Will You Ever be Wealthy Enough?

A recent Globe and Mail article gave me pause for thought. In it, the writer quoted a consumer poll that asked almost 4,800 people in Canada and the US whether they considered themselves wealthy.

Here’s what the pollsters found.

Almost 50% of the people polled who make between $50,000 and $60,000 said they’d consider themselves wealthy if they earned at least $100,000. Yet, of the people who actually do make $100,000 or more, only 16% thought of themselves as wealthy.

Is the owner a wealthy person?

It gets better: 43% of the people making over $100,000 said they’d need at least $250,000 a year to be wealthy. Twenty-four per cent said they’d need half a million, and 11% said they’d need at least one million.

The conclusion, it would seem, is that people are never satisfied. This is indeed what the writer herself concluded, as did some of the article’s readers.

Other commenters raised a good point, namely that wealth is not just about your income. For example, a person who earns $35,000 and has little debt is doubtless wealthier than another who makes $200,000 but has prohibitive expenses.

So it’s arguably true that some of the people who were polled aren’t wealthy — even if they’re making $100K.

One way or the other, it’s an undeniable fact of life that most people will never settle for whatever they have. It may be a whole lot better than what they had before. It may even be a whole lot better than what the vast majority of people in the world have. (In fact, if you live in Canada or the US, you automatically are better off than most human beings.)

No matter. Whatever you have now won’t do. You’ll always want more.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’m not suggesting we should overwork ourselves to death. Nor am I saying we should take on expenses beyond our means. And I’m certainly not saying we should work to the point where we barely spend time with our family.

Yet if we didn’t want more, we’d still be back in the caves. We wouldn’t have evolved as much as we have. We wouldn’t have modern medicine and airplanes and heated homes and more food than we know what to do with.

Of course, this isn’t to say the world is perfect. Senseless wars are still fought. Children still die from preventable diseases. Women are still oppressed. Even more depressingly, these things will likely continue to happen for quite some time. Perhaps forever.

But the evidence is that these awful realities have decreased throughout the last few centuries — and will continue to decrease.

Why? Because we fought. We innovated. We wanted more — and we reached out and we got it. This is our basic impulse, and it can take us too far, but it can certainly improve our lives.

So next time someone asks whether you’re wealthy, realize that you probably are, and then go about becoming wealthier, not necessarily because you make more money, but maybe because you reduce your expenses, or because you put some of that money to use in a way that contributes to making someone somewhere wealthier.

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