How much money would you need to make in order to feel satisfied? You’ve likely heard about the study from Princeton University that determined on average, happiness peaks at $75,000. If you make less than that, the unhappier you’re likely to be. But if you make more than that, you aren’t likely to be any happieron a day-to-day basis. But, of course, everyone has different needs and desires, loved ones they support, and other varying factors. However, there’s no argument that more money quite literally affords you freedoms like pursuing your passions, travel, spending time out with the people you love—but there’s certainly a distinction between being financially secure (and having options!) and being ultra-rich.
According to Forbes’ Institute for Policy Studies, in 2018 just three men (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) had more collective wealth than the poorest 50 percent of Americans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average income in 2018 was $46,800, while you had to have a net worth of $2.1 billion to even crack the Forbes 400 list in 2018. While fame and fortune remain the highest aspirations of the collective conscious, (*Carrie Bradshaw voice*) I can’t help but wonder: Is it even ethical to dream about becoming super rich?
Although I’ve spent the majority of my career working in media, I’ve always been fascinated by startup life—especially the idea of women of color and other marginalized thought-leaders turning entire industries on their heads and being paid handsomely for it. And it is a radical concept…within the constraints of capitalism, which is inherently reliant on hierarchical working structures and disproportionate pay. While some glass ceilings are being broken, others are being reinforced.
Conversations about wealth distribution have been front-and-center amongst democratic presidential candidates, particularly Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders told the New York Times in an interview: “What we are trying to do is demand and implement a policy which significantly reduces income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.” On his website, he outlines his wealth tax plan, which would tax those with a net worth of $32 million and up—AKA the top 0.1 percent. Warren also has an ultra-rich tax plan on those worth over $50 million.
With 38.1 million people living in poverty in 2018—disproportionately Native and black Americans—it undoubtedly poses the question of whether someone can be too rich, and if dreams of extreme wealth are worth pursuing at all, when so many others are suffering for basic access to food, shelter, and clean water.
When I really think about my goals for myself and my future, I’m learning to think less about me, me, me, and the type of wealth I’d like to grow, but instead about the impact I’d like my work to make and how I can help the collective. If you, too, are grappling with what success means, here are some other ways it might be measured.
Other Ways To Measure Success
1. The ability to comfortably donate a certain amount of your income.
2. Seeing how your work makes an impact in a real-life way.
3. Living as environmentally-conscious as possible.
4. Creating structural change within the industry you work.
5. Nurturing your relationships with your loved ones.
6. Nurturing your relationship with yourself.
7. Buying less, but of higher quality.