Why Toniic is no longer calling people “High Net Worth”

What are you worth? 

Add up your financial assets, subtract your debts, and… voilà, you get a number most commonly understood to be your net worth. If you are lucky enough to see seven figures or more in that number, many folks will call you a “high net-worth individual,” or “HNI” or “HNWI” for short. 

Does that mean you are worthier than anyone else — of love, happiness, good health, a safe environment, or your human rights? Clearly not. As impact investors, we value much more than a person’s pocketbook.

So let’s call it what it is: net worth is really just a measurement of your financial assets. Just as in many other social justice organizations, at Toniic, we have started referring to people as “high net-wealth individuals,” which luckily doesn’t require changing the acronym (“HNI” or “HNWI”), but does give us a more precise term for someone with significant financial resources. 

Admittedly, changing this little acronym is not the biggest problem to solve, but we believe in the power of language. Language is a reflection of our culture, just as much as it is a tool to shape it. From time immemorial, words have been used to ascribe power and importance to certain people, while keeping it from others. 

Of course, changing one word in our language will not move the needle on achieving Sustainable Development Goal #1, No Poverty, or #10, Reduced Inequalities. It does, however,  normalize the disaggregation of a person’s wealth and their worthiness — a requisite mindset for achieving either goal. 

To all who are worthy (everyone!), know your worth. And to all who are (financially) wealthy, join us in using your wealth for good.

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