Sunday, January 23, 2011

Are we rich? Part 1 of 3 (maybe)

Sorry for the minimal posting this month.  When I vowed, "Less is More" apparently that meant "less writing, more work".

I envy my soon-to-retire colleague.  Approaching 70, she has certainly paid her dues and earned her rest.  I just dread that I myself have another couple of decades to go as a salary serf.  The older of the two main reasons for my serfdom asked us the other day, "Are we rich?"

A bit startled by the question (we aren't rich), we asked the reason behind the question.  Apparently one of eldest's friends was conjecturing out loud in front of him that we must be, because DH's profession is one that requires an advanced post-graduate degree.  I choked back a laugh, and eyed DH over the dinner table, letting him take the lead on this discussion.  We settled on the standard privacy line of "It's nobody's business how much money we have or make, and no, we're not going to tell our children, either."

Now, the short report card on our status is that we are financially sound.  At the moment.  Which can feel like or look like wealth when friends and neighbors face unemployment or home foreclosures.  We count ourselves lucky in that regard, and continue to work hard in our designated professions to keep things that way.  We won't pat ourselves on the back for having "done right", because we know that where we are is as much a result of luck/opportunity, as it is good choices (and some bad ones) that we've made along the way.

We have friends we consider truly wealthy.  They live in zipcodes where we couldn't afford a post office box, never mind a mortgage.  And while we love them and respect all their hard work to get where they are, it has taken me years to get over my own jealousy over their success.  Why do they have the marble-floored mansion, and fulltime housekeeper, and a school district where the GATE program (gifted and talented) offers something more than making Christmas cookies in the lunchroom?  I worked just as hard, but have had much less success--what did I do wrong?  The best therapy for that, I found, was reading Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Outliers: The Story of Success".  So much of that kind of success is timing and chance.  And yes, hard work, but in the right environment.

We also have friends who have less than we do.  Or we think so--they don't share their financial details with us, and we don't ask.  They are raising their kids in single-parent households, shuttling them back and forth with the ex-spouse.  Or their homes may be smaller (but no less full of love), or they've had to sell the house for an apartment because home prices and employment did not cooperate.  They are working just as hard as we are, I know for sure, and some of them have spent lots of time helping their own children, and mine, by volunteering at school, church, and scouting.  They deserve success just as much as we do.  Maybe more.  I have no answers for why this should be so, other than life is not fair, and we all just do the best we can with what we have.  And try to help others when the opportunity arises.

I suppose one simple definition of rich might be that when someone needs help of any kind, to be in a position to offer help is the best kind of wealth. Even if the help is emotional support, rather than financial.  In that regard, we are wealthy indeed.


  1. To me being wealthy is not having to worry if there is enough money to pay the incoming bills and to buy anything you want or need at the grocery store.

    If you have that, anything more is wealth! If you don't have that you are poor.

    Anyone who says money isn't important has more than they need.

  2. My God, you must be reading my mind. Get out! Now! Stop saying what I'm thinking!

    I do, however, love your parting comment.

  3. Patois, were you talking to me or Merikay? Not sure which parting comment you liked best?

    And Merikay, we buy what we want at the grocery, but I do worry sometimes about the incoming bills. Especially when both cars are over 100k miles and making funny noises...

  4. Oh, I was definitely speaking to you, Jo. But since you didn't know, perhaps you're not actually in my mind! ;)


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