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The worth of wealth

We are all familiar with country rankings by gross domestic product, or gross domestic product per person, and even gross domestic product per person rankings that are sorted by purchasing power parity.

But the Forbes ranking of wealth converts everything into just USD. There is no ranking by what wealth actually means in different parts of the world.

But I can tell you: you have a million dollars in Southeast Asia, you are richer than with ten million dollars in Europe or the US.

The ranking is by what money buys you, and the power and freedom it affords you,

Forbes ranks Bill Gates as the richest man on earth.

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But you ask me whether I would like to trade places with him, I’d respectfully decline the offer. I don’t want to be Bill. Not Billy Gates and not Billy Clinton. Their lives are caged in public attention. What is all that money good for if you don’t have the freedom to sleep with a new girlfriend if you are bored with the old one.

I don’t want to be Bill Gates, and I do not want his money. Not even 10 percent of his 70 or so billions.

I’d take one or two percent if they were to arrive without much public attention. And I thank fate for my limited talent as a writer, as this protected me from a destiny of fame.

Real wealth, and I do mean finances, is not a figure with loads of zeros on networth bank statements. Real wealth is material wealth, adequately expressed in the houses and cars you have, and the number of people you employ for your comfort: your butler, your cook, your gardener, your driver, your secretaries, your private army of security guards, your physician, your nurses, your beautician, and your girlfriends.

I would call this your estate.

You are as rich as your estate is large and developed.

I know a lot of people in the West who have a sort-of wealth in the range between 5 and 10 million dollars, and they do not have an estate at all. Just a wife who gets about half upon divorce. Poor chaps.

You do not even need a million dollars to have an estate in Southeast Asia. Including a girlfriend decades younger than you.

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