The Idea of Being Rich Versus Being Wealthy

When most people use the terms “rich” and “wealthy,” they do so interchangeably. If someone is a millionaire, they’re wealthy. By most people’s logic, that also makes them “rich” by default. However, when you consider how unique we are both as individuals and as a group, that isn’t always the case.

Indeed, “rich” and “wealthy” are two totally different stations in life and should be treated as such. But what are the differences, and where do black people in America fall both as a race and as a socioeconomic class? The answers to questions like those require you to keep a few key things in mind.

For most people, being “wealthy” is a term that is directly related to money. At some point in your life, you’re making enough by way of income to do what you want without hesitation. Perhaps when you were younger you would have needed to scrimp and save to go on that vacation, whereas now you can do it without thinking about it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be able to afford a particular make and model of car, and now you can. These are the ways that we tend to think about “wealth” as a society.

Being “rich”, however, is something deeper. Obviously, the term itself still has allusions to financial security. When we think of “rich” people, we tend to call to mind images of celebrities who we assume live glamorous, perfect lifestyles. But really, it’s talking about something far deeper. If the old saying is true that “money can’t buy you happiness,” it doesn’t refer to wealthy people.

Instead, being “rich” is more about being completely satisfied with your station in life – regardless of what it may be. Maybe you’re not the wealthiest person in your neighborhood, but you’re happy. You have a family that you enjoy, you have a job that brings you satisfaction, along with various other things of that nature. Did you win the lottery and have money beyond your wildest dreams? No – but you have achieved a position in life where you’re happy, you’re healthy, and you wouldn’t change anything. That’s what being “rich” is all about.

All of this demands the question – where do black Americans fit on that spectrum? Statistically speaking, not in a great position in terms of wealth. According to one recent study, white average wealth in the United States comes in at approximately $929,800 – a massive 6.7 times more than the black average wealth of 138,100.

But in terms of their place as a socioeconomic group, African Americans do tend to have a lot of the qualities that make us “rich” in most people’s eyes. They have a community. They have faith. They have a sense of fulfillment. Is this true of absolutely everyone? No, of course not. But by and large, these are important qualities and they should definitely be celebrated moving forward.

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