Can money buy happiness?
Money has an important place in our lives, jaguars – and jokes – aside. All we need to do is try to get by without money to realise that it’s absolutely essential for life in the modern world.
But can it buy happiness? Well, that’s a whole other story.
Of course, we know the answer to this question. Money can’t really “buy” happiness. As human beings, we have a default wiring towards some kind of spirituality. We’re self-aware enough to know that it takes more than money to make the inner workings of our world tick. But no matter who we are or how much money we have, we also have some kind of sense that money can go a long way towards buying us the things we want. And we believe that those things – even if they aren’t actual “things’ and might be having copious investments or buying an experience before a new electronic device – can get us one step closer to happiness.
And yes, research shows that money will put us in a better mood. But how long will that mood last? University of Illinois psychologist, Dr David Myers, found that after the initial thrill that money brings, people go right back to how happy – or unhappy – they were before they had it. It reminds me of what writer and psychiatrist Gordon Livingston once wrote: “Money cannot buy happiness; it can, however, rent it.” Having money does offer something. That something is a quick fix, a temporary high. Money can rent happiness, no doubt. But it can’t buy it.
There’s one simple reason that money cannot buy happiness. It is this: happiness is simply not for sale.
We’ve imbued money with power that it doesn’t have. Can money buy excellent healthcare? Yes, it can. But will it guarantee that your loved one lives longer? No. Can money ensure an excellent education? It can. But will that translate into the success of the student? It won’t. Can money buy you a beautiful house? It can. But will it turn your house into a home? It will not. The mistake we’ve made is to assume that happiness is for sale. And then, to try buy it. And we’ve tried to buy it with money – with notes and coins. With a number that sits on a bank statement.
My sense that we use money to buy, no, rent us more time – time that distracts us from the hardships that life sometimes brings. Money is never really about money. What we buy becomes a representative of achievement, but not happiness. Research says money correlates weakly with happiness – like the poor link between good looks and intelligence. The strongest association that happiness has is with, you guessed it, warm relationships.
And so maybe it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with ourselves about what’s going on in our heads – and hearts – about our relationship with money. Did you know that your relationship with money will last longer than your marriage? Your relationship with money, which began when you were born, is your real until-death-do-us-part relationship. That makes it important enough for us to be prepared to find out what’s happening inside us when it comes to money. A good place to start is to fill in the blank: “To me, money means ______________________”
To me, money means choices. Explore what it means to you.
You’ll find that your response will give you some insights into your subconscious desires. It will tell you a little bit about what happiness looks like to you. And once you have a sense of that, you’ll be better positioned to separate money out from happiness, bringing you one step closer to cultivating more happiness.
But it’s not a journey you have to go on alone. I’ll be right there with you, assisting you to understand your money insights.