Wealth and Money Are Two Different Things

Wealth and Money difference2

I wanted to be rich so badly for my entire life. And I always looked at wealth and money to be the same thing. Make a lot of money, get rich, and you’ll be wealthy! Simple, right?

In high school, I watched the film, Wall Street starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. It was supposed to be a cautionary tale about greed and insider trading in the stock market. But I saw the movie as an inspiration.

I wanted to be Gordon Gecko (played by Douglas), the crazy, high-risk Wall Street trader. When I was 17, I got a job at a call center during the summer. My routine looked like this:

  • I’d get on the phone every day, working double shifts.
  • I would sell mobile phone subscriptions to people, mostly the elderly.
  • It was a shameful job. But I was making money. So I’d keep doing it: making one sale after another.

This is how badly I wanted to get rich. But I was a teenage idiot. I didn’t know the difference between wealth and money.

Now, 20 years later, I finally understand that being rich and having a lot of money is not the same as being wealthy.

You can be wealthy and not rich

You can also be rich and not wealthy.

It takes most people a lifetime to understand that material wealth, which is acquired with money, is not the most important thing.

Genuine wealth means freedom.

Think about those people who have a lot of money but they can’t do the things they truly want. I wouldn’t call them wealthy. They are rich and have lots of money. But they’re not free.

When you have freedom, you have wealth. When you’re rich but you have no freedom, you’re caged.

The ancient Stoics understood this 2000 years ago. They are famous for living stringent and hard lives. Seneca said it well:

“I do not regard a man poor, if the little which remains is enough for him.”

People talk about Stoicism like it’s a philosophy for dealing with obstacles. No. Stoicism is a way of life. One that promotes freedom over everything.

Buying stuff doesn’t make you happy

I can’t believe 20 years have gone by since I had my first job when I finally made my first paycheck.

For the next decade, I did what everyone else did. I chased that paycheck. I wanted to acquire more money.

Then, in 2015, I realized it wasn’t the way to go. I started to write and focus on solving problems. I stopped focusing on money, but I started making more money than before.

That helped me to become financially free. But I experienced what every person who is doing well financially experiences: Living an unsatisfied life even with money. That’s because I was too focused on buying things.

Buying things will not make you happy. Everyone knows this. And yet, everyone needs to figure it out on their own. That’s when you start differentiating wealth from money.

What is life? A collection of your memories

At some point, we all realize that life is just a collection of our memories. You look back, and you don’t think, “Buying that new car really changed my life.”

No, you think:

“Remember when we all had to sleep in that one hotel room because we had no choice? We were so angry but we had a good time.”

That was me in 2014. My family came to London to help me move to a new apartment. At the time, I was living with a roommate and wanted to get my own place.

My parents and brother came from The Netherlands to help me. But the new apartment that I rented fell through, and we had to get a place to stay. I was soooo angry and discouraged.

We ended up sleeping in the hotel room that my parents had booked. Everything was fully booked in that hotel and I had no energy to find another place because it was late when I found out.

Don’t ask me how we did it, and it was really uncomfortable, but we still talk about that moment. It’s a memory baked into our minds.

We all have memories like that.

Think about your memories. Do they revolve around wealth and money?

I bet you $100 it doesn’t.

You probably think about the experiences you had with your family, friends, partner, or on your own.

That’s what life is about.

And if you can make enough money to have experiences, you have wealth.

Enjoy your life! And try not to be so obsessed with money.

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