True Meaning of Wealth
I used to believe that luxury and wealth was defined by what a person owned and was a part of. I grew up in a very wealthy city in Southern California and was surrounded by people with fancy homes, fancy cars, and jobs with impressive titles, like Doctor and CEO. My public high school was a magnet school and many people throughout the county tried to get into it for its renowned educational and sports programs. My school had its own performing arts center, three gyms, a football and soccer field, baseball fields, tennis courts, library, kilns, computer lab, and a pool. My own family didn't have these things; we were lower middle class to upper lower class to near or complete poverty, depending on the week.
I was surrounded daily by kids with all the newest gadgets and adults talking about remodels and new cars, business mergers, pharmaceuticals, and banking. In my own life, I've seen what "keeping up with the Jones'" looks like. When my uncles got new trucks, we suddenly had a new truck instead of a kitchen remodel that our home desperately needed (our oven didn't even work). We got a home we couldn't afford because we didn't want to rent anymore (and we could have easily afforded said home if not for poor money management skills). I am not ragging on my family or how far we've all come since then. I am pointing out the dangers of thinking wealth and luxury have anything to do with money and appearance, and that that is something worth sacrificing for. As I've gotten older and lived on my own, these poor money management skills went with me. My family couldn't help me when I had any sort of emergency, and I hadn't the knowledge or the skills to learn what to do with what I had when it was time to take care of myself.
I learned the hard way all of this and as I did, my idea of personal strength, family, and monetary gain changed. I began to think that to be in a position to help others must be the height of wealth. Even if you don't have a lot of money on paper, if it's managed properly, you can not only save for the future but be in a position to help someone else in the case of their emergency. What an incredible ability that is! But, as these ideas began to change in my head, so did my ideas of pride and selfishness. How could a person blessed with this knowledge, putting it to use, ignore the need of their family and claim it as "tough love"? It isn't tough love. It is selfishness. It's one thing to raise children to be tough and take care of themselves, and another to refuse them aid because you raised them to handle their own problems and then they are asking for help. (I'm not calling anyone out; this is something I've seen all over the place.)
Now, through hard work and good fortune, I find myself in my perception of the height of wealth. When my family needs me, I can do something about it. I am not wealthy in things and items. I have a nice home and a loving husband, but there are no fancy cars, we rent, most of the things we own were owned before the wedding or were gifts from said wedding, and neither of us have a fancy title for a job. We budget and plan, we put money away in case of emergencies. We are paying off debt at the same time. Can my family take care of themselves? Absolutely. Does that mean they don't need help? No. I'll need help someday and I don't want to be told to pull myself up by my bootstraps. If I'm asking for help, you can bet I've already tried that.
What I'm saying is forget what the world tells you is great. You aren't wealthy until you use it for someone else. That is the ability and point of money. To take care of yourself and others while and when you can.