What does it mean to be Wealthy?
By: Dana Agbede, Teens Tutor Teens
Editor: Gabriela Nguena Jones, CEO/Founder of Teens Tutor Teens
Nothing is actually expensive — it simply wasn’t made for you.
This and so many other sentiments about wealth send a dangerous message: wealth is only a reflection of work ethic and failing to be wealthy is a punishment suffered due to lack of effort. The assumption is that wealth is the ultimate indicator of success: a life well spent. And that this singular goal is reached by anyone with enough merit to follow a very narrow path.
While unassuming, this meritocracy creates a false binary that defines poverty as a failure to work hard. This is especially problematic when the growing economic divide in America is considered. The one percent is becoming, alarmingly, small part of the national population while controlling the vast majority of the nation’s wealth. But do these few work that much harder than everyone else? Clearly, wealth isn’t that simple. It is crucial that perceptions of poverty be holistic and include work ethic along with institutional barriers such as access to education. The ability to act on opportunity cannot be universal when many aren’t given such opportunities in the first place.
A simple connection can be drawn between and wealth and power, meaning that acknowledging privilege is key to shaping more equitable institutions. The path to wealth must be adjusted to fit different starting points.
Yet another misconception is that there is only one path to achieving wealth. As elementary students, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up countless times. From an early age we absorb that to be successful we must go to a name brand college and graduate after four years with a degree that will earn us money. And for many of us, the path narrows. Even further after graduation including working tirelessly until making partner of the law firm or becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 company. While this vision of success is empowering for some, it certainly isn’t the “one-size-fits-all” advertised to us in our childhood.
The technological revolution and the birth of social media changed what it meant to be successful. A new tribe of influencers achieved large financial gains by doing what they were passionate about on their own schedules. In doing so, they devoured existing frameworks of nine to five jobs and forced industries to morph as a result. It is becoming apparent that the benchmarks of wealth are best reached when adapted to each person’s individual needs.
There are multiple ways to achieve wealth and the definition of wealth is changing. There is no single path to success and societal expectations are crumbling under the weight of up and coming generations adapting to what best suits their needs. Still, America is a nation of unequal starting points and newfound adaptability must be an open invitation for equity. Once this occurs, wealth will no longer be a question of what was made for you but what you can make for yourself.