Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

5 Better Ways to Define Wealth Than Your Bank Account

Imagine if someone stopped you on the street and asked if you considered yourself to be wealthy. (OK, your first instinct would probably be to just keep walking.) But say you then started reflecting on it. I’d bet the first things that come to mind are income, financial assets, or material possessions. You might think about how much you have left to pay off on your student or car loans, whether you can afford to go on vacations or out to fancy dinners, or how much you’ve saved for retirement.

For 10 years, I worked as a brand marketer in the corporate world, mostly for consumer goods companies in the U.S. and U.K. My job looked pretty perfect on paper—nice salary, comfy corporate office, fancy job title, and the reputation that comes with working for established, blue-chip corporations. I had the kind of job you’re supposed to have after you finish your MBA—one that signals you’re professionally “successful.”

And that sort of prestige—and money—was definitely appealing.

However, I reached a point where I no longer felt excited by my work. Things started to get repetitive. I became less interested during meetings, and deep down, I wasn’t feeling engaged with my work. I looked ahead, and I knew this pattern wasn’t sustainable.

So two years ago, I decided to leave my marketing job behind to launch my own career consultancy, something I’d been pondering for many years. Right after I left, I found myself thinking a lot about my finances because they initially took a major hit. The days of corporate perks, financial incentives, and year-end bonuses came to an abrupt halt. I went from having a very stable income to a completely unpredictable one. But over time, my perspective on money changed too: I earned enough to make ends meet, adopted a leaner lifestyle, and learned a tremendous amount about what being wealthy really means to me.

Here are five better ways to measure it in your life:

1. Are You Doing Work That Matters?

There’s really no better feeling than having a positive impact on others. For example, my professional mission is now centered on helping people bravely relaunch their careers and pursue meaningful work. I look forward to every single day because my work aligns with the principles and desired impact I wish to make in my career and life.

Related: Do What You Love! How to Identify and Pursue Your Passions

2. Are You Able to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle?

These days, my schedule allows me to eat better, sleep better, and exercise more regularly. All things I knew were important before—but never had the time to really prioritize. Being healthy leads to a cycle of overall personal and professional wellbeing. Having time to exercise each morning means feeling so much more energized and pumped about the day ahead. I no longer have the afternoon slumps I used to have the past—making for more productive days overall.

Related: Here’s the Habit You Should Prioritize Over Work if You Want to Be More Successful

3. Do You Have Time With the People You Love?

I feel happier when I have more time with people in my life like my wife, family, and friends. Yes, when I received a bigger paycheck, I had more money to travel to see friends far and wide—but I never found the time to actually do that (or even call before 10 PM on a week night). Unlike with my corporate job, nowadays, I can take extended trips to visit my family and friends, many of whom live overseas—without feeling rushed. Relationships keep me going, and I can now make a point to prioritize them accordingly.

Related: Here’s the Surprising Secret to Making Your Free Time Worthwhile

4. Do You Have Control Over Your Schedule?

Flexibility is a true luxury. Although I’m a creature of habit, I’m someone who loves a lot of variety in my day. So being able to shift my work schedule around helps me feels more in control and avoid burn out. Simple steps like changing the order of your daily tasks, stepping out of the office to work in a cafe, or participating in some sort of physical activity during the day can keep you more engaged and efficient. Even just changing your lunch routine—sometimes eating with others to connect while sometimes eating alone to reflect—can create a different rhythm to your day.

Related: 3 Better Alternatives to Working at Your Desk for 8 Hours in a Row (Because That’s Just Wrong)

5. Do You Have Freedom to Pursue Your Interests?

During those times in my life when I was focused on one subject, I was never completely fulfilled. I never had a portfolio career until I actually gave myself permission to pursue a variety of professional interests simultaneously. Now, I’m able to do a mix of motivational speaking, workshops, one-on-one coaching, writing, personal brand strategy, and business building—all related to my core mission, but all different enough that I never get bored.

Related: How to Find and Make Time for Your Passion Even When You’re Busy

Do status and money still matter to me? Sure. Do I still think about material wealth? Yes. But I know it’s not worth sacrificing everything else in my life that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. Ultimately, fueling my passions, health, relationships, control, and freedom makes me happier, more satisfied, and energized every single day. And here's the really incredible part—dedicating yourself to something more than your paycheck doesn't have to spell financial ruin. You can pay your bills and have the time to enjoy your life. You just have to decide money isn’t the only thing that creates “wealth” in your life.

Photo of man by the ocean courtesy of Shutterstock.