The Difference Between Being Rich and Being Wealthy

While the words “rich” and “wealthy” are often used interchangeably, they should be seen as different things.

True wealth goes beyond just having money. It encapsulates living a life that focuses on all aspects of your wellbeing.

Of course, that often starts with financial security.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” (Epictetus)

For many people, being “rich” and being “wealthy” sound like the same thing. But more and more these are being seen as different concepts.

To be rich implies having a high income. Usually, however, it also means having a high level of expenditure to show off just how “rich” you are.

This highlights the twin problems with being rich. Firstly, it tends to focus only on generating financial wealth, and not on all aspects of wellbeing.

And, secondly, someone who’s motivated only to get more money is unlikely to ever be satisfied. The fact is that it is always possible to be richer, so if that’s all you are after, it will be a perpetual pursuit, and you may be willing to sacrifice just about anything for it.

Considering wealth

True wealth, on the other hand, is a far broader idea. It must include having financial security, but it also considers one’s overall wellbeing in areas such as having positive relationships, good health and a sense of purpose.

In other words, wealthy people don’t just have money. They have the resources, mindset and freedom to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Many academic studies have looked at this concept. A paper published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in 2021 looked at the literature that links health and wealth, and found that:

“Studies indicate that people are happier when they are healthy, employed, or doing something productive; have strong social relationships; and are financially secure.”

It added that: “Happiness has been associated with longevity. For example, very happy people have a 6% lower risk of death over a given follow-up time period than people who are pretty happy, and 14% lower risk of death than those who are not happy.”

A holistic approach

These kinds of findings have given rise to the idea of holistic wealth – the principle that we should expand our concept of wealth to include all dimensions of wellbeing. That means appreciating that having money is not an end in itself, but that should be an enabler for us to live a rewarding and meaningful life.

This starts with managing our finances responsibly. By achieving financial security, we ensure that we have the resources to meet our needs, pursue our goals, and create a sense of financial freedom.

But it also extends to taking care of our physical health, so that we have the capacity and energy to pursue our passions. And it covers mental and emotional wellbeing – practicing self-care, nurturing healthy relationships and maintaining a healthy balance in our emotional lives.

Critically, it also includes the idea of contribution and purpose. To be wealthy means playing a role in improving the world beyond ourselves – volunteering, or supporting causes that add a deeper meaning to life.

Research published last year in the journal Preventative Medicine found that “having a purpose lowers the risk of all causes of mortality, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity”.

When all of these dimensions are combined, a much fuller concept of wealth emerges. One in which money is only one aspect of our overall wellbeing that helps us to be satisfied, fulfilled and to live a meaningful life.

To discuss how to manage your finances to support a wealthy life, speak to a professional.

Disclaimer – *The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.
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