The 3 Levels of Wealth

“Wealth: Any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.”

— H. L. Mencken

What is your definition of wealth? I’m certain I would hear 100 different answers if I asked 100 people.

I read an article about the Canadian entrepreneur, Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of Flickr (acquired by Yahoo in 2005) and Slack. The latter company after its most recent round of fundraising is now valued north of $5 billion. Not surprisingly this has made Mr. Butterfield an extremely wealthy man.

When Butterfield was asked how his enormous wealth impacted his life he stated what I thought was one of the best definitions of “wealth”. After mentioning the often repeated assertion that past a certain level excessive wealth does not make your life any better, he went on to share his unique definition of wealth broken down into three relatable levels:

Level 1. I’m not stressed out about debt: People who no longer have to worry about their credit card debt or student loans.
Level 2. I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants: How much you spend on a particular meal isn’t impacted by your finances.
Level 3. I don’t care what a vacation costs: People who don’t care how expensive the hotel is or which flight they go on.

Of course Butterfield’s three levels of wealth are only one man’s opinion, but I like how it allows us to frame the concept in a way that all of us can appreciate and understand.


Keith Thomson

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