What Does Rich Mean to You?

Rich means a lot of different things to people. I believe it doesn't always come down to things, but freedom from worry. What does rich mean to you?

Christmas is almost here and so many of us will wake up on Christmas morning to a pile of exciting, unopened presents. Some may even end up with a shiny new car in the driveway. There was definitely a time when I thought that owning a large home, a fancy new car and interesting gadgets meant you were rich. Now I see that ‘rich’ is a relative term, especially in comparison to how people live in the rest of the world.

The more I embrace frugality, the more I realize that spending money on things just to impress others (which is what we’re doing), doesn’t make us rich, it only makes us that much more poor.

What I Used to Think Was Rich


When I was finishing up college, I wanted so many things. The ultimate “I’ve made it” factor to me at the time was a new BMW in the garage, a house with a library and a teacup yorkie. The next year I thought I needed a new car (I didn’t, but I financed one anyway) and I thought I wanted a boat (and got that, too.)

I graduated college with no debt and only as much stuff as I could fit into my compact car, but fast forward a couple of years and my lifestyle was getting out of control with too much stuff and the debt that goes along with it. I never got into credit card debt, but I did finance $38,000 between a car and a boat.

What I learned from those purchases is that spending money I don’t have on new things does not make me happy, and those things didn’t make me feel rich at all. Instead, they made me feel financially insecure because I was living paycheck to paycheck. It wasn’t a great feeling.

What Does It Mean To Be Rich?


We often think that a wallet stuffed full of money and lots of things in our houses will make us feel rich, but we all know people who have those things and are still miserable. Money may make us feel rich in terms of our bank accounts, but it doesn’t make us happy in the long run.

So what will it take to finally make us feel like we’re rich? Do we need big houses and luxury cars to feel rich, or will a comfortable and secure family life full of great experiences and copious amounts of time with our loved ones finally make us feel like we’ve made it?

Changing Our Perspective On What It Means to Be Rich


Perhaps some of us need to simply change our perspectives on what it means to be rich. Debt definitely doesn’t make us feel rich, but money doesn’t necessarily make us happy either. We need to take a step back, look at our lives and all the wonderful things in them and decide what actually makes us happy. Those things probably don’t have a lot to do with money. Once I realized that I needed to get rid of the stuff that was keeping me in debt and unhappy, my perspective changed.

Today, the boat is (thankfully) long gone, I still live in my “starter home” which is now paid off and will probably be my forever home, and we have two used, but paid-for cars in the garage that aren’t shiny or new. A lot of people would define that as a not very rich existence, but I see it a little differently.

I may not have any of what a lot of people would consider “riches,” at least when it comes to fancy items to show off, but I do feel rich because I am able to pursue a career that I love unbound by debt, and I can spend as much time with my family as I want.

The money we have can (and should) be used as a tool to give us that kind of freedom. We need to be good stewards of the money we earn so that we can feel secure and, in turn, rich. That means aggressively paying off all our debts, not getting into anymore debt and minimizing our financial needs for the future so that we aren’t chained to jobs we dislike.

Rich means a lot of different things to people. I believe it doesn't always come down to things, but freedom from worry. What does rich mean to you?

What Rich Means to Me Now


To me today, rich means having options. It means having the time to do what I want to do when I want to do it. It means working less and pursuing a career I love from the comfort of my couch, which is exactly where I’m sitting as I write this.

It means enjoying more time with my preschooler so that I can play with her when she wants to play, craft when she wants to craft and be silly when she wants to be silly. It means freedom from worrying about money all the time, even though I’m not a millionaire. I’ve found my sweet spot of not too much and not too little, but just the right amount to feel comfortable, secure, happy, and, yes, rich.


What does rich mean to you? Do you feel rich? If not, what would make you feel rich? Do you think money makes people happy?

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Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • I feel rich because I have my health and so does my family. But I also feel rich because, like you, I have options. Those options are worth a lot more to me than material possessions.

  • For me being rich is living on my own terms. Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it.

  • Lol, I still want a house with a library. Maybe I’ll have a very small one when my kid is old enough to move out on her own.
    Rich to me is freedom from insecurity, and I can be that without the library. If I know I can always cover food, comfortable shelter, my child’s education, health care, and reasonable entertainment, I will feel very rich indeed.

    • Ahh, the library. In my head, mine had one of those rolling ladders to go with it, so that I could roll among the stacks of books that were far above my head.
      I’m happy to get all my books at the library now. 🙂

  • Mrs. Groovy says:

    I love your honesty, Robin. To me, rich means having enough money so that I can live each day with all my priorities in alignment, having a wide open slate, without worry or dread. It’s a means to a goal, which is freedom. To an extent, money can help people achieve happiness, but only if it’s used as a tool, and not as a measurement of success.

    • Thanks, Mrs. Groovy. And yes, I agree that money can only help you achieve happiness if it’s used as a tool to give you a secure financial future. It has nothing to do with the ability to buy a new Ferrari, which will lose its luster and become used a few short months after you buy it. The “happiness” from that kind of purchase fades quickly.

  • fehmeen says:

    I feel rich when I look at the homeless and beggars on the street. In fact, I feel filthy rich at those moments and all I want to do is share my ‘wealth’ with them.

    A less extreme perspective that many people have is that you feel rich when you can stop worrying about money, and when the assets you own can generate enough money to live on without you ‘having’ to work.

    But that’s just the tangible definition of feeling rich. The real richness comes from being happy among your near and dear ones. That feeling can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of how much money you have.

    • The ability to stop worrying about money– I touched on that briefly in my post. I don’t generate enough passive income to retire yet, but the fact that I no longer have any debt whatsoever, not even a mortgage, has granted me the feeling of financial security. I like the idea that I don’t have to worry about the size of my paycheck anymore. I’m fine earning less money doing something I actually enjoy rather than earning a bigger income at a job I hate.

  • Chuck says:

    This statement really resonated with me…
    “not getting into anymore debt and minimizing our financial needs for the future so that we aren’t chained to jobs we dislike”

    Yes, I think rich is synonymous with freedom for me as well. I want to spend the day on my own pursuits and interests.

    • Thanks, Chuck. I like the feeling of the freedom from a job I dislike, and the ability to do what I want, when I want. That was the point I wanted to reach, and it’s a great feeling.

  • Hannah says:

    My son is really into “If you give a mouse a cookie” right now. I read it about 800 times per day, and I’ve realized that there are many parallels to my spending habits.

    For example, I would love a boat (I grew up wakeboarding and water skiing), but then I would need to live on a lake, and we would need to have plenty of space for entertaining, and on and on and on. Maybe life without a boat is a better choice.

    Same thing with home renovations, or luxury vehicles, or anything that starts out simple enough but ends up costing a load to maintain.

    • We have read that book many times in our house as well, but I’ve never thought about how it would relate to me financially. That’s very clever. You should do a blog post about that! No matter how much we have, we will always want more.

      (PS. Definitely don’t go for the boat! I speak from experience.) 🙂

  • Rich to me means having a full life, good health, good friends, leisure activities you enjoy, and happiness. Wealthy is different. Wealthy to me means money you have where you don’t have to worry (or not as much). I’m rich, but working on wealth now. Wealth is peace of mind.

  • I typically don’t think of rich as being in-line with happy. There are tons of happy people who are poor and/or in debt. I think of rich as simply a net worth number (though I’m not sure where the cut-off is between rich and not-rich).

  • I used to think rich meant having lots of stuff and people being envious of you. And I won’t deny that’s what I wanted for a time too. Like you, I never created consumer debt chasing after a “rich” life but I wasted a lot of money that would have been better used in other areas. Today, I think rich means having the freedom of choice, to use money on what brings you happiness (and yes, that does include material things too but purchased because YOU want them, not to keep up or impress others), to have an abundance mindset and to be generous.

    • I try not to think about all the money I’ve wasted in the past and how much closer to retirement I’d be if I had saved it all. We all have to learn from our mistakes, but my oh my, all the money I’ve wasted in the past!

  • Kim says:

    To me, rich is being able to afford what you need and want regardless or whether a paycheck comes in this month or not. Anyone can have tons of expensive stuff but still be living paycheck to paycheck, and that is not rich. Obviously, if no money ever came in, you would eventually be broke but having passive or somewhat passive income to cover expenses and working because I choose to is my idea of rich.

  • Yeah I also believe in the same mentality about being rich and wealthy. Over consumption is a major problem and I am not the least interested in that lifestyle. I prefer to save as much and feel secure financially with freedom being a added perk.

  • Having just enough to pay for the value based and passion-driven lifestyle I have created without needing to work for pay. My frugal lifestyle allows me to be wealthy without having or needing a ginormous portfolio.

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