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Happiness (and Money)

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We've all heard that money can't buy happiness. Some proof can be found in the number of lottery winners who had come upon tough times. Other proof may be had with all the difficulties that celebrities have. Many of them are far from being happy.

It was this thought that occurred to me on the way to work the other day. If there are rich people who aren't happy and poor people who are very happy, it is possible that there is no correlation between wealth and happiness. If that is the case perhaps I should be writing a blog about how to achieve happiness instead of a blog about money.

The more I thought about it, there's really no particular reason why I can't do both. The problem I would have with trying to write about achieving happiness is that it's so general, abstract, and reader specific that I would be little more than a motivational writer. However, by writing about money, I can give you concrete ideas that can at least give you a tool to in your quest for happiness.

It was just last week, where this was born out in a conversation with my oldest friend. We used to play John Madden Football for hours on end. With the release of a new version coming out this past week, we reminisced about so of our legendary video game battles. I asked if he still plays, and he responded that he does not. He lamented that he could not afford a Wii because he was too house poor.

I think of money as buying me a level of freedom. Perhaps that includes a purchase of the Wii where I can spend quality time with my wife playing tennis. Perhaps that freedom is the ability to retire early and spend more time traveling the world. Perhaps that freedom will be getting our future children great education.

In the end, there are infinite possibilities of what we might do with enough money. Having those options may go a long way towards making us happy.

Posted on August 20, 2007.

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13 Responses to “Happiness (and Money)”

  1. rstlne says:

    The way I see it, money solves some problems that get in the way of happiness. Once the basic problems of getting food, shelter, and other necessities are solved, the part about actually being happy is up to you.

  2. Amber Yount says:

    I believe that even if money can’t buy happiness, it can sure help. Money would have saved me and my husband from thousands of horrible arguments. There’s simply never enough of it!

  3. Relating only money to happiness is useless. Do you know anything alone that brings happiness?
    Health? Man, if you are healthy but you find out that your wife is cheating on you with your own brother, being healthy won’t do much!
    Love? Then again, if your wife loves you but your brother is about to die from a cancer, you won’t fee too happy (unless if you previously find out that your wife was cheating on you with your brother!).
    Then, money brings a part of happiness as you need money to do a lot of things like traveling around the world, bring your kids to Disney or simply play tennis (the court, balls and rackets are not free!)

  4. Lazy Man says:

    The Financial Blogger is right. I didn’t want want to get into health into this post as that’s for Lazy Man and Health to write about. This is why I said it is just a tool in the quest for happiness. There are other parts of the equation obviously.

  5. Steve says:

    I’m pretty happy, despite the fact that I don’t feel like I have enough money. The main reason I want to be financially independent is for my time. I think time is my most precious resource. Since I don’t have enough money, I have to trade some of my time each week for a paycheck. Once I no longer have to make that trade, I think I’ll go from being pretty happy to totally happy.

  6. Brip Blap says:

    There’s been all kinds of research into what makes you happy – Penelope Trunk at The Brazen Careerist covers that topic frequently and has some good summaries of what money contributes. As my salary has grown 5 times what it was 15 years ago, it has helped me be a little bit happier – but the single biggest happiness spikes have been due to getting married, having a child, and spending time with family or on vacations. Money makes some of that possible – you need money to raise a child, for example, or to take a vacation.

    I bet your friend’s life is not poorer for the lack of video games. Probably what he misses would be the time spent in a carefree way with buddies. I miss Tecmo Bowl because it reminds me of a lot of beer-and-chips-fueled fun evenings in college hanging with my friends. It was a stupid game, though – Lawrence Taylor was unstoppable so whoever had the Giants destroyed everyone.

    There are about three big components to happiness – health, wealth and relationships. It’s like a three-legged stool… without all three you can’t be happy, as the Financial Blogger said. So where’s Lazy Man and Relationships? :) Dear Abby needs some competition.

  7. Minimum Wage says:

    LACK of money is a big obstacle to happiness. While SOME of the poor are very happy, it’s a small proportion – something like 24%. Those with a middle class income are twice as likely to be very happy, additional income above that doesn’t make much of a difference. So an increase from poverty to middle class can make a big difference in happiness, but more than that doesn’t help much.

  8. Moneymonk says:

    “I think of money as buying me a level of freedom ” I agree

    Money does not equate to happiness but to me money makes me comfortable. Money give you margin, options more wiggle room.

    When you can breathe with no stress it initially brings calmness, stability and happiness.

    As you said money brings freedom no worrying about tommorrow

  9. MoneyNing says:

    Everything is in our heads. Someone who is satisfied will be happy, rich or not. The reason why most poor people are unhappy is because they want more money than they have. It all comes down to being materialistic but that’s many people are.

  10. JoeRiv says:

    I think you’re dead on about a level of freedom. It can pave the way to happiness if it’s spent right, but it’s not guaranteed. I know I’m happier when I have more money, it gives me a few less things to worry about (food, mortgage, bills, etc.).

  11. aschmuck says:

    I like the saying happiness is a choice. Money can help but it really just opens up options you can be happy with or without it.

  12. BBB says:

    It’s simple, how much do you like your freedom? If so, then the axiom’s rather clear…

    provided one has reasonable health, then money should bring happiness.

    The caveat here is that no one wants to be sick all of the time but I think that’s a no-brainer.

  13. Ron says:

    When I was a poor student-to-entry level worker, I was clearly not happy.

    Then, when I’d increased my income, along with tuition reimbursement, then my happiness factor shot up some more.

    And finally, when I got a job where I could control my hours, telecommute half the time, and still have a good deal of money left over, for both travel and coursework, I was the happiest.

    Now, my latest goal is to be able to work 1/2 that time, while completing the rest of the income stream, by trading futures/options. Once that happens, then I would have reached a pinnacle of operational happiness.

    So don’t believe these money doesn’t lead to happiness propagandists. It certainly does but yes, you need some commonsense to make it work out.

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