“Wealth is not measured by just what we have, but rather by what we have for which we would not take money.” (Anonymous)
I have never been a materialistic person. When I was growing up my mom and I didn’t have much money, so I learned at an early age to make what I had last as long as possible. I learned to treasure and care for those things that were important to me. As a result, I do not think about wealth in terms of things I have, or the size of my bank account. I think of wealth in terms of the richness of my relationships with my family and friends.
I read this quote yesterday and started first thinking about the possessions I have that I consider priceless; the things for which no amount of money would make me part with them. Family photos, certain heirlooms, and special gifts I have received all came to mind. But as I thought further about it, I realized that none of that equates to wealth for me.
The things I have with which I wouldn’t part aren’t intrinsically valuable. I don’t have a stash of Picassos, or 19th century gold coins. The truth is that the items I wouldn’t part with are things that almost no one else would really want, and fewer still would offer me money for them. All of these possessions are valuable to me because of the relationships in my life that go with them, and the sentimentality attached to them.
A financial planner would not look at my portfolio and declare me to be among the wealthy elite. But I consider myself to be rich beyond my childhood dreams because of the family and friends that surround me. For me the “wealth” for which I would never take money is the rich set of relationships in my life.
Back in the 1990s I was called by a job recruiter. I wasn’t as invested in my job as I am today, so I listened. This recruiter had a number of positions that my skills matched. One of them was a position in South Bend, Indiana. The company flew me in for an interview, and I spent the day with them. I even spent the last 90 minutes with their HR representative looking over their benefits packages. I left there thinking that this would be a significant step up for me. The position offered more responsibility, better pay, and so on. As I was flying back, and in the days immediately after, I started wondering if I could really uproot my family and make that change. My wife and I discussed it at length. She was willing to take the plunge if it was what I wanted in my career.
About 10 days later I got a call from the recruiter. I had already decided that I was going to decline any offer. As it turns out, the company had elected to fill the position internally, but they wanted to keep my name handy for the next position to come along. I told the recruiter that I had already made my decision not to accept. I think the recruiter was angry, or maybe he sensed the resolve in my voice, because I never heard from him again.
We ultimately reached that answer because we didn’t want to leave the friends we had here. Our families already lived a few hours away, and this move wouldn’t have significantly changed that distance. But, we would have gone to a new place with no friends, and just the 6 of us. I couldn’t imagine being more poor than that.
To me, wealth isn’t about dollars and cents, or about opulent possessions. It is about the warmth and love of family and friends. The closeness of my relationships is the wealth for which no money can make me part.