Tiny Wisdom: On How Much You’re Worth

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you'd be worth if you lost all your money.” -Unknown

Before I started this site, I found myself in a horrible financial situation. I lost two well-paying jobs within the same week, and I quickly realized my unemployment benefits would just barely cover my rent. At 28 years old, I felt like I should have been a lot more established and financially secure.

But something kind of beautiful happened. I began forming close relationships with people who also got laid off due to the economic meltdown. Since we were in the same boat, we had a new sense of camaraderie, and a reason to bond over our shared need for ingenuity.

With fewer distractions and abundant time to fill, we also had a mutual opportunity to discover how we could feel more purposeful and make a difference in other people's lives. Somehow, without having much money to spend, we became incredibly valuable to each other–and to the world.

In a capitalist society, it's easy to play the comparison game and assume you're somehow failing if you're not amassing wealth.

But when you take an inventory of the people who've made a big difference in your life, how frequently do you visualize their net worth alongside their smiling faces? When you look back at your happiest memories, how many of them required massive financial backing?

It would be irresponsible to suggest we don’t need money to live. But if there’s one thing economic times have taught us, it’s that we are far more valuable than the numbers on our checks. And sometimes the greatest joy comes from the simple things that don't require a dime.

Today if you find yourself fixating on money, ask yourself: What makes me feel rich in my heart, and what can I do with that today?

*This is an extension of a post published in September, 2009. Photo by joven12th

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Lexi

    This is a really nice message. I'm liking these inspirational blurbs!!

  • Amy

    Yeah this one hits home with me, too. I've finally realized I chase money because I think it equals happiness, but it doesn't. It only makes you happy if you were before you got it.

  • As a student of money habits this has got to be my favorite tweet from the tinybuddha so far. I've met millionaires that were unhappy, and those considered poverty who were “in” joy! I'll definitely keep this one for reference.

  • As a student of money habits this has got to be my favorite tweet from the tinybuddha so far. I've met millionaires that were unhappy, and those considered poverty who were “in” joy! I'll definitely keep this one for reference.

  • Dexi

    What is the point of quoting “unknown?” Is it because you want everyone to know you’re a cunt hole?

  • I come from Brazil and economic crisis in places like this became a big challenge where we learn how to deal with all kind of situation that requires more creativity than money to survive.
    And I tell you what, we are very happy people and very lucky to have everything we need.

  • Jackquack

    This may be perceived as negative in its approach. I enjoy reading that a 28 year old came to some level of consciousness about their money needs. I am a very frugal- and always have been-57 year old that has raised 3 wonderful children into a healthy adulthood. We were never excessive and always helped each other and the community of friends around us as family. I have worked very hard my whole life- always managing to do well with what money I have had. In the last few years, I have faced more external economic crisis from the economy and dealing with the societal ill of ageism. I am healthy- mentally and physically and accepting of who I am. Due to economics, I have no real retirement and am weary of working so hard to just sustain myself. So- please, there is no romance or peace with the  constant uncertaintly so many of us are facing. There is a great gap between being humbled and dealing with humiliation. It is tiresome to read of people not being aware of their excess and not having consciousness of others. I am glad someone had some realizations, but most people face this reality every day..

  • Love this post! A year ago i quit my job, decided to go freelance and move across country. 
    The music industry is not in a very good shape and it forced me to expand my job description, be creative and just go with the flow. I had my doubts and fears but the support of friends and word of mouth is working and i’m getting more clients, not enough to say i’m financially secure but i’m starting to breathe a little easier. I also found out that a lot of former colleagues who had either lost their jobs or quit also went the freelance way, so I have reconnected with a few of them and we are once again, working together.Recently, i saw a friend/artist i worked with for years and he told me he didn’t recall ever seeing me that happy, it was a great feeling to hear that. And he’s right, my financial situation might still be precarious but i’ve learned to live with a lot less and i’m so much happier. This past year has flown by but the lessons are for a lifetime. I know who my friends are and i know myself a lot better as well.
    Good luck to everyone!

  • Hi there,

    I can only imagine how scary and frustrating it must be in your shoes. As someone who is now in my 30s, I know that I can’t fully relate to what it’s like to be approaching retirement and worried about the future. I also don’t yet have children, so when it comes to my finances, I am able to budget differently so that I can take care of my present needs and save for future ones, with fewer obligations requiring my resources. I am in a completely different boat than you are, and I truly do understand why it would be off-putting to think of the idea of having less as romantic.

    My intention with this post was to challenge how we sometimes measure our success and worth. I know there have been times when I thought that my value was proportionate to what I earned, and it’s been liberating to shift my perspective in that way. However, these ideas don’t change the fact that we all need a certain amount of money to live.

    I am sorry to hear that you feel humiliated. I know what it’s like to feel low and powerless. I hope you have strong friends and family around to support you as you figure out a plan for the future. You are in my thoughts!


  • Your thoughts around the people who have made a big difference in your life reminds me of the following quiz:

    Quiz: Who Do You Remember?

    The following is taken from the philosophy of CharlesSchultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. You don’t haveto answer the questions. Just read them, and you’ll get thepoint.

    1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.2. Name the five fastest men or women ever over 100m.3. Name the people who have been voted the sexiest manand woman for each of the last three years.4. Name ten people who have won a Nobel or PulitzerPrize.5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners forbest actor and actress.6. Name the last five winners of the World Cup.How did you do?

    The point is that none of us remember yesterday’s headlines.These are not second rate achievers. They are the best in theirfield. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievementsare forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with theirowners.

    Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

    1. List the names of a few teachers who aided your journeythrough school.2. Name three friends who have helped you through adifficult time.3. Name five people who have taught you somethingworthwhile.4. Think of a few people who have made you feelappreciated and special.5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


    The people who make a difference in your life are not theones with the most credentials, the most money, or the mostawards. They are the ones you care about.  

  • Anonymous

    I’ve had lots of money and I’ve been very, very poor.  What I’ve learned is that money has absolutely nothing to do with happiness.  Great post Lori.

  • Jackquack

    Hi Lori,
       I do appreciate what your post was saying. I guess the glasses I have on are of age and experience. When one is young and has the fluidity of just themselves, it is easier to sustain oneself. What will unfold for you in the next ten years is exciting and a joy to think of. I have a great core of feeling strong and resourceful. The issues that face people in potential and real poverty are the sense of not having the time and resources to make basic decisions that keep them from feeling despair and the ability to provide basic comfort to others and to feel distance from their community/society at large.
    There is some good quote about how people do well in crisis- it is the every day that is the real challenge. Will find it and post it sometime.
    I truly enjoy tiny buddha and appreciate how much thought and care goes into it. It is a lovely thing to get every day.
    Take care,

  • Tony Applebaum

    Thanks Lori. I, like many, have a real hang-up equating my my worth to my financial situation. Rationally I see this is as a completely wrong view. But emotionally it is much harder for me to deal with.

  • Posted that picture to Facebook, you have to smile when you see it!

  • Those people we have in life really are lifesavers. I’m not in the easiest of spots in life right now, going through many transitions at once. I think that if I weren’t going through any difficulty I’d be taking people around me for granted.  I’m quite happy to say that these days, that is not the case. 🙂 I think I’m getting a bit inspired right now to do something creative after reading your post.  

  • Freddie Cosmo

    I recently found my dream job after not having been able to find a job for almost two years and my entire perspective on money has changed and I have such an appreciation for my close friends and family now; I sometimes find myself falling back into my overly-conscious worrisome ways when it comes to money, what a great post! I will have to keep this in mind even though I am working again! I survived being broke, so now I know that my self-worth is not equated into a dollar amount!!! 🙂 This post really made me happy!

  • Ang Chor

    I feel so much better after reading this. Thank you 🙂

  • Wow that was fantastic! It’s so true. I couldn’t answer anything in the first quiz, but every one in the second quiz. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Thanks so much. I totally agree. The only way anyone will be happy with money is if they were already happy without it.

  • I think happiness comes from a sense of community. Over the years I have found that there is a lot I can live happily without, but I can’t live happily without a sense of genuine connection. It doesn’t require money–it just requires the ability to fully and authentically connect.

  • You’re most welcome!

  • That’s exactly how I felt, Freddie! It’s nice to know that you can survive–and even thrive–when things get tough. Congratulations on finding your dream job! I’m so excited for you. =)

  • Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I think it’s a silver lining to challenging times–realizing that people love you and they want to support you. I think of as an “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment. I love when life reminds you that even if things aren’t perfect, people care, and that’s a beautiful thing.

  • That’s how I felt, too!

  • I know what you mean, Tony. Money can be such a tricky subject. So much is ingrained in our culture, and in us from a very young age. I think it can be even more challenging for men. I don’t mean to promote gender stereotypes, but I think women tend to be more comfortable following their hearts when it comes to work. Men are taught to be providers, and they’re often more competitive in that way. (Of course this isn’t true across the board–just something I’ve noticed).

  • I’m so glad you enjoy them!

  • Yes! My thought exactly! There are actually research studies about this kind of thing. It’s why so many lottery winners end up depressed. I think people often assume money is the ultimate answer, and it can be a huge let-down when you get the money and realize it didn’t create change where it matters.

  • I’m glad you liked it. This quote has provided a lot of peace for me when I’ve started questioning how much money I “should” be making. A friend of mine recently told me she’s been listening to a nightly guided meditation that repeats, “All my needs are met.” I thought about that in the context of my life, and it’s true. All my needs are met. All I ever need is to recognize and appreciate that.

  • That’s awesome, Celine! I’ve felt like that these past couples of years. I’ve always changed jobs a lot, but prior to starting this site, I was incredibly overworked and really disconnected from my self. Now, as Tiny Buddha keeps growing, and I am able to earn what I need and have time to relax, explore, and just be. I’m by no means wealthy, but I consider time to be the ultimate currency–and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

  • msdecember

    this is UNBELIEVABLY perfect in timing. i have been STRESSING over the fact that my unemployment which allows me to take care of my financial obligations will be ending in the next few months and the only thing that i have lined up will pay less than that… worry, worry, worry is the emotion that i’ve been feeling because i have a fear of not having enough. i have MORE than enough! this article allows me to look from the perspective that i will take it each day at a time and do what i can and live for what i need.

  • That’s awesome! (Not the stressing–that you realize you have more than enough!) I know that feeling of lack all too well. It can be so overwhelming when you think about the big picture while you’re going through a rough patch. I think you have the right idea about taking it one day at a time. It’s amazing what we can do when we focus on each step as we take it.

  • Morita

    OK, Lori Deschene–please tell us just how much you are making from your books and the ads on this site.  It would be nice to know the financial realities involved in this.  This is your chance to be as open and genuine as ever you suggest everyone be. 

  • Hi Morita! I responded to your comment on another blog post just a few minutes ago, so I’m sure you’ll receive that in your inbox. While I am happy to share that I do earn money through the site and my new book, which helps me sustain myself, I’m curious what inspired your comment. What is it that you are really asking me?