(As of Nov. 25, 2011: ...) The concept of wealth is of significance in all areas of economics, especially development economics, yet the meaning of wealth is context-dependent and there is no universally agreed upon definition. Generally, economists define wealth as "anything of value" which captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept. Various definitions and concepts of wealth have been asserted by various individuals and in different contexts. Defining wealth can be a normative process with various ethical implications, since often wealth maximization is seen as a goal or is thought to be a normative principle of its own.
- Adam Smith, in his seminal work The Wealth of Nations, described wealth as "the annual produce of the land and labour of the society". This "produce" is, at its simplest, that which satisfies human needs and wants of utility.
- In popular usage, wealth can be described as an abundance of items of economic value, or the state of controlling or possessing such items, usually in the form of money, real estate and personal property.
- In economics, net wealth refers to the value of assets owned minus the value of liabilities owed at a point in time. Wealth can be categorized into three principal categories:
(1) personal property, including homes or automobiles;
(2) monetary savings, such as the accumulation of past income; and
(3) the capital wealth of income producing assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds, and businesses.
(...) 'Wealth' refers to some accumulation of resources, whether abundant or not. 'Richness' refers to an abundance of such resources. (...) The opposite of wealth is destitution. The opposite of richness is poverty.
The term implies a social contract on establishing and maintaining ownership in relation to such items which can be invoked with little or no effort and expense on the part of the owner. The concept of wealth is relative and (...)
In economics, wealth is the net worth of a person, household, or nation, that is, the value of all assets owned net of all liabilities owed at a point in time. For national wealth as measured in the national accounts, the net liabilities are those owed to the rest of the world. The term may also be used more broadly as referring to the productive capacity of a society or as a contrast to poverty. Analytical emphasis may be on its determinants or distribution. (...)
In economics, 'wealth' corresponds to the accounting term 'net worth'. But analysis may adapt typical accounting conventions for economic purposes in social accounting (such as in national accounts). An example of the latter is generational accounting of social security systems to include the present value projected future outlays considered as liabilities. (...)