One of my favorite films when I was growing up was called The Toy. It was about a spoiled super rich kid named Eric (hey, he’s my namesake, of course I like him already). In the movie, the kid ‘buys’ a black man, Richard Pryor as a ‘toy.’ No, this isn’t a movie about slavery – it’s a movie about the question of what does wealth mean?
Pryor is a poor writer who is behind on his mortgage and is about to lose his house but who for some crazy reason thinks that playing hoops with his buddies and dreaming is going to make his problems go away. Eric’s dad owns a department store and promises him that he can have anything in the store. Eric takes that literally and decides that he wants Richard Pryor, as a ‘toy’ of course
I won’t waste time telling you the whole story. If you really want to see it, Amazon has it available with a Starz subscription. What’s important is that Eric’s dad, played by Jackie Gleason obnoxiously tells Pryor that he wants Eric to know that wealth means never having to say you’re sorry. Yeah, because you’re really raising the Donald there, aren’t you?
You Can’t Define Wealth
Try telling someone who has been blind all his life what the color blue is. Or tell someone who has never been in love what it means to fall madly, deeply in love and then to have your heart crushed when she dumps you. There are things that you just can’t describe in words no matter how much you try and believe me, I know – I’ve tried.
I can say this though – I consider myself wealthy. I’m no Donald Trump. I’m not pasting my name onto the side of buildings all over Manhattan and proclaiming myself the messiah (coming soon, The Trump White House – it’s going to be big and it’s going to be beautiful and Mexico is going to pay for the whole thing!).
I’m currently condo shopping here in New York and I enjoy going out to eat at nice restaurants, seeing the New York Philharmonic and watching Broadway shows. I also get to see the Yankees periodically, even if they’ve begun to stink this year (seriously guys? Last place in the AL East with the highest paid roster in baseball? Really?).
I also spend time traveling to Europe, albeit for short trips. In other words, I’m comfortable and doing okay for myself. I don’t own a private jet or a yacht. I don’t have supermodels draped on my arm all the time but I know I’m blessed and doing well. And you know what? I don’t feel the need for those things either.
For me at least, being wealthy is a state of mind. It’s feeling like I’m not worrying about how to get through the day or the month. Or as Robert Kyosaki puts it, wealth is the number of days you can maintain your lifestyle without working. Basically, for me at least, wealth means not worrying.
You Can Have Lots of Money and Still Be Poor
On the flip side, being wealthy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a ton of money. If you have lots and lots of money but you also have a ton of debts and feel like a single missed paycheck, a single lost sale will mean that your whole world is going to come crashing down around you then you aren’t wealthy.
Rather, you are what I like to call fake wealthy – fake wealthy people make decent money and show off to their friends how well they’re doing. However, they have nothing saved at all and they are one missed paycheck or one car crash away from their whole world crashing down around them. They need to work constantly to maintain the veneer of being wealthy. In other words, they worry constantly.
Don’t worry exclusively about amassing tons of money. Sure money helps and it’s important to have enough of it. Heck, just yesterday I was sitting in my manager’s office for a meeting and I was looking at a fake $100 bill on the desk. It was some kind of promotional thing intended to motivate the newer sales staff. He saw me looking at it and laughed – “Eric, always thinking about money.”
But the truth of the matter is, while I think money is important and I do make a real nice amount of it, I think what’s more important is what money buys – peace of mind.