If I had a million dollars...

Megan Sweas| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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...I'd likely feel poor, according to a survey of millionaires.

But I neither have a million dollars nor feel poor. In fact, I know I'm quite rich.

"They compare themselves to their peer group," Michael Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, says of the "poor" millionaires. Wealth seems to be about who we think of when we think of our neighbors, and Jesus, of course, challenges us to expand our concept of neighbor.

I've had the amazing opportunity to see and live with poverty both in the developing world and inner-city America throughout my life, and it helps me keep perspective.

But it's not only that I am better off than others, which is still about comparisons. The year that I spent living simply as a part of Amate House, a Catholic volunteer program, showed me that I can live on much less than I have now, and that makes me feel less uncertain of my own abundance.

I still worry about whether I'm saving enough or spending too much, and I occasionally feel jealous of friends who spend more freely than I can. And if I'm not careful simple living turns into plain old cheapness, which is more about attachment to wealth than an appreciation of it.

Lent is a time for almsgiving, which in turn can help combat jealousy and attachment to wealth. What advice might you give that 42 percent of millionaires to help them gain perspective this Lent?

I'd say get out of your bubble and meet some new neighbors. I'd agree with travel guru Rick Steves (we are interviewing him on the spirituality of travel tomorrow): He says to see the world beyond the resorts and cruise ships. (Have questions for Rick Steves? Post them in the comment section. Also tell us how you travel in this month's Reader Survey.)