To feel rich consistently is even better than actually being rich. In fact, learning how to feel rich might be the biggest wealth hack of them all. Once you got that rich feeling, you don’t need to work as hard to achieve a net worth you think is required to be wealthy. Nor do you need a top income either.
I define rich as earning a top one percent income of $500,000+ or having a top one percent net worth of over $11 million. You may disagree with these money thresholds to be considered rich, but if you make more or have more than 99% of the population, you are rich.
However, you can be rich and still be miserable because your spouse left you. You can be rich and still feel terrible because your children despise you for neglecting them growing up.
Making $1 million a year is great, but due to tremendous job stress you hate your life. You’re working 60-70 hours a week and always on call during the weekends. As a result, you have no freedom.
You may have a $20 million net worth and never feel rich because you sacrificed your health to amass a fortune. Then when you’re on your deathbed with millions, you wonder why you didn’t spend more time enjoying life instead.
Obviously, if you can consistently feel rich and actually be rich, then you’ve got the best of both worlds. But sometimes, we can’t have everything we want.
Feeling Rich Without Having A Lot Of Money
I’d rather feel rich than be rich but feel poor any day. Money is only a means to an end. That end is to live a purposeful and happy life. Once you’ve got all your bases covered, earning much more won’t make you much happier.
Perhaps it’s easier for me to say I’d rather feel rich given I’ve finally got enough passive income to provide for my family. I don’t have to work for an annoying boss, commute, or do things that provide minimal value to society.
However, it was not always this way. I distinctly remember being a broke college student and still feeling really happy studying abroad in China in 1997. Further, I do go through the trough of sorrow on occasion after achieving something significant. That’s the hedonic treadmill for you.
An Amazing Beijing Summer With Little Money
It was 85 degrees every evening in Beijing. All I had was a small fan that I shared with my roommate. Every eight seconds I would feel a pleasant breeze for two seconds until the fan rotated gently the other way.
We were in the old dorm with no AC and only squat toilets. In contrast, our richer Princeton University students had AC and western toilets. We also slept on wooden planks for months. Regardless, it felt amazing to be immersed in a new culture.
Come to think of it, while in Beijing, I even got to party with a friend named Lisa every week. She is now the brilliant co-creator of the HBO hit show, Westworld. Small world huh?
None of us had a lot of money, but we were happy. Lisa, if you’re out there, can I get a small part in an upcoming episode? I will work for free. Think about all the good times we had at Solutions outside 北大！
Simple Life But Felt Rich
I remember feeling rich to be sharing a studio in Manhattan in 1999 because I had landed my dream job on Wall Street. Yeah, it wasn’t ideal to share a room after getting a job. But NYC was expensive and i had to what I had to do to survive.
Although I was only making $40,000 a year, which was equivalent to making $24,000 in Dallas, I was just glad to have a job. I felt my employer had made a mistake in hiring me because historically nobody had ever been recruited from William & Mary at the time. Feeling lucky made the 70-hour work weeks much more bearable.
Many of my fondest moments were all when I had little-to-no money. Think about all your fondest memories as well. Did you have a lot of money during those moments? I’m guessing the answer is no.
How To Feel Rich Even If You Can’t Technically Be Rich
Now that we agree we don’t need to be rich to feel rich, let’s look at some ways to consistently feel wealthier than we really are.
1) Increase your freedom to choose.
Unhappiness exists when you can’t do the things you want, when you want. A lack of choice is why so many employees are miserable at work. As the saying goes, “hell is other people!” By finding ways to increase your freedom to choose, you will feel richer.
When I left my day job in 2012, I lost over 80% of my income. Yet, I felt richer because I had complete control over my time. Of course, it hurt to no longer make six-figures and receive healthcare benefits, but the wonderful feeling of freedom more than compensated.
Consistently search for ways to increase your freedom to choose. Maybe you can find a job that routinely allows you to work from home when the pandemic is over. Maybe you can rise in the ranks so that you get more respect and leeway at your firm.
Perhaps if you acted kinder and aren’t as easily angered by things you read on the internet, you would have more friends. Do things that increase your freedom to choose.
2) Create something on your own.
Whether you spend a month creating a custom scarf or you spend a year landscaping your garden and waiting for your tomatoes to grow, you will feel richer creating something on your own. It is the best feeling creating something from now.
My dad planted a lemon tree in his front yard eight years ago. He diligently watered the darn thing for three years and it never fruited. One day, he decided to graft a couple lime branches to the tree. And finally, five years after first planting the tree, fruits came! He is so proud every time he gives me an update.
It is true that making $1,000 on your own feels more rewarding than making $1,000 at a company. When you make money on your own, there is no doubt that your effort was the main reason for the reward. When you work for a company, you’ll always have some doubt about your impact.
Produce a good product. Let’s say you’re an overpaid CEO who gets hired to run a sugary soft drink manufacturer. Whether you are the CEO or not, the soda will still get sold due to its existing distribution channel and sugary addiction. Instead of feeling rich, you might feel horrible for peddling poison in the form of a beverage.
Creativity Makes You feel Richer
Next time you talk to your artist friend, ask why she continues to do art when her art can’t pay her bills. Ask the same thing to your writer friend, who is grinding so hard to be a professional writer.
The reason why people create is that creation is the reward itself. Whether the creation makes money or not is secondary. Creating is magical!
I’m thrilled to have published a new personal finance book to the world. Even if Buy This, Not That doesn’t become a bestseller, that’s OK because I know the book will help anybody who decides to read it.
But too late! Buy This, Not That became a #1 Bestseller on Amazon the day I announced its book cover to my newsletter subscribers. It also made the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list, an almost impossible feat if you are not a professional writer. Now let’s see if the book can grow on its own through word of mouth.
I could have read a book on how to feel rich. But it is much more rewarding to write this post and write a book on how to feel rich and get rich instead.
Having my own website is a convenient way for me to create, which feels very rewarding every day. Don’t lose your creativity! Here’s a post on how to be more creative. Let’s not forget about all that we created when we were kids.
3) When you don’t give up and finally succeed.
The longer you spend working on something, the richer you will feel once you succeed. It is extremely hard to fail if you don’t give up!
This rich feeling is why you don’t want to just give your children everything. It’s better to make them earn their success. Please don’t envy the person who inherits everything. Feel empathy for them instead.
Here are some good examples of not giving up and finally succeeding:
- Studying for the Bar Exam, Medical Board, or CFA and passing.
- Self-publishing a book after working on it for two years.
- When you finally land your first writing gig like Lisa did after pivoting away from consulting and law
- Working on a new business account for a year and finally seeing your first order invoice from it.
- Finding love after going on 100 bad dates.
- Winning a divisional title after failing for three years.
- Trying to naturally conceive, then trying IUI, and then trying IVF for five years with numerous miscarriages and finally conceiving.
- Spending two years writing and editing a traditional book that goes onto be well-received
Even if Financial Samurai generated no income, I would still feel proud of fulfilling my commitment to publish three times a week for 10 years. It is the challenge of doing something hard and finishing it that provides one of the greatest rewards.
The more failures you experience, the sweeter the feeling of victory when you finally succeed. Do not give up on something you care about.
4) When You’re Surrounded By Loved Ones
Friends and family are everything. Having friends to joke around with brings so much joy. Having family that support your endeavors feels priceless. Not being able to physically interact with friends and loved ones as easily is one of the main reasons why this global pandemic is so hard.
As a father of two young children, I feel incredibly rich. It took years to conceive our son. Then to have a daughter a couple years later felt like a miracle as geriatric parents. We just snuck in having children under age 40. Meanwhile, as older parents, we get to spend a lot more time with them because we don’t have to work day jobs.
I wish someone told me in my 20s and early 30s that having children would provide so much love. If I had been told, I would have tried to have children five years sooner. Instead, I was overly focused on trying to achieve financial independence ASAP.
If we did not have children, then we would do more work to nurture our friendships. Great relationships are worth so much more than having a lot of money. Of course, you still need a baseline level of money to feel happy.
5) Provide something meaningful to society.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
One of the reasons why people are so angry at the Financial Samurai Safe Withdrawal Rate is it has made people consider leaving money to others after death. This jolt of extending beyond oneself has made some folks feel bad. And that is my failure. I agree that it’s foolish to die with a lot of money. However, if you want to feel rich try thinking longer term.
After talking to an estate planning lawyer, you’ll start thinking about how to make your wealth last for generations. You start thinking about how to ensure your children and grandchildren will be taken care of if you pass prematurely. You also start thinking about how to continue to fund charities you believe in.
Some of these charitable institutions become a part of your family. Over time, if you are involved, you get to know the people who work there and the people who are being helped. You develop a relationship. To have the funding die with you feels bad because people will always need help.
My goal is to figure out a way to give more. One way is to keep Financial Samurai online, get someone I trust to take over, and continue to charge nothing. Another way is to create a trust that provides income to a local foster shelter and a disability rehabilitation center.
The more you give back, the richer you will feel. The lack of purpose is one of the main reasons why people become disengaged from their jobs. This lack of purpose was one of my key takeaways after 10 years of fake retirement.
6) Get to a minimum investment portfolio amount.
After reviewing my recent investment performance, I realized that once you get to about $300,000 in your portfolio, you start feeling a lightness in your step. Having $300,000 is not rich. However, it does make you feel hopeful that you can one day be financially free.
With $300,000, your annual return on your portfolio could start surpassing your annual contribution. For example, a 10% return on a $300,000 portfolio is $30,000. $30,000 is $9,500 greater than the maximum you can contribute to your 401(k) at the time of this writing.
Once you get to $300,000, getting to $500,000 and $1 million will start to feel inevitable. So long as you are making progress, you will feel rich. $300,000 is the minimum investment portfolio amount to shoot for.
You Can Feel Rich By Being More Appreciative Too
I’ve highlighted five ways you can feel richer without being rich in the traditional sense.
Here are other ways you will feel rich. All involve being more appreciative of your circumstance.
- If you walked away from a bike accident unscathed.
- If you are told you only have six months left to live and live for another three years.
- If both of your parents live to hold their grandchildren.
- If your job is something you’d happily do for free.
- If you were a C-student who now lives an A-lifestyle.
- If you sprain your ankle and didn’t break your ankle.
We can all agree that luck plays an enormous part in getting rich. However, we can proactively do things to make us feel richer every day. We can also spend more time appreciating what we have.
The more we can establish reasonable expectations about money, the richer we will feel. The most unhappy cities financially have residents with the highest expectations about money. Take a look at this latest list of financially satisfied and dissatisfied cities in America.
Can you imagine needing a net worth equal to 8X – 10X the median home price of your city to feel rich? If so, you may never be satisfied with what you have!
Keep An Open Mind
Having 100% control over my time makes me feel very rich. To then be able to hug my kids every day is a blessing. I would give ALL my money to have my children and time, which is why I haven’t been lured back to the workforce yet.
In conclusion, it’s much better to feel rich than actually be rich. Don’t let some random guy on the internet tell you how to plan your financial life. Instead, listen to perspectives with an open mind and come up with your own game plan.
Like everything, feeling consistently rich takes effort. If you spend as much time nurturing relationships as you do chasing money, I dare say you might become the richest person in the world.
Related posts on feeling rich:
Readers, what are ways in which you can feel rich without being rich?
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