• I am rich

    I recently stumbled upon a website that ranks your wealth compared to everyone else on the planet. It offers two comparisons – your net income and your net worth, the latter stated as being a more precise ranking (http://www.globalrichlist.com). This should be interesting, I thought, so I figured what my numbers are and entered them in.

    The results were quite the eye opener. According to the website, my net income is in the top 1%. Me, a part of the 1%? My income, as the executive director of a relatively small not-for-profit environmental education and retreat center, is just about the same as an average teacher’s salary in Colorado. And it’s in the top one percent of global incomes. Wow! (Don’t tell my Board.) I don’t rank as high when my overall wealth is calculated, but I am still wealthier than more than 95% of the other people on the planet.

    I always knew that living in the US of A would have me pretty on high the list. But the actual degree of my material wealth compared to my fellow human earthlings is, well – I am rich! I’m surprised, because when I compare myself to most of my friends and most of my neighbors, I’m pretty confident I would rank pretty low materially. At least that’s how it appears to me. Here’s why…

    My wife and I live in a rather funky 1,200 square foot cabin that sits on around three ponderosa pine acres in a small and sleepy Colorado town – far away from any glitzy ski towns. It is heated by a couple of wood stoves and some simple applications of passive solar – there is no other heat source. The dated bathroom and kitchen, the painted wood floors, the unfinished rough-cut pine boards on the ceiling and walls… a visitor once said, “Wow, I love your house. I couldn’t live here, but I love it.”  I don’t really think they loved it, and that’s just fine, because I do, and so does my wife. It is simple, we keep it clean, and it works very well for us. We raised two kids in it, and it worked well for them too, as far as I can tell. And, it’s paid for.

    We drive two compact cars – one is a ’99, the other a ’97 – both are reliable, and both are paid for, but they seem pretty tired, especially the ‘97. We haven’t been on a vacation, or any other trip, that involved air travel in three years, and in the last 15 years, we’ve been on a plane only three or four times. We don’t fly much for two reasons – to reduce our ecological footprint, and because we consider flying, and the various associated costs, rather expensive. By the way, we refuse to vacation, or do much of anything else, on credit – if we want it, we save for it. I know, I know – that is so yesterday.

    We still get away pretty often – never more than a day’s drive away, and usually much less than that. We figure that since we live in Colorado – a place that people from all over the country and beyond vacation in – then it’s probably a good place for us to vacation in too. We love to backpack, snowshoe and cross-country ski. We have our favorite B&Bs around the state. We also love to vacation in the canyon country of southeast Utah (usually sleeping in a tent), and we’ve grown fond of spending a few days in and around Taos every now and then.

    We use the local library, we enjoy some television (usually through on-line services that we subscribe to), we listen to NPR (and are members of our local station), we catch an occasional movie in a theater, and we do lots with and for our two grandkids (who live 45 minutes away). Our diet is simple, vegetarian, and leans strongly towards organic and local when it’s available. Our greenhouse cranks out lots of good veggies year round. Most days, we cook our own meals. But we do eat out, usually in moderately priced restaurants, with an eye for healthy choices made from good ingredients.

    It’s a good life that works well for us, but when I look at most of the other cars on the road,  and I hear about the vacations my friends and neighbors take, and learn the cost of the new bathroom that a neighbor just installed, that’s why I was surprised that I ranked so high. Talk about perspective. So, if I ever again complain about not having enough, please give me a swift kick!



    • Yes, if you take in global income I can see if you own a home you are clearly in the 1% of the world. Not surprising as I have seen real poverty on all my travels and when I come back to the USA I feel blessed to live here and I realize that our poorest aren’t even close to poor as measured globally.



    • I should had added it is all relative. When comparing apples to apples poor is poor but when comparing apples to oranges a whole different perspective.



    • I am Occupying your column! I really liked your column sir.


      • Dave Van Manen

      • May 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm
      • Reply

      I thought of of including something in this column about how it is all relative, but got stuck on the fact that, beyond nationality and culture, we are all just people, with the same needs for food, shelter, meaning, love… so matter where one lives on the planet, we all have the same basic needs.



    • Refreshing and lovely, Dave. Rich is relative — and I don’t need things to be rich. Thanks for sharing! {Your home is pricelessly wonderful.}


      • Mary Twinem

      • May 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm
      • Reply

      You, my dear Dave are RICH beyond words – maybe not in monetary terms but certainly in quality of life – living where you love, what you love and with whom you love – RICH indeed!!
      love you both.


      • Jenifer Bubla

      • May 29, 2013 at 7:05 am
      • Reply

      Thanks Dave! Ahhh yes ’tis all relative. Love to you & yours. Jenifer



    • Lovely article – you’re rich beyond words – in what matters. And the peace that comes from your choices. Nothing quite like a touch of reality! Thank you.


      • Cyndi Hart

      • June 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm
      • Reply

      Loved reading this, Dave. I jokingly told a friend yesterday that I assumed that she was independently wealthy. She didn’t laugh ~ she said, “I am. It depends on how you define it.” Well she is wealthy in more ways than one. Y’know when you start including good health, fresh water on demand, “free” education, being loved by family and friends, I could go on and on; we are all wealthy and blessed beyond comprehension. Thanks for reminding me to keep an attitude of gratitude.



    • really appreciated this post Dave-such a good reminder of wealth beyond counting and the privilege of being able to choose and create your life. best-patricia



    • […] taking to the high altitude sections of the Colorado Trail with my hiker husband Dave and 3 long time friends and I have decided to put the autoresponder on my outlook program and just […]



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