difficulty and thrive. I consider my strength and endurance to be a valuable kind of “wealth.” I hope you can offer yourself similar compassion, regardless of what challenges you have overcome and what may lie before you.
Healthy, wealthy, and Frugalite wise
How do you define wealth? Do you agree or disagree with the reflections on true wealth offered here? Do you have another one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.