How Much Does It Take To Feel Wealthy?

I recall some years ago working with a major donor who, after making it through the shuttering of one of his businesses and selling one of his four homes, said to me, “These days, I’m not feeling quite as wealthy as I used to.”  His remark wasn’t born out of arrogance, he actually was a humble man.  My sense was that he was being very authentic about the way he felt after a bad stretch financially.

The reality of his situation, though, was that most anyone else would perceive him to still be exceptionally wealthy.  He maintained three glorious homes across the country and had a net worth somewhere in the $50 million range.  By any definition, he would be considered wealthy.  But, at that time, he wasn’t necessarily feeling so wealthy.

Now, Fidelity has released the findings of a study that asked the question:  “How much money would you need to feel wealthy?”  And, after asking more than 1,000 millionaires this question, their findings are mostly consistent with earlier studies.   Specifically, most people believe it would take about twice as much as they have today to feel wealthy.  So, if your net worth is $10 million, you believe it would take $20 million for you to feel truly wealthy.  Or, if you make $30,000 per year, you believe you would feel wealthy making $60,000.

These findings are an important reminder that we always should view our donor’s circumstances from their perspective and not from ours.  It is not uncommon for advancement professionals to utter statements such as, “well, they should give us a big gift, they’ve got the money to do it and they like us!”  And while such a statement might appear as the truth when we look at their circumstances through our lens, the donor could very well be viewing their situation differently.

Your donor database contains names of people who have considerable wealth.  By any objective measure they are wealthy.  But, that’s the problem with wealth.  It’s not objective.  As this study shows, feeling wealthy is a very subjective endeavor.  So, before we excitedly review the latest electronic screening data on our donors and prospects, we need to remind ourselves that the dollar amount of a donor’s wealth is far less important than how they feel about their wealth.

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