What Makes You Rich?

The current presidential election is bringing to light, perhaps more than any other presidential campaign before, the differences between the “rich” and those who do not have as much money. As a result, the debate over what makes a person “rich” is in full swing.

But what makes you “rich” in the first place?

Recently, Kevin at Out Of Your Rut came up with a list of items that allows him to feel rich, even without a great deal of traditional, or worldly, wealth. Whether or not you feel rich, though, does, to some degree, depend on how much money you have. Here are some of the items that can impact how much money you actually have — and whether or not you are “rich”.

Photo by Merzperson via Wikimedia Commons

4 Things that Can Impact How Rich You Feel


How much money you make has a lot to do with how rich you feel, and the amount of money you have at the end of each month. Your income certainly has to do with how much worldly wealth you end up with. If you want to feel richer, one way to do so is to increase your income. You can do this by getting another job, or by starting your own business.

However, while income might be a starting point, it’s not all there is to determining how rich you are.


One of the biggest drains on your financial resources is debt. When you are in debt, you have obligations that must be met. On top of that, you pay interest. As a result, even if you have what you consider a good income, you might feel the strains associated with meeting your debt payments. And, of course, the interest is constantly draining even more of your wealth away. Someone with a significant amount of debt can hardly be considered “rich,” no matter how much stuff he or she has, if the end of the month results in no extra income.


Where you live has a big impact on how much money you have available. How “rich” you are depends, to some degree, on where you are. This is because the cost of living varies greatly from locale to locale. You might be able to feel richer on a lower income when you live in a small town. A bigger city, or a more expensive area, might cost more in terms of:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Utilities

Even in the same city, you might find that there are disparities in costs, depending on the neighborhood you live in. Generally, many people consider “wealthy” as earning $200,000 or $250,000 a year. However, if you live in a high-priced city, and pay a great deal for your home mortgage, and pay more for food and transportation, that large amount of money suddenly doesn’t go as far as you might think. There are people living in major metropolitan areas that spend half their monthly incomes on housing costs.

Where you live really can impact how much money you have, and whether or not you are rich. If you live in a low-cost area, you can often stretch your dollars further, and end up with more at your disposal.

What You Spend Your Money On

As you consider whether or not you are “rich”, it helps to take a look at what you spend your money on. Does your spending match your values? Look through your expenses, and identify money leaks. If you aren’t spending money on items of importance — things helping you achieve your financial goals — then you will always feel as though you are missing out on something. You can feel richer by adjusting your spending so that the most important expenditures are funded first. You’ll feel better about the way you are using money. And, since your goals and priorities are funded first, you’ll feel richer.

Bottom Line

In the end, it’s really about disposable income. After you pay your debt obligations each month, and after you pay your bills, what’s left can make you feel rich or poor. If you have more disposable income, and are able to do at least some of the things you want, chances are you will feel rich.

About the Author

By , on Feb 6, 2012
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

Leave Your Comment (8 Comments)

  1. Viec Lam says:

    Rich seem to be a general word. Maybe you rich by money but you poor by children. If you have a lot of friends, you are rich with friend. You have a lot of knowledge, you rich with your knowledge. So, it is not mean that you only rich when you have a lot of money.

  2. David Sneen says:

    For many, if not most Americans; the first thing they think about when hearing the word “rich” is winning the lottery. From a mathematical point of view, it makes a terrible investment—actually a non-investment.

    We must realize that there is an untapped resource inside of us that can help us achieve our financial dreams. There were more opportunities 20 or 30 years ago. But, that does not mean there are not opportunities now. The cream will always rise to the top.

  3. John says:

    I love seeing “poor” people with greater net worths than people driving around in BMWs. Every time I see someone with a nice car, I automatically assume they are poor. It’s a total shift in mindset.

  4. Miranda says:

    You make a good point, Wayne. Sometimes, it becomes a status symbol, more than an issue of wealth. And, of course, if you compare yourself to others, there’s almost always someone “richer” than you.

  5. Wayne says:

    I have often wondered if the rich even feel rich. It seems that someone always has more money and if you get one million, will it be enough? If you had two million would you want three? Perhaps rich is more dependant on perception than wealth.

  6. Jenna says:

    I think the location one is key, plus reminding yourself of all the good stuff you have regardless of money. Family, friends, health, career, etc.

  7. Kris says:

    Other than the numbers, what would make me rich is freedom of choice. Freedom to buy the car I want, the house I want, the toys I want, the vacations I want, give to the charities I want. That’s what makes me envious of the rich.

  8. Joe says:

    Never underestimate the drag that debt creates on one’s cash flow (and therefore long term wealth). Paying interest is a wealth-killer. Except for a mortgage or investment loan (which increase your leverage and therefore risk), you have to pay interest with AFTER-TAX DOLLARS. Fighting compound interest is fighting what Einstein called (in jest) the most powerful force in the world. Instead, capitalize on compound interest and save early.

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