How to become richer than Rockefeller

What you can do today to become richer than John D Rockefeller...John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company in 1870. He was the first American billionaire and one of the richest men to ever live.  I am sure many people today wish they could have walked in his shoes.  If, somehow they could, I think some would find it to be eye-opening....John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company in 1870. He was the first American billionaire and one of the richest men to ever live.

I am sure many people today wish they could have walked in his shoes.

If, somehow they could, I think some would find it to be eye-opening.

Are you richer than John D. Rockefeller?

As wealthy as he was, Rockefeller might have had anything that money could buy. But what a few hundred dollars may buy today, couldn’t be bought with millions 150 years ago.

Today, we have central heating and air conditioning, cars, planes, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, iPods, and millions of other gadgets. Even Rockefeller in his day couldn’t buy air conditioning. Maybe he had fifteen people fanning him on a hot summer’s day (because he could afford it), but I would rather have air conditioning. He probably had chauffeurs to take him by horse and buggy all around town, but I would much rather be riding in a ten-year-old Chevy. Wouldn’t you?

If we change the way we think of “wealth” and compare our standard of living to Rockefeller’s, we’re doing pretty good. In fact, I would go as far to say the majority of Americans live an all-around more “comfortable” life than Rockefeller did. Who then, is actually richer?

How much do we really need to be happy?

If your household annual income is over $50,000, then you are in the top 1% richest in the world. (See for yourself at the Global Rich List.) And if we can agree that most of us are living a more comfortable life than a billionaire at the turn of the Twentieth Century, then shouldn’t we be happy with what we have?

Should the fact that someone is living a more comfortable life than we are make us less comfortable? Or couldn’t we be satisfied knowing that we live a more comfortable life than 99% of the world’s population, or the richest man 150 years ago?

And maybe we aren’t complaining — maybe we are just using our credit cards instead. Do we really need all the junk we are buying or are we forgetting how good we actually have it?

Why not keep up with the Joneses?

What’s the point with all this? Why spend energy trying to be grateful for the things we have? Why not just try to keep up with the Joneses? Here are a few reasons:

Life is far more enjoyable when you are grateful. Grateful people divert their energy to seeing the good things they’ve been given rather than focusing on what they don’t have. This alone makes them much happier and far more enjoyable to be around.

You can save a lot of money. When you are thankful that you have a car rather than having to ride the bus everyday, it makes it a lot easier to break the habit of buying a new car every year. This can apply to anything — HDTV is great, but so is color TV. Remember when that was the new break-through technology?

Forgetting about the Joneses can set you free. Doing things to impress and appease other people is a dangerous trap. So many people voluntarily become “puppets” to those they are trying to impress — trading control of their lives for temporary social approval. Having been enslaved by it for years, I suggest forgetting about what the Joneses think. They’re overrated anyway.

You can actually enjoy the things you have. Everything loses a bit of its appeal as we get used to it. From a new pair of shoes, a new car, a spouse, or anything else — they are all really exciting while we are anticipating them. But, once we have them for a while, they just aren’t as exciting as they once were. By truly appreciating it and focusing on the benefits of it rather than the “greener grass” elsewhere we can truly enjoy what we have.

I don’t say all this to suggest that we all should live like we are hovering around the poverty line. I merely want to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we have it a little bit better than we think. Regardless of whether you have 60″ HDTV and new BMW or a 19″ Sanyo and a 10 year old Chevy — be grateful. Either way, Rockefeller would be jealous.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment. -1Tim6.6

This article is a reprint that I originally wrote at GetRichSlowly.org.

21 Comments
  1. Tim

    This was a good, quick read that puts thing into perspective. Nice job. (A little late, I know- but I just found your site.)

  2. Kimberly

    I’ve wondered at times about this perspective in great wealth back then vs the standard western lifestyle of modern history. I agree with you. Thank you for reminding me that as stressful and uncertain life is today, the average person has access to incredible opportunities and comfort not thought of just a hundred years ago. Thanks be to God, literally.

  3. Kevin @ ChristianSimplicity

    Perspective is a wonderful thing. We’ve been trained to always look up the socio-economic ladder instead of down. Better yet, don’t look at the ladder at all – seek the kingdom and let money have its proper place. That’s easier said than done. Our capitalistic consumer society is constantly engaged in undermining contentment and satisfaction and coming up with all sorts of things to distract us.

    • mick

      Kevin, I couldn’t agree more. Good points. God bless!

  4. vinodh

    good heading for blogpost. but why comments are dated back

    • Bob

      Yep Vinodh, the article was originally written a while ago and updated and republished.

  5. Gail Hunt

    Thanks for reminding me of the blessings I have.. I am rich in many ways that I take for granted.

  6. Kavinah

    Vinod -Blog may have been updated.

    Our definition of wealth these days is warped and this seems to be the problem.

    We compare ourselves with others and want what they have.

  7. TexasDeb

    All the gold in King Solomon’s mine couldn’t have bought one electronic calculator, not even a simple one from today’s dollar stores! Even the slide rule was still being used in the mid-1970s.

  8. Katherine

    Good to get a bigger perspective. Overall I am very thankful and grateful as I never expected to have a new car or own a home and those both befell me over the last 5 years. I wasn’t seeking after these things and yet the Lord provided. The only place I struggle to be content at times is regarding my paycheck, as we have not had a raise in over 7 years and yet are doing more. Yes, I was thankful I still HAVE a job as many lost there’s but I do agree sometimes I take it for granted..need to work on that.

    Plus we are RICH n Christ. What he provides is beyond what we ask or think or even deserve! Did Rockefeller have those riches?

  9. Adeniyi

    This is a great post. Thanks so much for a reminder of a simple, yet too often forgotten principal: contentment.

  10. Cari

    Love this blog, love the comments! :-) So true! When we count our blessings we also end up much more joyful, and God is pleased with a thankful attitude. Right now I’m thankful to be under a roof, with electricity! We can be thankful for big things and little things alike. I struggle sometimes with wondering what “The Joneses” think. I wish it weren’t like that. But I’m reminded that man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. Give to God. Be patient and watch out because blessings are headed your way. You can’t outgive God.

  11. Joseph Hogue

    Great post Bob. Definitely going in my Best of the Blogs roundup tomorrow.

    Being happy with what we’ve got is one of my favorite PF topics but also one of the most difficult to build into a lifestyle.

  12. Umesh Kumar

    Really great stuff. Everybody wants to become rich, they follow other rich people and try to walk following them.

  13. Ron Ryan

    “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”–Cicero. Being thankful for everything is important for us to grow as we should. Even the tough times and circumstances are teachers of a sort. We are better able to understand, to empathize and comfort others who are going through the same difficult circumstances once we have been through them ourselves.

    Our relationship with God; close relationships with family and friends; good, vibrant health; and money enough for our basic needs make us rich indeed..

  14. Busola

    Yeah. We sometimes forget the things that money cannot buy that God has so freely given. Being born in this generation is enough reason to be grateful.

  15. Becky

    Excellent article! Thanks for sharing it. I will share it with my loved ones.

  16. Tyler @ BibleCents

    Our society has a lot of technology and gadgets but I would argue whether any of that stuff makes our lives any “better”. We can think of ourselves as being richer than Solomon or Rockefeller because of the stuff we own, but is that the measure of our satisfaction we are striving for; feeling richer than someone else?

    It’s a great idea to recognize that having the bank account of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet today may only buy you the everyday pocket tricorder (for you trekkies) of the future. Use that info to realize that being rich is a pretty silly end goal when you think about it. Instead, get your heart set on a more lasting treasure (Matthew 6:21).

    • Bob

      Tyler, I completely agree. I don’t think are lives are better as a result of the stuff, but society as a whole has dramatically increased its standard of living and we tend to forget that.

    • Tyler @ BibleCents

      True Bob. Thanks for the reminder and encouraging us to think about it different way.

  17. job

    thank you