“Happiness is making $1 more than your sister-in-law’s husband.”
I don’t know who said it but I consider it one of the most accurate quotes about our society’s relationship with money. A recent Fidelity Investments survey, discussed on the WSJ Wealth Report blog, found that of the 1,000 millionaires surveyed, 42% said they didn’t feel “wealthy.” The average net worth of the group was $3.5 million.
They don’t feel wealthy because wealth is relative. It would be the same as if you asked them whether they felt successful. If you earn $1,000,000 a year and everyone around you earned $50,000, you’d feel wealthy. If you got promoted while everyone else stayed the same, you’d feel successful. Our view of our own successes and wealth is based on our environment.
A 4% raise feels bad when people around you are getting 5%. It feels great if no one got raises or if there were layoffs.
This is why 42% of those millionaires didn’t feel wealthy, because the people around there were even wealthier. This Slate series by Timothy Noah on income inequality is fantastic and discusses a variety of subjects on the topic of income inequality.
Fortunately, the path to happiness isn’t paved with gold bars if you don’t want it to be. Just make a dollar more than your sister-in-law’s husband… and hope he doesn’t line his driveway with Au.