True Wealth

Living a Life We Love is Real Affluence

Traditional economics has us thinking in opposites—in terms of assets and liabilities. We consider the value of the material things we’ve accumulated: We add up our assets, which may include stocks, bonds, real estate, bank accounts and retirement savings. Then we subtract what we owe: Our liabilities may include a home mortgage, credit card debt, insurance premiums and student and vehicle loans. The balance is deemed our net worth. Figured this way, our net worth changes every minute and can sometimes shift dramatically.

There is a better way to assess our wealth, because we are overlooking, dismissing or squandering valuable resources and benefits such as time, personal health, spiritual well-being, social connections or community in order to buy temporal things that will only depreciate over time.

Golden, Colorado, author David Wann explores this theme in his book Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle. He remarks, “The U.S. may be on top when it comes to spending, but we also lead the world in debt per capita, children in poverty, percent of people in prison, obesity and infant mortality.” In fact, the U.S. has recently been ranked 42nd among countries in longevity—right below Guam and just above Albania.

“So where is all the spending really getting us?” he asks. “We need to be getting more value out of each dollar, each hour, each spoonful of food, each square foot of house and each gallon of gas. The secret of success at the local, national and global scale is not really a secret; it’s in plain sight, and it’s called moderation.”

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