With respect to the "nature of wealth", I think that the "quality of life" paradigm in lieu of the "standard of living" paradigm needs to be stressed.
"Quality of life" includes personal happiness for self, family, friends, neighbors, and all others. It includes ownership opportunities for all and everybuddy having the things they need, including health, healthy and loving relations with family, friends, neighbors, and all the people of the world. It includes peace on earth, and it includes a future for all the children of the world.
"Standard of living" implies maximizing the consumption of things.
The current Capitalist dominated system is dysfunctional both from an equity/fairness and economic and natural resource sustainability perspective.
The dominant paradigm in Capitalist financial business operations uses something called the discount rate which assumes that money will be worth less (eventually worthless) in the future, thus creating a necessity to extract profits exceeding a "hurdle" rate leading to unfair and unwise exploitation of both workers and natural resources, and to rampant inflation.
The use of credit is not a good business or personal practice. In business, it should be discouraged because creditors have first claims on net revenues and hold liens on real property and capital assets. For "consumers", the use of credit is unwise because the system is set up to extract profits from interest thus assuring that when consumers use credit that they are losing money relative to inflation. Certainly the current foreclosure crisis in the USA is ample evidence of the inflation and the unfairness and unhealthiness of the mortgage lien process.
Credit Unions and Mutual Insurance companies are in theory attempts to institute non-profit economic democracies for their respective industries. However, because of the need to compete for customers, both of these relatively progressive financial service organization types are forced to play the same game that is basically destructive to individuals, families, communities, and the natural environment. Ideally, credit should only be used as a last resort, much more preferably not at all. We should replace all aspects of the extant financial system with an Equity Union. In some ways, a mutual insurance company is similar to an equity union. However, because such companies are required to realize profits in order to compete for "policy holders" (really investors), the companies that comprise the portfolios of the mutual insurance firms cannot be not-for-profit, can not be mutual organizations themselves.
In a not-for profit Equity Union financial services system based on principles of mutuality working in concert with ethical, wise, knowledgeable, and intelligent community, inter-community, inter-regional, and worldwide planning there would certainly be an important role for financial service workers.
A major impediment to such an Equity Union would be the competitive advantage of the current financial sector and the fear of the friction of change to those individuals and organizations. Dealing with this sector of "the" economy, it would be more feasible with regards to Capitalist resistance and more humane, to orderly and peacefully transition to an Equity Union, coordinated with ecologically sound economic planning.
I am writing and talking about transitioning slowly, methodically, and with the minimum amount of friction and hardship from a dysfunctional financial system, based on self-interest, to one designed to benefit everybuddy.
At risk of understatement, it will take a huge amount of work to educate folks to the need and benefits of such change and to communicate the basic Plan. Transition Planning will also be a very difficult process, but I see no alternative to the current, impending and worsening global economic, political, social, and natural environmental collapse.
The Peoples' Equity Union concept is designed to be a grass roots, popular choice "movement". I am organizing with individuals, workers, and shopkeepers in my neighborhood, adjoining neighborhoods, and through the inter-net to whomever I can attract an interest in the concept.
The focus is primarily local, yet global at the same time. It is my dream, not a hope yet, to encourage a critical mass of people to organize locally around a unifying mission, unifying principles, unifying strategies, and unifying tactics in order to minimize the amount of executive administration at the regional and global levels.
The theory is that neighborhood locales, the neighborhood community/worker hybrid association will have maximum autonomy and will be guided only, in their inter-community and inter-economic sector relationships by regional Planning Boards and a Global Policy Committee.
The goal is to be a true economic democracy: of, for, and by the people.