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Discovering the difference between the terms 'rich' and 'wealth'

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By Matthew Walker

Sunday, October 8, 2017

After several years in banking, I began to notice patterns in thought about lifestyle.

These patterns presented themselves in differences of fundamental assumptions about money and lifestyle. Attitudes of wealthy clients towards money varied from all the noise that continually flooded society.

After long consideration, I believe I can express this idea with the terms “Rich” and “Wealth.”

We are told that we want to be “rich” and have all the newest and nicest things, take expensive vacations, and be seen and admired by strangers. Actually, these behaviors are the best ways to become poor. The term “rich” became stigmatized as it was seen to refer to those who consume goods and not to those who own assets.

How is “wealth” different? First, it is more the ability to buy nice things and does not refer to the actual purchase. Wealth creates the freedom to make decisions about what work we choose and for how many years we must work.

Secondly, wealth removes the daily stress of providing for our families today, tomorrow, and after we are gone.

Lastly, because we now control our time, wealth means we can pursue the works that interest us, be around the people who bring us happiness and choose work that tailors to our strengths.

The analogy I have created for my students is the “rabbit and the sapling”. Creating wealth requires watering and fertilizing saplings so that they may grow and become a fruit bearing orchard.

Being rich is being the rabbit: running to every seed that has broken ground and consuming every sweet tender shoot. When those who think as the rabbitdoes  have a windfall and receive an orchard, they immediately turn it into firewood, and do not allow it to continue to take fruit.

To build wealth, continue to plant saplings. Allow them to grow. Always plant new saplings for older trees have slowed their fruit production. Allow the shoot grow, rather than consuming it. Choose to have the annual crop of fruit.

My intentions are not to chastise individuals but to increase our awareness. All of the thousands of advertisements we see each day intention is to create desire for products. Everywhere we look, we are told solutions to our problems exist and can be purchased.

These advertisements are intended to create wealth for the seller as a transfer of wealth from the consumer. You are told you need to be rich because it is in no one’s interest but yours for you to save money.

Our economy needs the great American consumer, but you can reject the hype. Challenge the message and consider the messenger.

Matthew Walker is on faculty in the Finance Department at ECU.

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