How to be rich when the world insists you’re not

We have a habit of deciding how rich we are by comparing our lives to other people’s. Once you turn your attention inwards, you can discover how wealthy you truly are, says Rachael Smith.

Woman jumping on the beach

When it comes to money and wealth, there are two things that, for our family, I know to be true: we do not have much money and we are very rich. It might seem a little bit baffling, but both are true.

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My husband recently heard an interview on Radio 4 that suggested, based on our income, that we are in fact quite poor. While I have no delusion that we are wealthy, I was surprised to discover this – I definitely wouldn’t describe us as being poor. I had to find out more.

With further investigation, I found some government guidelines which do, in fact, show that our family is in the poorest 20% of all UK households.

I also discovered an article in The Guardian newspaper that said families who earn upwards of £70,000 a year are classed as rich – but that a large amount of them didn’t actually feel rich.

This gave me a serious pause for thought. How can it be that those classed as rich don’t feel rich, but I, classed as poor, do? And then the penny dropped. It’s because feeling rich is exactly that – a feeling. Not a fact.

Woman walking on the beach in the winter
Rachael Smith

Our society would have us believe that to be rich and successful you need to earn a certain amount of money. You should have a huge house that’s immaculately clean all the time, with décor that’s worthy of Pinterest. You must travel extensively, keep up with the latest trends, and eat out often.

And that’s just the beginning. This feeling is only reiterated when we view the world through social media. It’s become an online magnifying glass for all of the ways we are falling short of society’s standard for ‘good’ living, and a daily reminder of just how much better everyone else is doing at life.

Deciding how rich or successful we are by comparing ourselves to others is a slippery slope. If I were to do that, I would have to accept that we are poor and not doing as well as society would like us to. We don’t have much money, we live payday to payday, we have only travelled outside of the UK three times in the nine years since we had children and we rarely eat out.

But despite what those government guidelines and social media would have us believe, for us our life is, in fact, a rich one. Here is my very personal, very unscientific guide to how we achieved that elusive ‘rich’ feeling.

The Gower Peninsula in Wales
Rachael Smith

Rachael’s very unscientific guide to feeling healthy when you’re not rich

1

Love where you live

When choosing where to live, people usually decide based on two factors: work and family. We ignored both of those factors and chose somewhere that takes our breath away. The Gower in South Wales, for us, is a little slice of heaven, and Wales is a country rich in beauty, history and culture.

We have, on a few occasions, had to sit down and assess whether it’s still the right place for us: when better-paid career pursuits called, or when we had our children and realised that we had no family at all nearby. But every time we come to the same conclusion: there is nowhere else we would rather be.

Nothing could ever make up for living somewhere we didn’t love.

2

Get outdoors

Anyone who is familiar with my blog (www.ourbeautifuladventure.co.uk) will already know that I love the outdoors. I genuinely believe that a good dose of fresh air (sea air if possible) can help cure almost anything.

Make time in your busy lives for a walk amongst nature at least once a week – it can add so much to your life. And the best part is that it’s usually free!

3

Think global

One of the benefits of technology and the internet is that we can adopt a much more global perspective when evaluating our own circumstances. Taking some time to learn a little bit about what people in war-torn countries or those living in abject poverty are going through can help us gain a little perspective when we might be feeling ‘poor’.

Counting your blessings and appreciating all that you do have will go a long way in helping you to feel rich. Likewise, surrounding yourselves with people who have no interest in your income or social status will make it much easier for you to let go of society’s high standards for wealth, and adopt your own.

4

Slow down

Confession time: I am not a busy person. Maybe I should rephrase that? I do not feel busy. Are they the same thing? I admitted this to some people recently who were horrified that I, a mother of three, was not busy.

I’m sure they think that I’m doing life wrong. I’m pretty sure that I am not. My life is full – I am not sat home twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do with all of my time. But slowing down has made us question what activities bring us value.

Be a bit more discerning with your time – say yes to more of the things that bring you joy, and the people whom you love. If you fill your precious time wisely, you might just stop feeling busy too.

5

Get minimal

One big factor in feeling poor is the desire for more. Our society has sold us a picture of life and it is full of things. The fancy car, the big house, the latest phone – we struggle to feel content without them. But keeping up with the latest trends is impossible, especially once you factor in children.

This quote is one of my favourites and it has changed my outlook on life: “Wanting less is a far better blessing than having more.”

Little boy running in the woods at Llanmadoc in Wales
Rachael Smith

How to cope when times are tough

Sometimes it might be harder than usual to keep believing that we really are rich. We’ve found ourselves wishing we could somehow discover that magical amount of money that would solve a problem we’re facing.

So when this happens, I take a little time out and reflect on all the good in our life. Actually counting our blessings always leaves us feeling grateful, where we might have been feeling hopeless.

For example, our house is a bit of a fixer-upper. It’s so old that whenever we try to fix one problem, we somehow manage to discover several more. At these times we have had to take a step back and remind ourselves why we love this old house, how perfect it is for our family, and of all the happy times we have shared here – as well as how many more we have to come.

Taking a moment to enjoy and appreciate the good deepens our feelings of gratitude for this wonderful life we’ve been given. Once you stop trying to have it all, you can enjoy what you already have, and let go of what you no longer need. You will feel richer than you ever have before – trust me.

A surf board on the still ocean in Wales

How rich are you? Use our checklist to find out

Try out Rachael’s alternative measures of wealth. How many can you tick? Are there simple things you can do in order to tick more of them?

  • I have a safe place to call home
  • I love where I live
  • I can feed my family
  • I get to enjoy good food regularly, whether at home or eating out
  • I have clothes to wear
  • I have wonderful people in my life
  • I see my family often
  • I have good friends I can turn to when things are tough
  • I have a job
  • I enjoy my job
  • I make time to spend in nature at least once a week
  • I don’t need to follow the trends
  • I regularly take time out for myself
  • I try to find time to slow down
  • I regularly have days off social media
  • I have a hobby I love
  • I laugh often
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All photography by Rachael Smith.

This article was first published in In The Moment Magazine issue 8. Discover our latest subscription offer or order back issues online.