This quote by Benjamin Franklin has to do with what it means to be truly wealthy. Franklin is telling us that we cannot be truly wealthy just by having a lot of money. Instead, to be truly wealthy, we have to enjoy what wealth we have. This implies that a person with less money can, to Franklin, be wealthier than a person who has more money.
If you think about it, you can see what Franklin’s point is. Imagine someone who has millions of dollars. We would think they are wealthy. But then imagine that they are so obsessed with making more money that all they do is work. They do not get to spend much time with their family. They do not get to use their money to take relaxing vacations. They are so driven that they do not really enjoy what they have. Now compare that person to one who makes much less money but who has a more balanced life. This person gives up the chance to make lots of money, but they get to spend time doing things they love with people they love. We can see why someone might say that the second person is wealthier.
We can also see this argument when we talk about countries’ economic systems. Many Americans argue that our system is superior to European systems because we make more money per capita than they do. Others, however, argue that the European system is superior because, for example, Europeans have long paid vacations every year or are guaranteed the right to be paid while staying home with small children. In this view, the Europeans are wealthier because they get to enjoy what they have more than Americans do.
So, what Franklin is saying here is that you are truly wealthy if you enjoy what you have, not just if you have a lot of money.