How To Feel Rich (Even When You Think You’re Not)

How To Feel Rich (Even When You Think You’re Not)

Late in 2012 it dawned on me that I felt rich. Having been told to live a little many times over the years, it surprised me that given our simple lifestyle, I could feel rich. Particularly as no one else seemed to share the sentiment.

In fact, just 5% of Americans think they’re rich. How could I be in that group especially when most people in a 2015 survey put the “rich” number at or above what the top 0.5% of Americans make?

What’s more, politicians regularly try to define a threshold for ‘wealthy-enough-to-not-need-social-benefits’ and that year, the threshold in Australia was set at $150,000 for a family income.

Many people were surprised to be told they were rich and argued that this wasn’t actually the case. Rich was well above their income level.

“Rich” it seems is a very elusive feeling.

No One Feels Rich No Matter How Much They Have

When you live in an industrialised country and are already likely to be in the top 1% of world income it seems crazy to even write that headline.

Of course you’re rich! You’ve got:

  • Electricity and water straight to your house
  • Food that won’t make you sick
  • A car so you don’t have to carry heavy stuff around unless you want to
  • The best healthcare in the world available 24/7
  • Vaccines so you’re less likely to die unnecessarily
  • All the world’s knowledge at your fingertips courtesy of the internet
  • A fleet of state of the art jets that can take you anywhere across this magnificent planet

Some of this was the stuff of dreams just 50 years ago and still only 5% of Americans think they’re rich! Geez Humans!

While we might think that if we could afford a Porsche or a yacht, we would feel totally, unconditionally and deliriously rich, the reality is otherwise.

Even the super, uber, crazy wealthy feel like this. Everyone complains that they’re aren’t wealthy enough.

Unfortunately that’s the problem with focusing on what you don’t have.

You can have a high income, but focus on how much you lose to tax. Or own a yacht and worry about how much it costs to run. You can have a Porsche and wish you had a Bugatti. Whatever that is…

Your Brain Doesn’t Want You To Feel Rich

Blame it (and everything else) on your caveman brain. The human mind is insatiable, so if money is the only measure of rich, there is always more to be had.

That’s what made our survival possible in the days when the necessities of life were not at all assured. More berries? Yes, please. A new, better tool for defending against a saber tooth tiger attack? You bet! A warmer more comfortable home, I mean cave? Sign me up for the mortgage!

Unfortunately, our brains haven’t got the software update for 2017. In evolutionary psychology they say that you can take the person out of the Stone Age, not the Stone Age out of the person.

In fact there is a little bit of Neanderthal in all of us.

Let’s Define Rich

How do you define rich?Simple lifestyle

Is it owning a mansion in a trendy suburb?

Going on 5 star overseas holidays each year?

Maybe it’s owning a yacht.

Or having a net worth of at least $5 million as one survey suggests.

Perhaps it’s the financial freedom of never having to work again. This used to be my definition.

The trouble with the word “rich” is there’s no clear definition. Rich isn’t quantified in the dictionary, it’s defined by wishy washy terms such as ‘a great deal’, ‘plentiful’ and ‘abundant’.

It’s a term that can’t be defined because rich is relative and ultimately it’s just a feeling that isn’t actually determined by your net worth.

How To Feel Rich By Practicing Gratitude

I never set out to feel rich. It never occurred to me that could happen until I had a certain amount of cash in the bank.

I wanted to feel happy. In the process of that search, I discovered that by practising gratitude, I also started to feel rich.

Like, “should we start helping out all our family and neighbours, we have so much abundance in our lives” rich.

Our bank balance didn’t change from one day to the next, yet by reframing the situation, I felt like I had a million bucks in the bank.

All this involved was looking for and acknowledging the abundance in my life. By acknowledging the stuff that I normally took for granted my focus shifted from the things I had rather than the things I didn’t.

And if you don’t think there abundance in your life, try packing up everything you own and carrying it for a block or so.

What’s interesting is the benefits didn’t stop there.

Practising Gratitude Can Make You Rich

Ok, but what if you don’t just want to feel rich, you want to actually be financially independent.

The good news is, that practising gratitude is shown to help you become rich.

Basically, the mind is geared toward financial impatience. We tend to discount delayed rewards when compared to more immediate ones. That’s why saving for retirement is hard, because it’s such a long way off.

Certain emotions like sadness make financial impatience worse. This leads to things like impulse buying or spending on credit.

Gratitude has been shown to reduce impatience. The benefit is that through practising gratitude you don’t need to rely on keeping your emotions in check and self control.

A gratitude practise makes living below your means easier, increasing your likelihood of become rich.

Personally, when I recognised the abundance already in my life I actually felt less of a need to buy anything more. I already had a wardrobe full of clothes and shoes, all the hiking gear I needed, a kitchen full of gadgets.

Gratitude meant I effortlessly spent less. Spending less = saving more. And savings are the route to wealth.

Regularly practising gratitude can also help you earn more. A recent study found that a daily practice enhances alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.

These personal qualities in turn are linked to workers who get a raise, are chosen for a job and are paid what they’re worth. How to feel rich

And if that wasn’t enough, practising gratitude can also improve your health and make you more optimistic with a higher self esteem.

Pay attention to the positive

Starting a gratitude practice is way easier than improving your money habits and can be as simple or as formal as you find helpful.

You could try a weekly journal, listing 5 things you’re grateful for or write each thought on a post-it note throughout the day.

You could just share your thoughts with a friend or partner over dinner.

I like to practise gratitude on the go, taking a few moments throughout the day to acknowledge the abundance in my life in any given moment.

I don’t own a yacht or a $5 million property portfolio, but gratitude makes me happier and wealthier. What could be easier than that?

What’s your definition of rich? What do you need in your life to feel rich?


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6 thoughts on “How To Feel Rich (Even When You Think You’re Not)”

  • Well said – rich is definitely a state of mind, and if you’re always looking up you’ll always feel poor.

    Free e-books from a huge library collection definitely make me feel rich – not too many years ago, the ability to search online and have almost any title delivered instantly for free seemed a wild luxury.

    I also feel rich every morning when my automatic coffee maker starts brewing – it’s like my butler is getting it ready for me 🙂 As you can tell, I aim pretty low!

    • Thanks Paul! I completely agree about the library collection. The world of home improvement changed for me the day I discovered downloadable audio books at the library. Listening to a book while painting a wall or digging out 40sqm of turf by hand (insane) definitely makes me feel rich. As does coffee! Mind you, I like to call it ‘appreciating the simple things in life’ ?

  • This made me think of the poverty versus prosperous mindset. I like to think I am in the prosperous camp most of the time. But as you say our brains are still wired in the dark ages,

    For me , rich tends to feel fake in a way. If that makes any sense. My aim is to simply be wealthy enough to choose how I spend my time.

    • Thanks for raising a really good point Cath. I’m not sure I feel comfortable with the word ‘rich’ anymore either. When I first became interested in financial independence it was the only way I could imagine achieving the goal of not having to work for money. I still use the word although since learning about FI/RE I’ve realised that you don’t really have to be rich, just wealthy enough like you say.

  • I was just thinking about this on the 4th of July. We really have so much to be grateful for. Just being able to go to a movie or eat out every once in awhile are privileges that not everybody has. Growing up in the world we live in can make it hard to be grateful for the “wealth” we have, but making that conscious effort to see how much we really have can make all the difference in life. Great post, Eliza!

    • Thanks Matt! It’s really nice that the 4th of July really makes people reflect on how great life is. I had no idea that this was part of the day, but seemed that everywhere I turned on the web, bloggers were talking about this.

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