Which Is Better – Rich or Wealthy?

There are many people who think they are the same thing and so organize their lives around parameters that don’t fully make sense.

A simple definitional difference has been presented by Margaret Bonanno, “Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time”

The meaning of money

Our society leads us to make false decisions about what money means. There are questions you can ask yourself to provide guidance.

  1. Is money a sign of having stolen from those with less, or is it a measure of the contribution someone has made to society at large? For example, if someone creates a business with a product many people want to own and are willing to trade the money they have earned by providing value to others, the money is just accumulated value provided to others.
  2. As a tactic, theft has a short shelf life. People learn to defend themselves and competitors quickly appear. Suppose Microsoft is a thief and you decide they charge too much for Windows, or Office or whatever else they offer that interests you.. What keeps you from using another product? The common answer is they don’t work as well. The question you must ask yourself is simple. “How much can I save by buying an incomplete or difficult to use option?” Office has several options, and you can buy a very competent set of programs for less than $200 per year. If you use it 5 times a week that is about 75 cents per use. Would you choose to fight with a less capable program or programs for 75 cents. At minimum wage in Ontario, that’s about 3 minutes of frustration per use. You must place a small value on your time if that makes sense to you.
  3.  If the other choice is free, how do they get paid? No one can work for long for nothing.
  4. Money has exactly no value by itself. It is about what you can do with it that matters. We see all sorts of possible uses that the rich select and we cannot. Perhaps a Porsche, or a huge house, or several houses, or fine art, or a jet, or high quality meals in a fine restaurant. All good. If you had one billion dollars you could do all that and more. Other than the jet and multiple homes you could do it for $50 million. So what exactly is rich? Answer – Just a number. What you do with it matters.

Things you could do with it:

  1. Favour a charity. A group of skilled people who are doing important things you probably could not do by yourself. You participate by funding their efforts.
  2. Make sure your children are using their talent to grow and help their children grow rather than trying to get along day to day.
  3. Consider siblings, parents aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Sometimes just a little makes a world of difference.
  4. Buy time. Do-it-yourself becomes a conscious choice rather than a necessity. The neighbour’s teenager would like to mow your lawn for money. You would like the time.
  5. Help yourself thrive. Things like healthy food and responsible exercise. Healthy food costs more to have and more again to prepare. Would you eat the best food if you had a diet counsellor, a personal chef, and someone to round up the ingredients. Do you or would you have a personal trainer? Do you think you would benefit from having those? It’s about how you use your money. Do you listen to your doctor’s advice?
  6. Help others thrive. Do you know someone who has talent but not the means to both live and thrive. Maybe a young single parent who wants to improve their education to better provide for themselves and their children. How much would it cost to help them do that? If you are rich enough, it would not even be the roundoff on your worth.
  7. You could read, study, attend seminars, and lectures with a view to clarifying your understanding of the world and the people in it.
  8. Build a business. How many jobs would that create. Those who are in your business and some share of those in your suppliers’ businesses. Building a business is a wonderful way to learn things you can learn no other way and it is a good way to involve your children in the achievement culture at an early age.

Other questions.

  1. Suppose you have made some money and decide to “pay back” as your civic duty. Your choice is to create business that employs people at above standard rates of pay and provides sound healthcare, pension, and other benefits in the bargain. Suppose you treat your customers well and price you products at no more than you need to afford expansion and more jobs and opportunities. What if the value of that business grows to be a large amount. Would you be a bad guy?
  2. Do you think people set out to make vast fortunes, or do they set out to do things people want to buy? I think you will find no very wealthy person ever expected the outcome delivered. I don’t know Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, but my guess is neither set out to have 200 billion dollars. They set out to accomplish something and because that was good, the money followed. It is nearly certain that if the had set out to provide nothing of value the money would not have happened.
  3. Do you think good things result from the social system and bad things are someone’s fault? If you do, can you explain why it is so?
  4. Why should outcomes not be tied to inputs? On my best day, Jack Nicklaus, playing on a difficult golf course could have spotted me ten strokes and still defeated me by a wide margin. Equal outcomes are an insane delusion as long as inputs are unequal. The hard working and thoughtful people do better than the lazy and careless.

The bits to take away

It is a good idea to consider what you mean by fair, rich, poor, and wealthy.

Understand that money is a limit and a way to secure choices.

Money has meaning only in how you use it.

Seeking more money without understanding what you would do with it is a harmful plan. It will have no personal satisfaction. Possibly guilt and regret instead. Anyone who thinks their fame and fortune is undeserved is in trouble.

There is a difference between earning money and getting money.

Rethink rich and wealthy as it affects your life.


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I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don@moneyfyi.com

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