Musings About Money, Wealth & Riches

Musings About Money, Wealth & Riches

The brilliant quip “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” is attributed to singer, songwriter, actress and comedian Sophie Tucker. Few realistic people would argue. Those who would may need to re-evaluate their ideas about what “riches” really means.

My personal favorite definition of rich comes from It states that rich implies having more than enough to gratify normal needs or desires. This poses the new question “what is normal?”

Referring again to suggests that normal indicates “usual or ordinary : not strange.” Yet another question emerges: “Compared to what?” Usual or ordinary in Martha’s Vineyard or the shores of Rhode island is very, very different from usual or ordinary in the slums of New Delhi, India.

Riches to many people

A small bag of rice equals riches to many people.

Coincidentally, my personal baseline for what rich actually means comes from a story I heard from India. It was learned that a mother with children had been without any food for several days. An aid worker was dispatched to deliver an amount of rice to her to rescue them for a few days. Upon being given the rice, the mother gave thanks to the aid worker and to her deity, then immediately divided the rice into two parts and took half to her neighbor.

That story speaks volumes to me. Although the woman was not “rich” in financial terms, she was richer in terms of trust and faith and generosity and compassion than I may ever be. I aspire to realize the riches that she knew.

In comparison, nearly every person in the United States has staggering wealth! The homeless migrants who live under bridges can always find a soup kitchen nearby where they can get something to eat and a public restroom where they can get clean water for drinking and washing up. By comparing ourselves to the poorest of the poor, we are all wealthy well beyond our actual survival needs. The New Delhi mother experienced so much gratitude for a small bag of rice that she shared her riches with her neighbor. Contrast that to the spoiled American who is furious that the Christmas bonus  wasn’t enough this year to cover the entire down payment on the annual new Mercedes.

Although money is something that I must be careful with, lest I have too much month left at it’s depletion, I consider myself to be wealthy and in possession of great riches. Too many “riches,” actually. The small home, which we absolutely love, is difficult to maneuver through because of all the things we have accumulated. At this stage of our lives my wife and I are beginning to realize that that which we possess has come to possess us. We are actively finding ways of transferring much of it to others to simplify our lives.

So when, then, do “riches” become burdens? Dr. Napoleon Hill had some ideas about riches that may serve to answer this question. Here are his “Twelve Great Riches of Life” listed in the order of importance that he assigned to them:

12 Great Riches

Dr. Napoleon Hill

  1. A Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
  2. Sound physical health
  3. Harmony in human relationships
  4. Freedom from fear
  5. The hope of achievement
  6. The capacity for faith
  7. A willingness to share one’s blessings
  8. A labor of love
  9. An open mind on all subjects
  10. Self-discipline
  11. The capacity to understand people
  12. Economic security

There are two aspects of this list of riches that stand out for me:

  1. The first eleven are riches that we could never have too much of, and,
  2. The twelfth, and therefore least significant, is one that having too much of could rob us of the more important first eleven. Dr. Hill emphasized this idea by pointing out that an abundance of the first eleven would automatically endow economic security, but economic security would not necessarily support the first eleven.

An analysis of each of the riches illuminate the appropriateness of these statements:

  • Without a Positive Mental Attitude fear tends to dominate our thinking. Fear becomes powerful affirmations and driving forces for attaining that which we do not want.
  • “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” Herophilus
  • Without harmony in human relationships we are unable to command the cooperation that is necessary for societal success.
  • Without freedom from fear we become actively involved in creating the exact circumstances and conditions that we want most to avoid.
  • Without the hope of achievement there is no motivation to proceed on any desirable path.
  • Without the capacity for faith our self-doubts will disable all efforts.
  • Without a willingness to share one’s blessings we succumb to fear of lack and sabotage the relationships which support progress and achievement.
  • Without a labor of love there is no sense of achievement, and our activities become despised.
  • Without an open mind on all subjects we are unable to recognize opportunity when it arises.
  • Without self-discipline we are too easily distracted from the path we have chosen.
  • Without the capacity to understand people we lack the ability to communicate and lead.

Conversely, every personnel department of every business on the planet is seeking employees who are happy, healthy, work well with others, take thoughtful risks, expect things to work out, trust God and their employer, generous, enjoy their work, easily learn and consider new possibilities, stay focused and stick to the tasks at hand and communicate well with co-workers and customers. Such a person will have no end of job offers and business opportunities, even in the worst of economic conditions.

To summarize this essay, the surest way I know of to create wealth and riches, including financial abundance, is to first recognize how rich you already are. Having done so, parlay that recognition into an intentional expansion of the 12 great riches defined by Dr. Hill in Think and Grow Rich and his many other brilliant books.

I am constantly reminded that it is best to not compare ourselves to others–rather to compare ourselves to our own personal definition of success. Good council, indeed. Yet, if we do succumb to interpersonal comparisons, it will be wise to compare ourselves to the truly rich, like the benevolent mother n New Delhi who was so secure in her wealth that she generously shared half of what she had with a neighbor rather than sad and pathetic obsessive money-hoarders such as Donald Trump.

I AM rich and I’ve been poor. Truly rich is DEFINITELY better!



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