What makes you assume someone is wealthy?
An outfit dripping with designer labels might be an indicator or perhaps you have an eye for someone stealthily displaying their wealth in muted but expensive clothes.
The things Americans say would make them feel wealthy, however, don’t necessarily come with a price tag.
The majority of folks agree. Enjoying experiences, not having to stress over money and having a healthy work-life balance are all more meaningful than owning nice things, having more money than their peers and maximizing their earnings when it comes to what makes them feel wealthy, according to Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth Survey.
More money can make some of those things more attainable, but it goes to show that you can live a wealthy lifestyle without having a wealthy person’s net worth — that would be about $2.2 million, the survey found.
Here are three things that mean more to people when it comes to defining wealth.
1. Enjoying experiences over owning nice things
Would you rather explore a new city with your family or drive an expensive car? Wealth means enjoying experiences more than owning nice things according to 70% of Americans, Schwab found.
Having the time to try new things or do what you already love can help you feel fulfilled and content even if it’s not an activity rich people are doing like space tourism. It’s up to you to find the things you enjoy and if that’s something you can’t necessarily afford to do frequently, consider what it is about that thing that brings you joy.
“What makes me happy might be vacation, but what does that need to look like and why is it vacation?” Aja Evans, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in financial therapy at Laurel Road, tells CNBC Make It. “It’s kind of like peeling one layer and then we’re peeling another and really getting deep down to what makes you happy.”
What is it about traveling that makes you happy? Is it the opportunity to learn about a new culture and try new food or is it just the ability to unplug from work and recharge for a little while? Once you identify the true object of your desire you may find you’re able to do it for a much affordable price point.
“I think that people forget that you can go to an awesome art show for free or enjoy something for a low cost or no cost,” Evans says.
2. Not having to stress about money over having more money than people you know
Certain displays of wealth like lavish weddings on Instagram or luxury buildings in your city can make you feel envious or competitive about money. But 70% of Americans say having enough to ease any money stress in their life is more meaningful than having more money than their peers.
Once again, earning a higher salary or otherwise having access to more capital may help get rid of your money stress. But beyond having your basic needs met, more money won’t automatically bring you peace of mind.
“Yes, money will give you access to stability, security and resources, but with that money, you need to actually utilize the resources,” Evans says.
There may be underlying problems that have made you struggle to manage your money effectively that you may want to work through with a therapist, for example.
“It’s a misconception that more money is going to solve your problems,” Evans says.
3. Having a healthy work-life balance over maximizing your earnings
In a perfect world you might have a job that pays well and gives you a good work-life balance. Picking between the two, though, 69% of Americans say a healthy work-life balance would mean more to them than maximizing their earnings when it comes to defining wealth.
Similar to the idea that you might have to dig deep to determine what it is you love about certain experiences, you should ask yourself what it is you like or dislike about your job before you consider trying something different. The problem might be that you’re underpaid, but it could be that you’re overworked.
Does a vacation feel as good as it does because you’re sunbathing on an island, or because you’re uncomfortable at your current organization? Finding the job that suits you and contributes to your wealthy life could mean earning more or it could mean taking a pay cut in order to work somewhere that gives you a more flexible schedule. It’s all about finding what matters most to you.
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