Wealth: An Ambiguous Term

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When someone hears the term "wealth", in most cases money, foreign cars, and big houses flash into their mind. Wealth, to many, means being economically sound. The financial power to purchase unnecessary material items, and having the ability to afford the highest quality of life, personifies the stereotypic definition of wealth. But being "wealthy" does not have to be based only on monetary figures. Other subtler factors can be part of what defines someone as being "wealthy". These factors include types of possessions a person has, the quality of life a person lives, and the ability to economically maintain themselves.

A part of wealth can be linked to the types of possessions a person might have. For example, a part of wealth can be based upon the amount of land someone owns. A person can have no monetary wealth but own a vast amount of valuable land. For example, someone could have no significant amount of money but own a substantial beach front property in Waikiki or a block of empty land in the middle of New York City.

The land in Waikiki or New York is not valuable by itself; It is valuable in the eyes of economics. In some cases land itself is the ultimate form of wealth. Land cannot be stolen, destroyed, or lost in some computer. It is, for the most part, a permanent investment. Its value may go down or up over time, but it is yours indelibly unless you choose to part with it. Another example would be someone who owns the only water pump in a town. A water pump, to many, is not exactly worth a lot of money but is invaluable in that town. The person owning that water pump is wealthy.

Quality of life plays a "superficial", but in some cases, important aspect of wealth. For example, a single mother of five children makes one hundred fifty thousand dollars each year in an engineering job. Unfortunately, two of her children have Praeder Willi syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that is characterized by a "progressive weakening of the muscles." (Biology, 270). As part of the two affected children's treatment, a doctor recommends that she gives her two children supplementary growth hormone shots once a week to counteract some of the effects of the syndrome. The shots are about a thousand dollars each, and her medical insurance company does not cover the vaccinations. A mother in this situation would struggle to make ends meet without any outside help. Although the mother makes a considerable amount of money, she is hampered by her two children's unique disease, and her quality of life is probably less than an economist would predict on paper. A single woman who does not have any children, and makes a modest sum of forty thousand dollars would probably be "wealthier" because she is able to spend more money on improving her quality of life.

In many cases, being "wealthy" also depends partly upon the ability to maintain yourself economically. For example, if one of Bill Gates' two children decides to follow "The Parable of the Lost Son", and plans to "squander his inheritance on a life on dissipation", while the other child plans to take up his father's job when he retires, the latter child would most likely become wealthier because the money that was given to him/her will be sustained (Luke 15:11-24). The other child, however, who plans to spend his inheritance freely and does not want to get a job, will therefore not sustain his inherited wealth.

In many cases, a person who is considered by society to be wealthy has the high paying job, more than a few estates, and lives a lifestyle that fulfills his wants as well as his needs. Wealth, however, may actually mean numerous things. It does not necessarily mean that the quality of life or material possessions of this person will be great. Nor does wealth solely depend on the amount of money a person makes. Outside factors play a huge part in the definition of "wealth". Thoreau once said "That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest. A rich person enjoys the beauty of roses they see, while the poor person wants to own the roses." (Internet site). As with beauty, wealth may very well be defined in the eyes of the beholder.

Bibliography Cambel, Jane Reece, and Lawrence g. Mitchell. Biology. California:Addison Wasley Longman, Inc., 1999.

John. "A new deffinition on Wealth". 26 April 1997. The Holy Bible. Kansas: Devore and Sons Inc, 1992.