What Is Wealth?

What is wealth? Most people equate it with investments, with savings, with income, with real property. Yet we’ve all known people who got by quite happily on very little money.

I’ve known others, by contrast, who seem barely able to scrape by, even though they may have earned several times as much as the first group.

The strange thing is that those who get by on very little often manage to obtain more of this world’s goods, to go on more vacations, and to do a great deal in other ways that others with more money never seemed able to do.

Who among these, then, was the more truly wealthy?

Wealth cannot be equated with some fixed quantity. If one is wealthy in his mind, or in his spirit, he may require very few material possessions to be perfectly satisfied with life.

If, on the other hand, one considers himself wealthy only for his material riches, he may be convinced he is poor even if he has fifty million dollars, perhaps only because some former classmate of his has ninety million.

Feeling Rich Living on Ten Dollars a Month

I remember a time, in 1963, when an absence of income, combined with a determination to writing a book led to my having to live for three months on only ten dollars a month.

Today, instead of recalling that period of my life as a time of great privation and hardship, I recall it happily as a time of satisfying challenge an adventure.

During those three months, I learned all sorts of tricks for living inexpensively. I sprouted alfalfa seeds, I made Indian chappatis instead of buying bread. I trained my palate to enjoy powdered milk, which is much cheaper than regular milk, and to be content with a single taste of dessert rather than filling myself on a bowlful of it. I took advantage of special sales at the grocery stores. And I concentrated on preparing cheap, but high-energy, foods like split pea soup, which lasted me several days.

No doubt one could say I was poor then. Yet I didn’t feel particularly poor because I didn’t dwell sadly on the things I lacked. I really wasn’t poor. In every way that really mattered, I was rich.

Wealth Is the Consciousness of Abundance

On the opposite side of this coin, I’ve known people with a great deal of money who could never convince themselves that they were even well off.

I recall a certain friend of mine in India, a scientist and a professor at a respected university. He owned his own home. His family and he ate well, dressed well, and lived well. Yet he considered himself wretched. His complaint was that he couldn’t afford some of the gadgetry he’d seen in the West—things like state-of-the-art television.

I recall him weeping to me one evening, “I’m poor! I’m poor!”

Wealth is the consciousness of abundance and poverty is the consciousness of lack. Wealth and Poverty are both states of minds. You are as rich, or as poor, as you believe yourself to be.

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