"I can't blame you for tryin’ … I'm tryin' to make it, too." — "Poor Side of Town," as recorded by Johnny Rivers

This column title gets your attention, doesn't it? Mine, too. I stumbled across this phrase on the internet while reading a financial planning article. The most humorous comment was, "Yes, and I have a very short memory!"

It's only natural to think about our financial station in life. But in reality, there will always be wealthier and poorer folks than us.

So how should we think of ourselves, financially speaking? One way is to think about all we possess that we didn't once own. These assets may include a house that's paid for, or at least one with considerable equity; a dependable, late model car; an investment account; and perhaps some real estate holdings. We all work so hard and scramble so fervently for money that we often forget where we came from financially, and how fortunate we are.

We were considering this issue in the office recently, and my husband and children were comparing the relative poverty of their college years. My husband recalled one scorching summer when he lived in college housing that had one window air conditioning unit, but he was so broke he couldn't afford the extra expenditure to run it. Today when we talk about "luxurious living," he often equates it with being able to afford air conditioning. I'm from Chicago, so I enjoy Southern expressions, and of that era, he says, "I was so poor I couldn't pay attention."

Taking time to experience gratitude for all we have is another healthy way to think about our financial situation. Every time I see video of poverty-stricken locales or places with limited access to fresh water and decent medical care, I am reminded of our good circumstances. To the person living in a cardboard box, the difference between owning a home with 4,000 vs. 3,000 square feet is academic.

The job of a financial advisor is to make people wealthier by growing their money, and to provide impartial professional financial planning and advice. And goodness knows these are important services. But regardless of how wealthy we become, folks who appreciate what they have, regardless of their asset level, are usually the happiest.

Here’s a thought. Imagine that we have all the money that we could possibly want. What would we actually do to change our lifestyle? How differently would we live? What would we drive? What would we eat? Who would we associate with that we don't currently already see on a regular basis?

If very little would change after this huge cash infusion, we may already have everything we need. And if that's the case, that's cause for great happiness.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.