Having friends at different levels of wealth – more and less – can help you stay in touch with reality.
It all kicked off when…
The other day we were enjoying time with friends who had come to stay with us for a couple of days. As always happens with my friends now, the conversation turned to money – how much we’d like to have, what we’d do with it and how to invest.
I was reminiscing about a weekend we spent away at another friend’s house in the country. Unlike our flat-with-sofa-bed, they had a fabulous home – with extra spare rooms just for guests. The garden was immense in our eyes, and my daughter spent hours exploring it. The food was great, everything was easy – and our hosts were generous and kind. It was a lovely weekend for us –like getting away for a luxury stay for a couple of days.
At the end of my missive, I sighed and said, ‘…and that is why everyone should have rich friends. They’re generous with what they have and love to share.’
There was a moment of silence as we contemplated that piece of wisdom. And then one of our guests said: ‘But, you guys are our rich friends!’
Wealth is relative
This, of course, stunned me into silence – and got me thinking. Of course, wealth is relative. What you might think of as ‘doing OK’, someone else thinks of as doing well. It’s not that you don’t recognise how far you have come; you are constantly looking for what’s next.
The inability to be satisfied with what you have and to constantly seek out more is often pointed to as one of the reasons happiness tends to decline. So often, we think that ‘if only I earned 20% more, I’d be OK’. It helps to talk to people who do earn 20% more. Are they OK? Are the life problems sorted? Listen closely, and you will find that people struggle with life’s problems – no matter their wealth level.
It’s good to open up about money
I asked our guests what they thought was good about having us as [nudge nudge] their ‘rich friends’. They said they knew they could talk about certain aspects of money with us. Like how much our hobby – rowing – costs. There is a general assumption that if you are involved in rowing, you come from a wealthy family – which is not always true. We also often spoke about home costs and mortgages – they knew we had done it before.
When I think about my wealthy friends with whom I talk about money (it’s still taboo for many), they have opened up about their feelings about not actually being successful. ‘When people call us successful, it doesn’t ring true. We got lucky in the boom.’ ‘There was one risky transaction that paid off well – and now we’re living on the results.’ ‘I love our wealth, but I also feel like I’ve somehow wasted the last ten years [not working in a corporate job].’
I am amazed at the humility expressed in private by these outwardly successful and wealthy people – and it makes me realise that having wealth doesn’t immediately make you a different type of human.
Having positive role models is key
I know quite a few wealthy people whom I would not consider generous. On reflection, though, I realise our wealthy friends are our friends for a reason – they are helpful, kind, open, trusting and faithful friends. They use their wealth and time to benefit their communities and the environment.
These people are an antidote to the view of wealthy people as greedy, selfish and completely out of touch with the world. And they can be an example of how you can build your financial resilience – and wealth – to make your own world a better place.
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