What does being rich mean to you?

Photo of a classic car outside a half-timbered house for my house of what does being rich mean to you?

Fancy car, fancy house?

Here’s my latest Monday Money post, part of the series I’m hosting with Emma at EmmaDrew.info and Lynn from Mrs Mummypenny. It’s a great way to share content about money, so do check the links at the end for other brilliant money posts! Plus, find out how to join in if you’re a blogger. We’d love you to add your posts.


What does being rich mean to you?

It sounds such a simple question.

What do you think of? Big houses, fast cars and exotic holidays? Designer clothes, jets and jewellery?

But being rich isn’t actually about having lots of stuff – it’s about having lots of money.

Spend or save?

When most of us say we want to be millionaires, we don’t actually mean we want to have a million pounds – we mean we want to spend a million pounds.

As Barney, a blogger over at The Escape Artist, who I interviewed for my Sunday Times article on financial independence, said in this post: “Most people don’t want to be rich.

“What most people mean is that they want to spend like they’re rich (or, more accurately, like a rich person on their way to becoming poor).”

When we spot someone with expensive belongings, we assume they are wealthy. Surrounded by social media, we see the haul videos, the shopping bags, the ‘look what I’ve just bought / eaten / worn” photos and assume everyone else is rolling in it.

High earning, higher spending

In fact, all we really know about people with all the stuff is that they now have less money than before they bought it. Or, they might not actually be able to afford the purchase price, but are building up a ton of debt.

Even people with very high incomes may have very little wealth – if they spend it all. Trouble is, as we earn more, we tend to succumb to lifestyle inflation, as our desires rise with our income. Earning loads, but spending even more isn’t a route to riches – quite the reverse.

Think of the headlines about high-earning footballers, actors, pop stars and their ilk who burn bright, burn out and go bankrupt.

Spend money on things, and you end up with things not money. Spend more than you earn, and you’re on a road to ruin.

Wealth is what you don’t see

Last week, J.D Roth, a big blogger in the US over at Get Rich Slowly, recommended reading a piece called “The Pyschology of Money” in his newsletter. (Brace yourself: J.D. added the caveat ‘this is long but excellent’).

The author, Morgan Housel, made a point that really chimed with me.

Housel said: “Wealth, in fact, is what you don’t see. It’s the cars not purchased. The diamonds not bought. The renovations postponed, the clothes forgone and the first-class upgrade declined. It’s assets in the bank that haven’t yet been converted into the stuff you see.”

You only become a millionaire if you haven’t spent that million. In fact, building up wealth is based on a whole load of decisions, one after another, not to buy. But if you stash the cash rather than spending it, no-one knows you have a big bank balance or a raft of investments. No-one can see the paid off mortgage, cleared credit cards or bulging pension pot. By not spending, you have nothing to display. Your wealth is invisible.

But that invisible wealth can have much greater impact than being surrounded by stuff. Riches in the bank bring freedom and choice, but riches on your back just bring a big bill.

Riches in the bank bring freedom and choice, but riches on your back just bring a big bill. #MondayMoney Share on X

Live within your means

So if even high earners can crash and burn through over-consumption, how can the rest of us build money in the bank?

If you want to be like The Escape Artist, who “when he said he wanted to be rich, actually wanted to be rich”, you need to spend less than you earn. Only by living within your means can you accumulate wealth.

One book about money I really enjoyed is called “The Millionaire Next Door*“. (I recommended it in this post, and am quoted in this round up of the most popular financial books over on Rockstar Finance).

Early on, the authors describe how they interviewed a group of people worth at least $10 million. To make sure these multi-millionaire interviewees felt comfortable, they rented a fancy apartment in a fashionable area of Manhattan and provided a menu of paté, caviar and vintage wine.

But when the interviewees arrived, they didn’t look like multi-millionaires. They weren’t wearing fancy suits and expensive watches. They didn’t eat the fancy food or drink the pricey wine. They were hungry, but just ate the crackers on offer. In subsequent sessions, the multi-millionaires were offered much more economical coffee, soft drinks, beer, scotch and club sandwiches – which they actually enjoyed.

Surprise surprise: the reality is that big spenders, whether on caviar or cars, often have little money left over. And those with big bucks in the bank? They spend a lot less.

The authors of The Millionaire Next Door reckon the three words that describe the affluent are:


As someone who blogs about living on less, that’s music to my ears. The combination of earning extra, cutting costs and investing the difference will actually create wealth.

True riches

The reality is that for most of us, building wealth requires hard work and thrift. That’s a lot less glamorous than splashing out on private jets and magnums of champagne.

But next time you see someone living in an expensive home, driving a luxury car and enjoying a fabulous holiday, remember that they might not actually be rich. Whatever your bank balance, remember that the best things in life aren’t things at all.

To me, true riches are peace of mind. Contentment. Time together with family and friends. The chance to appreciate the small moments in life and the little things that don’t cost a penny. None of those can be achieved by overspending – but all can be cushioned by the stress-relieving safety net of money in the bank.


Now – over to you. Back to my original question: what does being rich mean to you?

Previous posts:

30 tips to stop shopping

Investing for beginners

Pin for later:

Pinterest sized image of car and house for my "What does being rich mean to you?" post


Monday Money linky

We love Mondays – they offer a fresh start and we want to read your money related blog posts too! Monday Money gives you a chance to share any existing money related blog posts, or create new posts to link us.
Open to all bloggers, not just money bloggers, we look forward to seeing what you have posted recently about money. We invite you to add your post to the linky.
The Monday Money linky is run by Lynn from Mrs Mummy Penny, Faith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.Info. We are really excited about inviting you to join in with this linky.
Picture of the hosts of the Monday Money linky, Lynn from Mrs Mummypenny, Faith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.info

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  1. 11th June 2018 / 9:40 am

    I started Warren Shute’s new book The Money Plan last night and this is exactly how he starts – do you want to be a millionaire? Or do you want the live that £1m can buy you.
    My #MoneyMonday post this week is about our back to nature half term break – for me, wealth of experiences, laughter and time spent as a family doing things we love (most of which are entirely free) is the most important thing in life. What’s the point of £1m in the bank if you are miserable and have noone to share it with….

    • Faith
      11th June 2018 / 1:03 pm

      Do agree there’s always a trade off between not spending more than you can afford, and cutting pleasure out of your life by not spending enough. Sounds like your half term break hit a fantastic balance.

  2. 11th June 2018 / 12:55 pm

    Millionaire next door should be required reading for everyone – such a good book without being overly long. “Wealth is what you don’t see” that is a great quote and so true.

    When I go to work in my charity shop suits and blouses I look at colleagues in their latest new garb and I wonder whether they shopped via their credit card or from their actual salary. When I mention paying off our mortgage they ask how I did it – ummm, by not buying new clothes every month or going to the canteen daily? I don’t have a million in the bank but I feel wealthy as I have peace of mind due to some money in the bank and no debt.

    • Faith
      11th June 2018 / 1:04 pm

      “I don’t have a million in the bank but I feel wealthy as I have peace of mind due to some money in the bank and no debt” – so true! Debt can have enormous emotional impact. I definitely feel rich when I don’t owe anyone anything.

  3. 11th June 2018 / 3:33 pm

    What a great article! So true what you say. I’m off to order a copy of that book!

  4. 11th June 2018 / 4:04 pm

    Interesting post Faith. I so agree

    Shortly after my husband and I had both managed to leave salaried jobs because our investments were paying off, I was at a networking event. I drove there in my old and rather shabby but perfectly acceptable car

    When leaving, a fellow attendee scoffed at my car and poured scorn on me for not having a better one. As he drove off in his late model car, and I got into my scruffy one to drive home, I had a little smile to myself. Yes, I thought, you have got a nicer car than me, but you’ve got to get up early tomorrow and every working day, and battle through the rush hour to your job. I haven’t. At that point, I felt a lot richer than him, and haven’t really looked back

    The definition of an asset is something that brings in an income, not something that cost a lot of money to buy. A car, house, expensive watch or designer dress are not assets unless you can generate some kind of income from them

    sorry, lecture over

  5. 11th June 2018 / 9:35 pm

    So true! I think I’m rich in so many ways, but I’ll feel financially rich once we’ve managed to buy the house we’re hankering after and we feel as though we’ve go a little more security. #MondayMoney

  6. 13th June 2018 / 10:57 pm

    Brilliant post Faith! I agree with so much of it, and think that half the money problems of our society are caused by people living as though they are rich, but not realising that the truly rich don’t live like that!

  7. 15th June 2018 / 8:55 pm

    I agree with this! With social media as well, it’s hard to not want what you can’t have.

  8. 28th June 2018 / 8:05 pm

    I think what is clear is that rich to us is not necessarily rich to someone else and vice versa.
    We cannot live any one else’s life, so we have to live our own.

    My thoughts are similar to yours, peace of mind and time with friends and family are important to me.
    I like the wealth that you cannot see.

    There is a difference between being rich and looking rich and I know which one I prefer.

  9. Diane taber
    3rd October 2019 / 12:48 pm

    Being debt free and completely rent/mortgage/debt free would mean the world to us.you could live how you like.and never have another payment again.only the very basic minimal basic bills that you would have to pay on a regular monthly/or weekly basis./what you pay anyway so life would just be so astronomical.and would set you just world’s apart from any thing else that you would have ever done in your life and to me and my husband that sure would be just fine.and we sure as hell cant wait to do this.but we are just going through the motions of every day life.with what we have to pay month to month. I n order to save as much money as we possibly can to do what we want to do.but I will definitely say this we are definitely going to sort out our lives finances.and start living our live the lives that god intended us to all along and just save like hell fire.and never give up.and don’t Discontented or discouraged as the the wheel comes off the waggon.all needs to be done is to get back on to the waggon.and let this devil ride out with the waggon.as hell has no fury like this woman who’s on a mission to sort things out.as we’ll carring out gods work and word and words of wisdom.and if any one even so much as to try and stop me then I’ll trample them with shear flustration. As we’re going down fighting not giving up.as you never really get any where by giving up.

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