We have a unique relationship with money. We want to have enough to be comfortable, but very few want to stop at that. We Indians want enough for our future generations too. Intergenerational wealth is common, with the inherent risk of the diminishing hunger of the future generations if they get too comfortable. Wealth is always relative. We feel wealthy not because of a certain number of net worth, but because we seem to be at par with whom we consider to be our peer set. While it is difficult to arrive at absolute net worth numbers (other than for those on the Forbes list), we try to make our judgement and place ourselves on a scale relative to others. Most of us also aspire to keep growing our wealth without paying attention to it – a task almost impossible and a subject for another day.
What is real wealth? Is it the ability to buy what one wants without thinking twice or bothering about the price? Even Kuber would find it difficult to sustain a lifestyle like that. If the whims are too frequent and the tags too high, one would find the coffers empty at some point, having spent itself on things that at best, can give one a temporary high. Real wealth can be the ability to buy things that are not for sale.
Is real wealth living a prosperous life? To have people take care of all your needs and to be able to take care of people who are dependent on you? At the base level, yes, and we try to reach higher from there.
Real wealth can also be the ability of able to maintain your current level of lifestyle while giving up the primary source of income which drives the lifestyle. For professionals it may mean giving up their current profession and focusing on their passion (if the two are different) without compromising on their current lifestyle.
What about non material things? Is good health real wealth? “Health is wealth” is definitely true, as anyone with serious ailments will tell you. Wealth and health are not a trade off and should not be mutually exclusive. Our character and reputation are also equally important.
Real wealth is also the unconditional love of near and dear ones. Having people to really care for you. It is the outcome of a life lived to its fullest and helping others realize their true potential and achieve their dreams. Material wealth along with a life of resentment and ungratefulness does not sound like a great life.
Real wealth is the total control on your time. “Time is money” is totally true. Time is scarcer than money hence becomes more valuable, in comparison. The ability to decide how to spend one’s time, in my view, is the litmus test of wealth. This can come only after one has achieved all what we have covered till now, and some more. Even the wealthiest are sometimes the slaves of their calendars. Time is finite, money is not. Every day all of us all over the world start with the equal amount of time available to all of us. Very few have the privilege of using their time as per their absolute discretion, and that, to me, is real wealth.
In your view, what is real wealth?