Sunday, October 24, 2010


Is a man who makes $250K per year rich? That was the question being posed on an NPR episode yesterday afternoon. The interviewer was asking people on the street and elicited a wide array of responses.

I didn't have to think about it. Of course he's rich.

Naturally, as the story developed, the reality of location and psychology were brought into the debate. If you live in Manhattan, $250K is not much money. If your neighbors make $500K, $250K is not much money. Etc.

Still, I don't care how you slice that cake, it's a lot of money. I'd have a really hard time sympathizing with someone who felt like she was cash poor because her neighbor could afford a stove that cost $15K and she could only afford the $10K model.

I listened, and I considered a different question. What is the best definition of wealth? By best, I mean, most valuable. (There's value inherent in things other than money, after all.)

Ben Franklin said that you're wealthy if you're content.

In that case, wealth is less predictable than I'd even suspected watching Wall Street. Some days, I must be very wealthy. Maybe the wealthiest person on the planet. On some days, not only am I content, but I'm absolutely magnanimous with contentment. I'm a veritable Vanderbilt of satisfaction.

On other days, my personal stocks plummet, and I feel like, despite the fact that my paycheck hasn't changed (in over two years), I've lost my shirt on the market. I feel like I've been chewing on my own shoe sole all day, Charlie Chaplin style.

In reality, most days, I don't think $250K would make a huge difference in my life. I'd travel more, but I still don't think I'd feel compelled to go out and buy $500 shoes. I think there'd just be a giant surplus of money in my bank account. Overall, there's not much that I want that I don't already have. Even the things that I want that I don't have, I could get without much more money, with just a little more ingenuity. If I wanted to travel to Japan this year, I could teach English and get paid to do it, for example. As for physical things, I really just want some comfortable t-shirts, and I don't need $100 for that, although I've heard you can spend that much on t-shirts if you've a mind to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
A Mirror, A Summer, A Street by Autumn Crisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.