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Should Generation X Redefine What It Means To Be Wealthy?

Now that you have unwrapped all of those Christmas gifts under the tree, did you get everything that you really wanted this holiday season?   Was there one package you had hoped for neatly wrapped in a bow that would have really made you happy?  Of the ten to twenty overall gifts that you were given over the holidays, can you make a list and name three of them?  How about three from last year?

While it appears to me that luxury has lost its shine, we’ve become a society that has defined itself by the brand names on our clothes, computers, and the cars we drive.    We are very quick to define what we think about our own wealth by the treasures we buy with our plastic and how our guests will ooh and aah when they take a tour of our homes.    I’m wondering if the pursuit of all of things we see on TV and what we see our neighbors buy that make us envious is really making anyone happy?   Or, it is just a short-term high for a few days until the drug wears off making you chomp at the bit to go make that next purchase or get you excited until that next package comes to the house with you name stamped on it.    Have we lost our perspective around what it means to be wealthy, and maybe with all of the debt going on in America it’s time to redefine just what it means to be wealthy.

Wealth can be defined in numerous ways.  According to dictionary.com, one definition of wealth is a great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property or other riches.    However, the second definition is an abundance or profusion of anything or a plentiful amount.    The key about these definitions is that wealth is a great quantity of money or valuable possessions which is where most of us have gone really wrong.  How many of us really value the possessions we have or do we think merely about the next purchase we can make.  We also think totally in terms of possessions instead of the wealth we might have from great friends, family, or colleagues in your lives that bring us a more pure form of richness.

I suppose the Government is in the midst of trying to define what being ‘wealthy’ means if you live in the United States.   They might define this number at $250,000 or $400,000 or some other number that stipulates what level of income it takes to be wealthy.    Perhaps they will also adjust the estate planning rules to say if you have an estate of $3 million or $5 million is what it takes to be considered wealthy.   Everyone else that doesn’t fall into these categories will be called ‘middle class’ or ‘lower class’?    Why is it that there is no leaderful discussion going on around what it truly means to be wealthy?   What a chance we have to redefine for people in this country what that word really means.

Wealth means different things to different people.    If I were to redefine what it means to be wealthy for Generation X, I would put health, family, and friendships at the top of the pyramid.  Most people in their 30’s and 40’s today earned a college education, went to work for a corporation, and found themselves chasing the good life.   Corporations moved these folks around the country like chess pieces on the board tearing families and friendships apart as Gen X’ers moved up the corporate ladder.   If you talk to a Gen X’er today who has hit success in a company, most of them don’t love their jobs.  Now they have to work hard just to pay the very obligations of the material possessions they chased while rising up the corporate ladder (the big home. . the big car. . the fancy life).  Most of them would give anything to have an exit plan from the corporate life to get back to the simple life.  It is clear that the stress is just becoming too much.   In the end, the most valuable possession Gen X’ers realize they have in life is time and most of them are discovering it is quickly slipping away.

It’s interesting to watch this generation deal with money.    They are by no means a slacker generation at all.   They are very hard workers.   As 2013 approaches Generation X, it is time to take stock of what wealthy really means and ask yourself is putting up the front all really worth it?   Does it make you happier? Or, would it be nice to return to the simple days when you rode your big wheel and walk outside at summer time for your neighborhood block party?   What will your family remember in the future  – the fancy vacation you took at Disney World or the time you all couldn’t stop laughing while having dinner at the diner?  Only time will tell.

Written by:

Ted Jenkin

CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Editor in Chief of Your Smart Money Moves

Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc – The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services

Ted Jenkin  is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.

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About the author  ⁄ Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

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Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    January 1, 2013

    As a Gen Xer, I believe that there has been a little bit of a corner turned with the younger generations in terms of wants/needs. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like comparing how younger folks view money vs. the older generation – Baby Boomers – it seems like there’s more financial education and less irrational spending. Just my observations, and I think some of this might have to do with actually living through rockier times, versus Baby Boomers who grew up in prosperous times.

  • Avatar
    January 9, 2013

    I have to say I am so incredibly grateful I was raised by modest parents. They did not necessarily struggle financially but they certainly were not wealthy and it showed in how I was raised. I am incredibly surprised at the number of items in technology, clothing and accessories that our youth feel they are entitled to. High end and luxury items hardly have that appeal anymore to someone like myself. I often see people on welfare with the newest iPhone, a Coach purse, visiting Starbucks. For better or worse it has ruined these pieces of luxury for me.

    Like you suggest, for me luxury is time. It is so limited compared to money and is truly being wealthy. I suggest it was the same for those before the 20th century. Those who had time to enjoy pursuits that were not inherently related to maintaining the household and making income were the wealthy. We have to be careful now though, because of a lack of productivity with my generation (myself included) we give ourselves more time than we deserve.

    Just a short rant. Perhaps you have inspired me on a guest post idea. Thanks for getting me thinking.

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