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I recall way back in secondary school in Rwanda, our teacher of economics defined wealth as a stock of goods existing at a particular time with the following characteristics:
· Yields satisfaction or utility
· Is scarce or limited in supply relative to demand
· Must have a monetary value and could be external (for example, the goodwill of a company)
· Has transferable ownership
Mindful of the above definition, it is evident to many of us with basic economic knowledge that sometimes even experts in economics have a very wrong interpretation of what it means to be wealthy. Many equate wealth to a fat bank account or so much cash in hand. My life experiences have taught me many lessons regarding wealth and money. These experiences have provided me with solid grounds to completely nullify the assertion that wealth is just cash or money.
You’re probably familiar with the popular saying that everything has a price. There is nothing you can get for free in this world. I have heard many managers talk about how Ingvar Kamplad would sell anything, as long as it was the right price. You could buy anything in an IKEA store, even their office table, if you paid the right price. The questions that come to mind in such a situation arewhat the right price is and who determines it.
To be able to understand this, you have to join me and play a game, a game we used to play when we were kids. We’re going to play Let’s Pretend. My daughter is really good at this game. Sometimes she surprises me with her bright thinking. One day she played a police officer catching a thief — I was the thief and she was the officer. Another day, she blocked the door with her arms and said, “Papa you cannot pass here. The door is blocked!”
“How am I going to go over there?”
“No papa, you cannot. You need to pay.”
I told her that I couldn’t pay because I did not have any cash with me. I could see in her eyes that she was thinking what an ignorant man I was: You don’t know how to play this game. In a loud but kind voice, she told me, “Papa, you have money. You just need to pretend.”
“Okay, I got it. How much do I need to pay?” I asked.
“Ten crowns. Everything costs ten crowns.”
I put my hands into my pocket for my pretend money and handed it to her. When she took it, she looked at it to see if it was ten crowns, then she put the money in her box.
“Papa now the door is open, you can pass!”

Visible and invisible wealth

This little game with my daughter taught me a very big lesson. She told me to pretend that I had this money and she would pretend to receive it and let me pass. But I asked myself, was I really pretending? Taking the game aside, I began to ask myself: how much am I really worth? This got me thinking. From the moment I became a fetus in my mother´s womb up to today, if I was asked to calculate the amount of resources which have been invested on me — the care, time, education, parental care and advice, books I have read, love and kindness shown to me, everything — in monetary terms, how much would I charge a multi-millionaire like Bill Gates if he was interested in buying this company called ME, Ltd.? This made me think about the intangible or invisible part of wealth and value, which many of us often ignore. We’re all multi-millionaires, or even billionaires, despite the fact that we often see ourselves as poor. Some parts of us that are wealth are just intangible in monetary terms because they are very deeply correlated with our inner soul and given to us through actions fueled by kindness and love. Every human being strives to attain a full measure of happiness in their little span here on Earth, but many times our ignorance of our worth makes us feel poor. Sometimes we worry so much about things that it doesn’t matter if we clearly understand what fuels our happiness.
What if everything you did in your remaining years on Earth had nothing to do with money or tangible aspects of wealth, but added to your happiness? What would you do? This is an important question that can help us to clearly understand our potential and purpose in life and the measures we need to take in order to fulfill it. Those things that we love to do make us happy and attract the tangible things that we need. Being wealthy must be seen from the inside out if it will enable us to attain a full measure of happiness. The illusion of money and celebrity net worth of many as shown by Forbes magazine must not alienate us from seeing how wealthy we already are. Happiness isn’t in the cash in the bank or in hand. It’s in the anticipation of expected future cash inflows, and since both tangible and intangible wealth have value, we’re all millionaires and we all have what it takes to generate cash inflows from our unlimited personal goodwill — once we understand it.

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