On my last post about our updated net worth (I hope you guys didn’t think I was bragging, I was just honestly excited about it and I didn’t think there was anyone else who would care. I told Chad and his response was lukewarm, and since he actually has a vested stake in it, I didn’t think anyone else would be as excited as me!)
Anyway, Tom left a comment saying,
Dang, you guys have done a tremendous job saving!
Which was nice, but I think I mentally kind of bristled at the term “rich” being applied to me. I don’t feel rich. If I was rich, I would be able to buy that dress I want, I wouldn’t have to fight with Chad every time we go over our grocery budget by $15, and I’d be able to buy a house without worry about having enough of an emergency fund left over. After all, about half of our net worth is tied up in retirement accounts, which we can’t touch for another 25 years.
That’s when I realized that I probably am rich.
I don’t just mean rich in terms of the genetic lottery winnings I have compared to a person living in a third-world country. I don’t just mean that in comparison to the homeless or the working poor. If you gave a bunch of middle-class Americans my net worth and earnings information, I’m sure they’d overwhelmingly say I’m rich.
Five years ago when I was still in college, this would definitely have been beyond my wildest dreams. Three years ago, when I was still struggling to pay off my car loan, my student loans (which are still around to this day), and my credit card, I think I would have said this is rich. One year ago, while the stock market was tanking and Chad and I didn’t even talk about how much money we had, I don’t think I could have guessed we’d be into six figures of net worth.
Now? It doesn’t feel like much.
After all, Chad is still not working, and I find myself worrying about saving much extra. After all, when the savings are divided into their sub-accounts, one for the car we’ll need to buy when Chad starts working, an emergency fund in case something happens to me, our house downpayment is still insufficient. I still can’t afford a pair of Louboutins. I’d say we’re OK, maybe, not comfortable, but OK. Rich? Nah, I wouldn’t say rich. Rich people could buy a car in cash without dipping into other savings. Rich people don’t have to choose between a dress for a black-tie event and their savigns goals.
I know my readers are rolling their eyes a little bit now. It’s sort of like whining that my tiara is too heavy and my diamond shoes are too tight.
But remember how far away being debt-free seemed? Remember how you thought that once you didn’t have those loans over your head, the stress would go away? Remember how far away having $500 for an emergency fund seemed?
There’s always something more to chase, there’s always another goal. It keeps us from stagnating, but I think it has also kept me from ever really feeling the accomplishments I have made, from appreciating those milestones. I follow my 2009 Review with 2010 Goals and never stop to think about what accomplishing those 2009 goals really means.
Right now, my “rich” is Chad working. When he does start, though, this will expand to mean other things – a house down payment big enough for a real house, buying his car with cash, buying something full-price at Anthropologie. Once we get there, it will be a paid-off house, a million in retirement savings, a college fund for our (hypothetical) kids. I’ll keep moving the bar, and maybe we’ll never be what I consider “rich.”