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JLeslie's avatar

How do you define rich?

Asked by JLeslie (62561points) July 2nd, 2009

Each person seems to have a different definition of rich or wealthy. One persons rich is another persons middle class. So I am not looking for a literal sociological definition, but rather your observation of what seems rich to you. Could be an income level, or what you can afford, total wealth? I am talking money here, not answers about love and family.

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19 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Having good enough health to do the things that I want.

Having a wide circle of friends who are supportive, kind, smart and funny.

Having the love of my husband and watching it deepen as we continue to grow together and as individuals.

Having the chance to love and be loved by my dogs.

Being able to see the sun rise and set, the stars in the sky, the harvest moon, the wondrous and varied beauty of flowers and trees and grasses.

To be able to hear the songs of birds, the chorus of crickets and frogs on a pond.

To be able to feel the velvet softness of my dog’s silky black ears, the crispness of clean sheets, the velvety muzzle of a horse.

To be able to smell newly cut grass, a baby’s skin, and puppy breath.

Having the chance to laugh like loons with sisters and brother at a stupid joke from childhood. Being able to watch my Mom interact with her great granddaughter in perfect communion that spans the generations.

Judi's avatar

When I was little I figured that if someone stayed in a motel instead of a tent when they went on vacation then they were rich. When I could afford to stay in a motel I figured someone who stayed in a Hotel instead of a motel was rich. When I could afford to stay in a Hotel I thought that when someone had a second home they were rich. When I had a second home I thought that when someone could travel the world they were rich. When I traveled the world I realized that when someone was content with what they had, regardless of their wealth, they were rich.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Having something in abundance.

SecondGlance's avatar

Having enough money so you don’t worry about money. The freedom to do what you want, and not have to ask if you can afford it. For me $100,000 a year.

gailcalled's avatar

Waking up in the morning and not having to think about selling pencils on Main Street.

mzgator's avatar

Having enough money to have all of the things I NEED, and not worry about what they cost. Also being able to have some of the things I want to have and do and being able to do the same for our children without blnking an eye.

I have been very fortunate to do and have these things, but it is by hard work and sacrifice on the part of my entire family. I know it makes us appreciate our blessings even more, but just once it might be nice to have an abundance of money to just do what we wanted to do at a moment’s notice.

gailcalled's avatar

My sister’s advice to have only two of most garments ( you may own a few extra bras and panties.) Two pairs of jeans, two pairs of black pants, two pairs of shorts, sandals, etc. If one is no longer going out to work, it is surprisingly successful with some jewelry, scarves and one black leather jacket.

dalepetrie's avatar

I think of rich as “more than you need”, or maybe more than you “should” need. It can be a relative thing, because look at Michael Jackson, he personally made over a billion dollars in his career, no one could say he wasn’t “rich”, but he died 400 million in debt. So I think of rich as being enough to afford you the ability to not think about money. I think there are some people who personally would never feel rich no matter how much they had because of their ability to spend money like other people drink water (see above). And there are people like myself who, if you gave me what seems a relatively paltry sum when you think of “rich”...I’m going to say $3 million tax free, I could live like a rich person. Basically, if I estimate I have 50 years left, which I think might be quite generous, I am quite sure I could live well on $60k a year tax free. That would be essentially living the lifestyle I live now when I’m employed, where if I want to go out to eat, if I want to go to a movie, if I want to buy a new toy, I can generally do it. I would be able to stretch that money further by paying off all my debt now and saving myself probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over the long run, let’s say I saved 1/4 a million in interest over my lifetime by paying off everything I owe and not incurring more debt, well that’s another $5k a year tax free in the long run. I could do it. Now, give me $10M tax free, and I can sell the house I’m in now, buy a much nicer one, still pay off my debts, probably buy more expensive toys, travel a lot more than I do, make life simpler and more enjoyable. I’d still however have to realize that you’re talking $200k a year for the next 50 years, even tax free that isn’t going to buy me every extravagance, but I’d feel pretty wealthy. I think you’re going to have to go up into the $50m range to get to the point where I’d feel like, OK, I don’t even have to THINK about my money…I can basically live life on my own terms, whatever may come, spend wherever I feel like spending and the money’s never going to run out….I mean, that’s a million bucks cash a year. I think if your wants actually outpace a million bucks a year cash, then your wants are defective…that’s basically beyond my wildest dreams kind of money there. That’s the kind of money where you can hire people to take care of all the things in your life keeping you from full self-actualization. Beyond that I think is what you call excess….rich by your terms. When you don’t have to ever worry about money, you’re rich, if you still feel like you’d better reign it in, you’re well off, comfortable, etc.

Now, that area between $10m and $50m, heck, even between $3m and $10m is debatable, I’d certainly feel “rich” with far less than $50m, but I use that to try to arrive at a number which seems like no matter your mindset, unless you’re a person with an extremely warped sense of reality, that amount SHOULD make ANYONE feel rich. In other words, someone with $30M I would not begrudge if he felt himself to be “extremely comfortable” but not rich, because he might still have to be aware of his money…he might be tempted to buy that $25m mansion, but then he’d only have $5m to live on for the rest of his life, and if he had 50 years to live, that would not exactly afford a lavish lifestyle with servants to cater to every need. But of course, I refer to the money you have as being able to meet your own wants and needs….if I had a billion dollars, I would live a different lifestyle than I would if I had $50m, but it would include putting my money to work in a number of different ways to raise proceeds for several charities, whereas at $50m I might make a nice endowment somewhere, and at $10m I might give generously to charities. At a billion I would probably start an entire charitable foundation, which would own not or profit businesses dedicated to making the world a better place. But damn right I’d have a few sprawling mansions replete with toadying man-servants, maybe even a private jet to bring me from mansion to mansion.

Bottom line, it’s all relative, but I think $50m is a number that would make it possible for anyone to live a life without money concerns.

marinelife's avatar

@dalepetrie Your very convoluted answer with all of the various scenarios and computations is exactly why I do not buy the lottery tickets in our household.

If I do, I think about the amount of the prize and start figuring out just the sort of stuff you were doing. Since the odds of winning the lottery are as astronomical as they are, such speculation on a twice weekly basis seems ridiculous.

So I never buy or hold or look at the lottery tickets.

sanari's avatar

Rich and wealthy are two completely different things.

Rich is young money; and defines those who have the freedom to spend money on ‘wants’, some regardless of cost.

Wealth is old money; and defines those who also have the freedom to spend money on ‘wants’, all regardless of cost.

The true divisive factor is where the money is coming from. With the rich, money is liquid in investments and business. With wealth, money is embedded in trusts, foundations, businesses, and investments. Those who are rich can fall, but it is harder for the wealthy to fall.

wundayatta's avatar

I could travel whenever and wherever I wanted. I could afford any place I wanted to stay. I could hire a personal chef who would cook everything I like, and then some. I could afford any school for my children, and give them money to set themselves up in life. I could set up an artist’s colony, and give grants to artists to stay there for a few months at a time. I could afford to build any house I wanted (it wouldn’t be a mansion). I could support an organization dedicated to solving big problems humanity faces. Probably through the arts, but maybe also education, or energy. I would provide big time support organizing for single-payer health care reform in the United States.

Wow. That would probably take billions. At least, the health care part. The rest of it—probably 100 million would do it. Although, personally, I’d feel rich if I didn’t have to work, and I had enough to travel and live in any situation I wanted for the rest of my life. Probably between 5 and 10 million.

On the other hand, less than five percent of the population of the US make over $150,000 for the family per year. It seems to me that if you are in that five percent, you are definitely rich. And, compared to the rest of the world, even the median family income in the United States (around $50,000) would seem fabulously rich.

Rich is always a matter of perspective. Unless, maybe, if you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or one hundred or so other people in the world. They know they are at the top, so there’s no way they can say they aren’t rich. For everyone else, there are always people richer than they are, and so, it can seem like you aren’t really rich. You forget about those who are less well off than you are, and only see those who have more wealth.

I think the top ten or fifteen percent of all earners would be considered rich. From maybe 30%-40% to 85 percent would be middle class, and anyone within the lowest 30% in income (with respect to the comparison group) would be poor.

The problem with rich is that the more you have, the more you expect, and the more you spend, and the more you need to support that lifestyle. You never feel rich, at least, monetarily. Rich in spirit; rich in love; rich in friends; rich in social capital: have nothing to do with money, and probably feel much richer than those with money. If they really get into their spirituality. However, I think it is also easier to feel rich if you have enough money to not worry about the things you need to live, and can focus on the things (including non-material things) that make you feel rich.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Marina – to me that which confounds you is the sole benefit of buying a lottery ticket in the first place for me. I like to dream about what I would do, I feel that’s what I’m paying for in buying a ticket (as I’m surely not going to win). I often don’t even check the numbers for several days because as long as I don’t know I didn’t win, I can dream about what I’d do with that money, how I’d structure my life if I were the winner. Of course, I’m an accountant, so I enjoy thinking about that kind of thing.

marinelife's avatar

@dalepetrie Chacun a son gout, my friend.

wundayatta's avatar

@dalepetrie The first time I ever bought a lottery ticket, I realized that it was about purchasing a chance to dream. Then I asked myself, why did I need to spend money in order to dream. All I need to do is ask what I would do if I were filthy rich. Even though you can’t win if you don’t play, my chances of winning whether I pay or not are virtually the same, despite the fact that they are infinitely different. Also, dreaming dreams that can’t happen makes me sad.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie my thoughts about money are complex and convoluted like yours are :). $3 million is my number too right now, my minimum number, except for one snag health care. @daloon mentioned——health care. Single payer health care would be a big part of me feeling wealthy. I grew up in military health care, which is the biggest form of socialized medicine we have in this country, and it was great.

Rich or wealthy to me is being able to afford my life comfortably and never work again.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Having abundance but also feeling contentment from what it brings. Wealth is subjective, more an abundance that doesn’t necessarily a contentedness or value of that abundance.

dalepetrie's avatar

@daloon, the difference between buying a ticket and not buying a ticket is the difference between a fantasy and a dream. A fantasy will never come true, a dream conceivably could no matter how unlikely. It’s the difference between having a sex fantasy about a living celebrity vs. having one about a dead celebrity. I guess I’m too much of a realist to to dream without the ticket. I suppose I could dream about some other way for that money to fall into my lap, but I gotta figure, even if the statistical chances of me winning the lottery are almost zero, some times the fact that they’re NOT zero make me buy a ticket. Now admittedly it’s about 2 or 3 times a year at most, but I’m well aware that all I’m doing is buying a ticket to dream. And hey, it does happen…not as often as people getting hit by lightning, but it does happen. It’s the people who think it WILL happen if they just play the right numbers or use the right system who I don’t get. I believe that I could buy $100 worth of lottery tickets twice a week for the rest of my life. Over fifty years that would be half a million dollars. And I’m quite sure that maybe I’d win back about 10 grand of it at most. That’s just how odds work. But I do have to recognize that a few times a year, some one is going to buy one ticket and become a millionaire,And THAT’S what makes it possible for me to dream the couple times a year I pay for that privilege.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence Chocolate cake is rich but doesn’t always being contentment.

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