What makes someone rich?
Being surrounded by a group of people who you love, of course. Though this really wasn’t what my friends and I were trying to actually posit by the question. We reworded it to: “What do others think that it takes in order to consider themselves rich?”
Someone speculated that having a $1M would be rich. Another speculated that rich is being able to have enough money to support yourself without needing to work again. This is a pretty good definition, but I think most people define rich as making twice (or some other factor) as much as they are making now. For this reason, most people consider themselves to be middle class.
The problem with this definition is that it’s like starting a diet tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. When people receive a raise, often they adjust their lifestyle to match. They then become accustomed to this lifestyle and now, it’s still twice as much as they are currently making. The definition is impossible to obtain.
An alternate definition of rich that many hold is comparative. If they have more than those around them, then they are rich. This too can be unobtainable. Someone may receive a lot of money, which likely changes the kind of people they are hanging around with and now again, they feel like they need more.
In Fooled By Randomness, Nicholas Taleb tells of the lawyer who makes partner and leaves his apartment for a nicer home. He and his wife move into a nice building in Manhattan. Even though the lawyer is now making $500,000 a year, the others in the building are making even more. These leave him and his wife feeling like they are not as successful. Had they stayed in their previous apartment, their perception would have been different.
Very often, we believe that if we just had more money, a better job, a new car, a better place to live, more friends, that we would then feel happy and be content. The problem is that we quickly become accustom to what we have and once our desire is fulfilled new desires arise to take their place. Contentment is not found with more but instead by recognizing all that we already have.