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What Does It Mean to Be Rich?


"There are people with money, and there are people who are rich."

-Coco Chanel


A businessman visits a small village on vacation and every day sees a fisherman rowing a small boat after catching a few large fish. Finally, the businessman asked the fisherman how long it takes him to catch all those fish. The fisherman says it doesn't take long.

The businessman asks why he doesn't stay out longer and catch more, to which the fisherman replies that he catches enough to feed his family and that's all he needs. The businessman asks what he does for the rest of the day.

The fisherman tells him that after fishing, he goes home to play with his kids, takes a nap with his wife in the afternoon, and goes for drinks with his buddies and plays music all night long.

Puzzled, the businessman offers a suggestion. He tells the fisherman he has an advanced degree and decades of experience in business and offers to help the fisherman. He suggests spending more time at sea to catch even more fish, since he seems to be successful doing so. He can sell the fish he doesn't need and eventually afford to buy more boats and a team to help him. Together they can run a successful business and the fisherman can become very rich.

The fisherman asks what happens after he is rich.

The businessman replies that he can then retire, spending his days fishing, playing with his kids, taking afternoon naps with his wife, and playing music while enjoying drinks with his friends.

definition of rich

Rich is Not Income

I don't have any research to back this up, but my gut tells me that most people would view someone who has a high income as being rich (I'm using "rich" and "wealthy" as synonyms). That certainly seems right, because having a high income, all else equal, makes it easier to become wealthy. Unfortunately, income only equates to wealth if it's saved. If you get a million dollars you are a millionaire. If you spend $1 from your million, you are no longer a millionaire.

It's not what you make, it's what you keep. That phrase tends to be used a lot with regard to taxes, but it also applies to spending. If you earn a lot of money, but you spend a lot of money, you'll have a lot of stuff and a lot of cool experiences, but won't have much money left.

Is that rich?