Virgin Group’s Richard Branson says being called a billionaire is insulting

For most entrepreneurs reaching billionaire status is a marker that you’ve made it. But not for Sir Richard Branson—in his eyes, it’s “very sad” when people use their net worth as a metric for how well they’re doing in life.

In fact, the British entrepreneur insists he even finds it “insulting” when he is introduced as “the billionaire Richard Branson” rather than as the co-founder of multinational conglomerate Virgin Group, he told CNBC Make It.

“Maybe in America, ‘billionaire’ is a sign of success, but that rankles me,” Branson, who has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, said. 

Instead of individuals defining themselves by how much money they make, Branson said aspirational people would be better off judging themselves by whether they’re making the world a better place. 

“Paying the bills at the end of the year is important, but what entrepreneurs are doing all over the world today—and the only reason they’re succeeding—is that they’re making a difference in other people’s lives,” Branson added. “And that’s all that really matters.”

It’s why the father of three recommends even those who aren’t their own bosses to seek out opportunities that make them happy—rather than aiming to be exclusively rich.

“We only have one life,” says Branson. “We spend a lot of time at work and it’d be sad if we’re only doing it for our paychecks.”

Can it make a real difference in the world?

Whenever Branson launches a new venture—including airline Virgin Atlantic in 1984 and communications business Virgin Mobile in 1999—he said his approach boils down to just two questions:

  1. “If I create this, can it be better than what everybody else is doing?”
  2. “Can it make a real difference in the world?”

Although financial success indeed followed, Branson doubled down that money has never been his driving force—and insisted that has been the case since his first venture, Student magazine, which he launched at 16 years old.

“I wanted it to survive. And yes, I wanted to have enough advertising to pay the printers and the paper manufacturers,” he recalled. “But money was certainly not the motivation for running a magazine.”

Branson’s representatives at Virgin declined Fortune’s request for comment.

Money doesn’t buy happiness—to an extent

Branson isn’t the only billionaire who advises against pegging your self-worth to your net worth, with Gymshark’s founder and CEO Ben Francis agreeing that it’s “a wildly unproductive way to live.”

Despite being Britain’s youngest billionaire, Francis is adamant that money is not a “real” measure of success because it’s tied to assets that could fluctuate in value. 

“It could double, it could [halve],” the millennial entrepreneur highlighted, adding that once you’re able to comfortably cover your bills and then some, “the link between happiness and wealth diminishes.”

Researchers pinpoint the threshold between money and happiness at $100,000 for people who are dealing with personal problems such as bereavement, heartbreak and clinical depression. That figure jumps to $500,000 for those who say they are already happy, and would need large sums to further boost their outlook.

“Success isn’t necessarily how much money you have,” serial entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban echoed on LinkedIn’s “The Path” podcast last year. 

“Success is just setting a goal and being able to wake up every morning feeling really good about what you’ve accomplished.”