noun the state of having a great deal of money; wealth.
Do you resent wealthy people? Do you judge them based on whether or not you feel like they deserve their wealth? Do you judge how they live their life or how they spend their money?
Are you constantly thinking about how you yourself can become wealthy and live a life that you have been dreaming about? Do you admire and look up to people who are affluent and want to be like them?
Are you affluent?
Affluence is one of those taboo topics that has such a controversial wrap and comes with so much emotion. It is a topic that is off limits in many circles and yet we live in a world where we are to some level controlled by it.
I believe that the family and circumstance you are born into shapes how you initially feel about affluence and wealth. What you grew up hearing your parents say about people who are wealthy has most likely determined your relationship with money and people who have a lot of it. Some people outgrow this or evolve, but deep inside the opinions that were formed at a young age are hard to shake. Here are how my feelings about affluence and wealth were formed and how they remain to this day...
I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1972. It's a working-class city in New England - an hour west of Boston. My father was born and raised there and my mother had moved there from her small Greek seaside town when she married him in 1970.
Both my parents came from humble beginnings. When my father was diagnosed with MS in 1978 my mother became the sole provider for our family which included my newborn sister. She worked so hard to make sure we had the best life possible. When I turned 13 years old I went to work to help out my family financially.
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to become the assistant at our church office. Saint Spyridon Cathedral was and remains a large vibrant Greek Orthodox community that was very well run and required an office staff.
I did whatever they needed me to do. I answered phones, made coffee, organized mail, etc. I loved working in an office and learned so much from the incredible woman, Theresa, who was in charge. I think that first job was the foundation of so much of what I do today. I learned many, many valuable lessons (which I didn’t appreciate as a 13-year-old as much as I do as an adult) including how to speak in front of a large group of people.
This is also when my opinion of what it meant to be wealthy was formed. Saint Spyridon was so much more than a church. It was where the entire Greek community gathered and socialized. Each time I was asked to make coffee I would leave the office which was attached to the actual church and walk down this long sunlit hallway that connected the church to its large and beautiful auditorium.
The kitchen, which was bigger and better equipped than most restaurants, was right off the auditorium. It was the type of place that you would want to host a beautiful celebration in. Above the auditorium there was a group of well-appointed class rooms that were set up for the Greek and Sunday schools that each ran robust programs. I am a graduate of both, but barley. 😉
As I would walk back and forth down this hallway that connected these two structures multiple times per day to bring coffee to the staff, I would often stop to look at the black and white pictures that were framed along the wall. My paternal grandparents were in a few, as was my dad, Pete. It was his parish and he grew up there. I loved to look at these pictures because they told the story of how the beautiful church grounds were built and developed.
This hallway and those pictures formed my beliefs about affluence. You see along with my grandparent who were immigrant restaurant and factory workers, there were also the two men that owned the factory and the benefactors of our church.
These two men were the owners of the iconic Massachusetts brand Table Talk Pie. IYKYK. They were amongst the most affluent and wealthiest of Worcester families and they had led the building of the incredible Saint Spyridon Cathedral. Their generosity and philanthropy were so inspiring to me. They were the first affluent people I had been introduced to and they were humble and kind. My family and the families of our community that worked with them to build all had so much respect for each other.
I watched everyone work together regardless of financial status and do what they could. I knew that the money these men donated was vital, but I also knew that without the endless hours of volunteering that the money would never be enough to create what this community had created. I would look at those pictures that adorned those hallways and I saw pride and love on each and every face. I saw every single person in those photos as affluent and wealthy regardless of how much money they had.
I was under the impression that this is what affluence was, and I found it very motivating that these men were so incredibly generous and shared their success with others.
When I moved to Boston for college at 17, I witnessed affluence in a whole new way. I was now in class with people who were from the most affluent families in the world. I had a hard time trying to fit in and owning who I was and where I came from.
The material symbols of affluence took over and my lack of them became something I was very insecure about. I felt like an outsider.
I pretended to be someone I wasn’t and I hated myself for that. It ultimately was the incredible friends I made who saw and accepted me for who I really was that got me through that identity crisis. My friends were affluent but our relationship wasn’t about that and I realized that it never really mattered. I wasn’t wealthy, I wasn’t even close but I was me and that was enough. So I found my way and built relationships there that remain strong 33 years later.
I started to look at the people I went to school with as motivation instead of a reminder of what I “lacked” financially. I think being surrounded by so many people who had come from such affluent families was a huge inspiration that I too could one day live that way if I chose.
I am the first one to say that I enjoy an affluent lifestyle. I love to travel and I am a big fan of designer goods. I also know that is just one small part of it. Those things come and go. Sure, it’s nice to be able to enjoy the finer things that life has to offer but for me the ability to be able to support things that are important to me is what the real motivation is for me now.
The men from my church and my childhood are my compass when it comes to affluence. I aspire to be just like them one day. To work with others to build something important that will be there for generations to come.
I am so fortunate to be surrounded by many affluent people and they also happen to be the most philanthropic people I know. Other than my years in college, I have learned that things don’t make you affluent. True affluence is to have the freedom to help without hesitation. It is how you feel on the inside, not what kind of car you drive or house you have.
Tips and Tricks:
Affluence is a mindset. Material things come and go and so does money. If you feel affluent you never count on external things to make you feel that way. Releasing judgment around wealth is the first step.