Beyond Money: The Other Types of Riches

By Ali Luke

May 3, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Do you want to be rich? Most of us equate “rich” with “money” – and we take it for granted that more money is a good thing. We daydream about winning the lottery and quitting our jobs, traveling the world, and buying all the expensive gadgets we want.

Study after study, though, shows that more money doesn’t make us happier. Of course, if you’re living on the breadline, it will – but past a certain, fairly low, salary, there’s no relationship between salary and happiness.

I think that real happiness comes from other types of riches. You might not have loads of money, but if you’ve got enough to live on, how about focusing on some of these ways of getting rich instead?

You’ve probably come across the phrase “money rich, time poor”. This, perhaps, sums up the reasons why more money doesn’t result in more happiness. Often, the more you earn, the more time you spend earning – or taking care of your money and the trappings which come with it.

Being time-rich means having the freedom to spend as much of your life as possible doing what you want. Having an abundance of time can bring rewards that no amount of money can buy. Time-rich parents, for instance, have the chance to really engage with their kids. A time-rich painter or writer might not make millions, but might produce some truly outstanding pieces of art. A time-rich academic could revolutionize a particular discipline.

Money can be earned, exchanged and horded. Time goes past constantly, however much we might like to stop it. Being time-rich means engaging fully with life.

Get time-rich:

    • Where’s your time going? Keep a time log for a f days (write down what you’re doing every 15 – 30 minutes) and find out. Any nasty surprises? 

If you lose a lot of money, you can recover. It might take some time, but you can turn around your personal finances and get out of debt. You can close a failing business and start a new one. You can borrow money from family or from the bank.

If you destroy your health, there’s often no going back. Some chronic illnesses, such as ME, are caused by periods of overwork and stress. Is it worth wrecking your health for the sake of a few extra hours in work?

One of the most powerful stories I’ve come across about this is in Jonathan Field’s book Career Renegade:

I’d been working nearly seventy-two hours straight, each one more excruciating than the one before. But, missing the deadline meant losing $100 million for our client, so I pressed on until we finally closed the deal. I staggered into a cab, passed out for a few hours, then headed straight to my doctor’s office. […] Weeks of relentless hours had literally collapsed my immune system, allowing a softball-sized infection to ravage my intestines and eat a hole through them from the outside-in.

Get health-rich:

    • Make time to exercise, every day. Even if you don’t think it’s going to make any difference right now, you’ll be grateful later in life. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym: a 30 minute walk is enough. 
  • Develop good eating habits. There are loads of healthy, tasty, easy foods – start working more of them into your diet. Take little steps: you don’t need to make radical changes. 

If you have a rich and varied set of interests, you’re likely to have a fulfilling life. Spend time discovering what you really care about (whether or not it’s what your parents or your friends want you to do). Having a life full of things which interest you is much more likely to make you happy than spending eight hours a day doing a job you dislike, just because it pays well.

Plus, when you get to retirement, you’ll want hobbies and interests which give you meaning and purpose – and enjoyment.

You may well have lots of interests already. Are there any which you’ve neglected – perhaps because you think you don’t have the time, or because they seem self-indulgent? If you feel that you lack any real hobbies or passions, make it your mission to find some! Try out new things (even ones which you think won’t be right for you) … and see if you surprise yourself.

Get interest-rich:

    • Spend time on things which you enjoy. It doesn’t matter how “productive” or “worthwhile” they are … all that matters is that you love them. 
  • Adopt a “try anything once” attitude. It’s easy to pre-judge a new activity without even giving it a go … you might just find you love it. 
  • Go for variety. We’re often taught that we need to specialize in order to succeed … but who’s to say you can’t be a doctor and a musician, or a teacher and an artist? 

What sort of riches do you have in your life? Do you really need money to be rich – or would more time, better health or stronger interests make you happier?

Written on 5/3/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: insouciance
Ali Luke

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