What does wealth mean to you?
As a member of the personal finance blogger community, I’ve been privy to a multitude of differing opinions about a myriad of finance topics.
While most agree with a few broad topics (financial independence is good, for example) you’ll find that there’s a great deal of variance even among those who are financially savvy.
Go beyond personal finance communities and the variance grows even more.
Why is there such a difference?
When it comes down to it, I think a lot of this variance is simply a product of the differences in how people value wealth and success.
Although wealth and success are not traditional synonyms, in this case I think they should be because how you define success is also tied to what you consider wealth.
After all, one definition of wealth is an abundance of a resource. That resource could be many different things depending on what you value and what you consider successful.
Let’s delve more into what wealth means to you, why it matters, and how you can use your definitions of wealth and success to live a more fulfilled life.
What Do You Value?
How do you value wealth and success?
The reason for the variance in opinions and decisions in regard to personal finance is because everyone is different when it comes to what they value.
Yes, lack of financial education can lead you down some dark paths and you should try to avoid the debt trap while in pursuit of what you value, but ultimately a large part of our decisions will be driven by what we value.
So, what is it that you value? How do you measure success? What makes you wealthy?
There are a plethora of things you could mention, but most can be summed up in this list:
This list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive, and there will likely be quite a bit of overlap between some of these categories.
No matter which of the above items is most important to you, what you value and how you define wealth and success is largely dependent on your background and experiences.
Ask someone if being a millionaire would make them successful and many (perhaps most) would agree. However, ask someone from a different background if being a millionaire would make them successful and they might claim you need a lot more.
As with anything, it’s the differences in background and experience that shape your attitude and understanding of money, wealth, and success.
This is why everyone is a little different when it comes to personal finance and what matters to them.
Why Does It Matter?
You may be thinking that the idea of people defining wealth and success differently is an obvious concept.
So why does this matter? Why do you need to understand what wealth and success mean to you?
It matters because your happiness will ultimately be tied to your definition of success and wealth, regardless of what others think or how they behave.
And it isn’t always easy to determine what means the most to you.
Many people go through life with very little insight into their behavior and the motives behind it. They are unable, or unwilling, to take a look in the mirror and to understand why they act the way they do.
Aside from knowing what you value and why, understanding your behavior and the factors that shape it are really the only way to truly change that behavior if so desired.
Essentially, what we’re talking about is a concept called metacognition, or thinking about your thinking.
If you’re able to begin understanding your thought processes and why you do the things you do, you’ll begin to have more control over the things you want to change as well as ways to enhance the things you’re already doing well.
Plus, if you prioritize what matters most to you in terms of wealth and success, you can begin to make your decisions in ways that match that.
How to Find What You Value
Essentially, metacognition is a fancy word for self-reflection.
If you want to understand why you think and do the things you do, you need to spend time reflecting on it in an honest way.
In order to understand more about what you value, and what wealth and success mean to you, take another look at the list provided above.
As you look at this list, begin to put the items in order from most important to least.
Some of you may find it difficult to prioritize some of these things over others, while some of you may easily be able to.
Once you’ve developed your prioritized list you’ll have a good understanding of what you value and what wealth means to you.
You can then take that list and use it to guide your future money decisions to make sure you’re choosing things that will bring YOU the most satisfaction.
While we all have opinions about how you should spend your money, ultimately personal finance is personal and what makes you happy will be different for each person.
The only caveat to the above statement is to carefully consider the sacrifices and consequences of your decisions.
Make sure you think about how money decisions in pursuit of one thing impacts your ability to pursue other items that are important to you.
Oftentimes there’s a tradeoff with our money decisions so that spending money in one area means we have to cut back in another.
Hopefully this exercise will help you to understand what it is you truly value and help you to plan your finances accordingly.
Practicing Frugalism to Live Your Best Life
Ultimately, consumerism to frugalism is about learning how systems are set up to try and take your money through manipulating you and finding ways to work the system to your advantage.
You might be thinking it would be difficult to practice frugalism if you’re someone whose idea of wealth is based on possessions, but really you can use this idea no matter what you value most.
At its core, the idea of consumerism to frugalism is about understanding how the systems work so you can make an effort to not be manipulated. You can have your possessions, just try to save money on new purchases and to get maximum usage out of what you already have.
Try to begin thinking in such a way that you gain satisfaction from the money you saved rather than just the item itself.
In the long run, practicing frugalism will save you money so you’ll have more of it to spend on whatever you want.
Moral of the Story
What does wealth mean to you?
Everybody’s idea of wealth and success is different. Although it largely depends on your background and experiences, what you value most is subject to change over time as you learn and grow.
While the idea of each person valuing different things seems like a simple concept, there are a surprising number of people who don’t truly know what’s most important to them.
We encourage all of you to take a look at the list of potential “resources” above, and to prioritize which categories would make you feel wealthy. Then, try to base your spending on what you have prioritized as meaning the most to you.
While you’re at it, begin trying to shift your mindset from consumerism to frugalism so that you you’re not being manipulated by money systems, you’re saving money wherever you can, and you’re getting maximum value out of what you do buy.
Make sure what you’re spending your money on, and what will give you true wealth, is what you’re actually working for.
Your happiness will likely depend on it.
Talk about Money Saved.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.