Why you don't want to be rich.


riches ...

or wealth?

“The man who has no money is poor, but one who has nothing but money is poorer.” – Orison Swett Marden

Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” has traditionally been used to illustrate the value of a choice, and the realization that as “way leads on to way,” we rarely get to go back and begin our journey over again.  It’s a beautiful and sobering sentiment.

The same is true with how we view, handle, experience, and emotionally process money. We choose a path (sometimes knowingly and often unknowingly) and we tend to follow wherever it leads.

For the sake of clarity (and not to obsess over the analogy), let’s say there is a path to becoming rich, and there is a path to becoming wealthy. Each looks beautiful at the trailhead, “just as fair” as the other. But let’s be real, most people aren’t even given the privilege in their life to be in view of the trailhead at all. For many, it would appear that neither being rich nor wealthy is truly an option. While it may not always be apparent to others, the definition of wealth I propose below allows for everyone to experience it.

So, let’s start there: What is wealth? What is it to be rich? Well, there are three primary ways to get rich.

I’m using the term “rich” in the simplest possible way: having a lot of money presently on hand.

  1. A uniquely well-paid profession – consistently making much more than those around you, you will most certainly be labeled (like it or not) as “rich.”

  2. Inheritance – we can lump lottery winners in here too, perhaps. Sometimes people get rich simply though coming into a big chunk of money all at once.

  3. Saving/Investing over a long period of time – getting rich slowly. This one is, in my opinion, often mislabeled as wealth. Most people get rich this way, save and save and save and eventually have a pile of money for retirement. Though they likely don’t feel like it, these people are by any global definition, SUPER rich.

Wealth is another thing altogether. Wealth is a mentality and a strategy. Wealth is wisdom-full and worry-free. Wealth is knowing that you’ve got options every day, that you can work less (and make less) if needed. It’s not making financial decisions out of fear OR greed, but rather from a place of calm intentionality and focus on what’s really important.

It would be impossible (and ultimately, unhelpful) to write a post on how to get wealthy. Why? Because you can’t just get wealthy.

Wealth starts in the brain and in the heart, and it starts long before people ever have a whole lot of money.

I’ve sat across the table from plenty of people who have their hearts set on being rich (and not wealthy), and all the education and tactics in the world simply aren’t going to change their mind. They want money for money’s sake. Or they want money because they are afraid of not having money.

Rich people think this way:

  • “How can I make more?”

  • “What if it runs out?”

  • “I’ll never be able to afford..”

  • “I need this.” (and this and this and that)

  • “How many more days before I get paid?”

  • “I deserve it.”

  • “I work hard. I should be able to play hard.”

Rich people are just poor people with money. They feel (yes, I know it sounds absurd) exactly like poor people do. And if they maintain their poverty mentality (and strategy), no amount of income or inheritance or even investments will ever make them feel differently.

So, what is the wealth mentality?

For the wealthy people I know, they say and think things like this:

  • “I want to work because I want to work, not because I have to work”

  • “I want to retire at 45, then invest in startups and help other people grow their businesses”

  • “I want to build up enough passive income that I can go start/do/open/try….”

  • “My kids need to understand how to work hard, and that they can’t have everything they want RIGHT NOW.”

  • “Money is a tool, a means to an end.”

  • “Money can’t make people happy, but it gives them options.”

A big part of having a wealth mentality is having a vision for your life that is more than simply accumulating stuff. Those with a vision to impact the world or to fulfill a purpose/calling are inevitably the ones I see deeply thinking about finances and strategizing. They have something they are after in life, and so being flippant or overly emotional with money simply doesn’t line up with their pursuit.

They are constantly striving to align their money with their values.

All that said, those with a wealth mentality aren’t 100% about impact and purpose and serving others. So please don’t read all this as “rich people are selfish but wealthy people are all about helping others." That’s not the message, though the wealthy are often in a better position to look outside themselves and see other’s needs. Just like everyone else, they have at least some selfish motivation in what they do and how they think!  

But here’s the thing. The wise and wealthy people I’ve observed have spent time on self-discovery and deep thought and they know what really gives them joy versus what gives them a fleeting rush of endorphins - like “retail therapy” does, for example.  They are people who have taken time to define what success means to them (see our post here for thoughts and a short guide on how to figure this out).  You can do this too!

From their early years (before having $), wealthy people see money as opportunity. As leverage for options in life. They:

  1. Cast a vision and chart a course.

  2. Then they develop (or learn) a strategy for getting, keeping, and multiplying money.

  3. They use this money to fulfill the vision or calling they had in mind.

  4. And lastly and most importantly, they reap (ultimately and along the way) joy from the pursuit and fulfillment of the vision.

Notice that at no point was money their goal and at no point did money itself become their focus. Money is one important tool of several that one needs to get to their vision. Money isn’t the point. Having a vision is the point. A man or woman without a vision is a man or woman with no future. This doesn’t mean you need to sit down and write a vision statement (necessarily).  It does mean you need to decide who you are and what your life is for. Only then will you ever be able to live with a wealth mentality. Because only in the context of a clear vision and purpose can you ever make wise money decisions.

It’s not too late to take this road “less traveled,” and it most certainly will make all the difference.