An interesting occurrence took place last summer one day when I was at the gym and stopped to chat with a friend in between sets on the weights. My buddy is a bonafide foodie with a rather substantial paunch to prove it. He’s proud of his love of all things gourmet but not so equally proud of his growing belly. And so this year he had finally resolved to do something about it—he was undergoing the painful process of making that infernal trade-off between immediate (delicious food now) and long-term (a svelte physique in three months) rewards.

When we were about to conclude our little chat, he looked at me and said, “If I had a body like yours, I’d eat anything I wanted.” I found it a bit curious at the time, but as I resumed my exercise routine, his statement began to loom larger and larger in my consciousness. I reflected on my own fitness journey, which began in earnest more than 30 years ago, and how it had created the basis for so many blessings in my life: higher energy, reduced illness, freedom from aches and pains, and, yes, of course, a physically fit body. And it was at that moment that I realized the problem with his statement.

I have spent decades religiously working out, most days rising at 4 a.m. to arrive at the gym when it opens at 5 o’clock. I’ve earned a healthy lifestyle through sacrifice and hard work, and literally gallons of sweat. The last thing I’d ever want to do is ruin it all by overeating. In fact, each time I look at a slice of pumpkin pie or macaroni and cheese—two of my absolute favorites—a mental calculation goes on as to how much I’ve already eaten that day and how long it would take to burn it off. Just thinking about those miles on the treadmill or hours on the elliptical machine are enough to curb my appetites and ensure moderation. And so my friend, I don’t think you’re correct! If you had a body like mine, I highly doubt you’d eat anything you wanted. In fact, what you would do every time you were tempted with a rich dish is think about how much work it would take to burn off the extra flab, and that thought alone would temper your urge to splurge.

It’s interesting too that this principle—knowing the value of something—attaches to achieving wealth as well. It is a well-known fact that despite having almost unlimited opportunity in this country of ours, most people never become wealthy. In fact, many people who earn more than a $100,000 a year for decades rarely have $100,000 all at one time, unless it is in some restricted retirement fund or pension plan that someone else essentially controls. Why is that?

Well, the same principle applies to wealth as it does to physical fitness. The wealthy among us would never stand for the diabolical fallacy, “If I had your money, I’d buy whatever I wanted.” In fact, quite the opposite would be true. The wealthy spend a much, much smaller percentage of their income and wealth than the poor. It is often easy when the amounts are small to spend a greater percentage of one’s income. After all, there are basic necessities of life that can be quite costly. But after that there are the creature comforts of life—and, well, we wouldn’t want to do without those now would we? The bigger, brighter television, the newer cooler car or SUV, the more expensive suit and the fancier restaurant are all temptations for those who do not understand the true value of wealth.

The wealthy and those striving to achieve it, on the other hand, work hard for it. They want every dollar to count and count more than once. That does not mean they won’t purchase nice things eventually. But it generally means that they won’t purchase creature comforts with the fruits of their labor. Rather, they will invest those fruits in educating themselves, in starting a business, in purchasing assets that can produce dividends. And once they’ve done that over a period of years and passive income is starting to flow, they will finally make those long-awaited purchases—and in cash, not on credit.

Some say that the wealthier people become, the less generous they are, the less spontaneous they become. That’s one perspective. But the perspective from the other side of the fence—the wealthy side—is that the wealthier one becomes, the more aware of the true cost and true value of wealth one becomes. Wealth buys a whole lot more than pretty baubles. It can buy peace of mind, it can buy time and it can buy access to opportunities to gain even greater wealth. In fact, there is usually an inverse relation between true wealth and conspicuous consumption. And even when there is a degree of consumption, it usually pales in comparison to the amount of wealth one has accumulated.

Wealth, like health, is a certain mindset at the end of the day. Health is a mindset that says I will do the work and make the sacrifices to create a life of more vibrant energy and possibility. Wealth is a mindset that says I will work hard and forego some of the immediate rewards to receive a longer, more lasting reward down the line. Most wealthy people are not miserly. In fact, they give generously of their time and resources to worthy causes, but they are equally mindful of not spending time and money in ways that are not worthwhile.

Armstrong Williams is the author of the brand-new book “Reawakening Virtues.” Find more content on and join the discussion live at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. EST on Sirius/XM UrbanView 126. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.