Men become richer not only by increasing their existing wealth but also by decreasing their expenditure.
Most people I know would like to be rich if they had the choice. I’m sure there are a few people out there who could care less about money, but if we’re being honest, most of us would like to not have to worry about it. Good news: there are two ways to achieve this state in life, there are two ways to be rich in life. One way is easy, and you can decide upon and maintain your ethics ahead of time and stick with them easily. You need much less in this case, and so it’s much easier to work and live how you see fit, and be rich.
The other way, the 2ndway, could be ethical too, but it will be harder to maintain your ethics and there’s a good chance it won’t be an ethical richness. And you may, in the second case, need to pretend you like people that you don’t, for years and years and years. This way of being rich is to make so much money that you never worry about money. Depending on what you want to buy and own, you may never achieve this status of being “rich”, even if you have $3 million dollars or whatever. Which do you think is easier and more realistic for most people? I’m always amazed at how many seemingly “rich” people are miserable.
The average American only saves 5%, while 50-75% of the population has no savings at all. The juggernaut of unfettered consumerism, which is our primary source of identity in America- that of a consumer, has been terrible health-wise for most people. Most people need more of an identity than an unfettered will, thrown back on pre-human and primitive desires, unconstrained by wisdom, morality, or the higher brain’s cognitive restraint. Consumerism as our primary identity is a game we can’t win and a thirst that can never be quenched. Its “ritual” is consuming, it’s “bread and wine” is credit cards and statements, and its “liturgies” are commercials, slogans, and logos. What make it even worse is that since we live in an anti-culture we are constantly atomizing more and more towards a life solely existing as a consumer, because it’s the only source of identity most modern people have. So, we keep consuming to feel alive.
Consumption is the only way we know to be rich, because it’s the only way we know to feel alive.
The iphone takes precedence over tea with friends at the café.
The expensive car emblazoned with a logo, takes precedence over walking with a friend.
The best SAT score takes precedence over character.
And the best elite schools, highly connected to the new moral community of rootlessness and political correctness, ascend culturally while real community, built on roots, tradition, and internal values, vanishes.
Overall, despair sets in.
It’s a game that no one can win.
Now back to the original proposition. I like money. I like traveling, sometimes. I like having a good business and doing good work. There’s nothing wrong with financial gain and I wish it for everyone. But again, there are two ways to be rich and one comes with a big downside if we aren’t careful.
Most of us can want less of the things we don’t need, the things that chain us down, and the things which aren’t wise to desire in the first place. If we do this, our wealth increases instantly. Unlike the stoics, I’m not asking you to eliminate desires. But I am asking you to desire what makes you happyjust like “the philosopher” – Aristotle taught 2500 years ago. Sometimes, we need to change what we desire, we need to transform it into something better.
Sure, you may one day make so much money that you finally feel “rich.” I hope you do. But there is another way to be rich. And how much is enough? Most people never define it. I like Clark Howard’s, Dave Ramsey’s and the Bible’s and ancient philosophy’s advice to stay out of personal debt. Be wise, desire the right things, the things that really make you happy in the long run and learn to get by with less. The two are not mutually exclusive. You can make money but not let it become your sole identity, your primary focus of richness. One focus on being rich emphasizes external values and the other internal values, and internal values are time and time again the bulwark of a healthy and meaningful life. You know and I know what we need to do.
Why not start by being grateful, content, simplifying, and enjoying the simple pleasures in life? Your wealth will explode!
There are two ways to be rich. Be careful which one you pick.
Read Next: Chaos and What You Can Do About It?