There is a big misconception about the relationship between money and happiness. In my first book, You Only Live Once, I briefly covered the concept that money can buy happiness. It was an area of the book that encompassed one and a half pages but sparked a heated discussion.
To clear this up, I’ve been going around the country explaining how money can bring happiness. Money, surely, isn’t everything, but it can help you afford the things you need that can put a smile on your face.
I want to first explain that money is a tool and happiness is an emotional state of being. Money is a result of work, investments or a byproduct of your creations. Happiness is an emotional state experienced at any given moment for any reason. You can actually choose to be happy. Much like money, happiness isn’t an end goal.
The old saying that “money can’t buy happiness” has been repeated quite often.
Although there is some level of truth to this, it’s not quite correct. You need money to buy food, have a roof over your head, and clothes to wear. Those things add a level of happiness to your life. You’re not starving, you have protection from the elements, and have a place to lay your head.
Some believe money is the ultimate indicator of success especially if you don’t factor in how you actually feel about that success. Focusing on money as the end goal won’t lead to happiness. Again, happiness isn’t something you arrive to. It’s an emotion you experience.
If you’re unable to eat because you lack money, you’ll experience happiness when you’re able to afford a meal. If you can afford the meal, you may never experience happiness until you can upgrade from a Toyota to a BMW.
There’s a point when you fixate so much on money as the deciding element for your happiness, you don’t actually experience the happiness from the things you already have. And therefore no amount of things bought with money can make you happy.
Money is often associated with spending on things because things are physical and tangible representations of our time.
Work 40 hours a week and you might wonder if you could have been using that time for something more enjoyable.
For many of us, we go on autopilot mode after collecting our paychecks because we can’t account for the time we’ve spent at work. To remedy this and feel a sense of control, we spend the money to get a bit of that happiness bump.
But it doesn’t last.
We’ve all bought items that made us happy for awhile and after sometime can’t even recall the purchase that gave us our hit of happiness.
What happens is that your mind begins to associate happiness with buying stuff. When you don’t address what’s actually lacking in your life–like having a life–you’re going to set goals like a bigger home, a more expensive car, or those $500 shoes. We begin to think the more one spends the happier one can get.
This is where things begin to morph. Because we know that spending more isn’t necessarily going to make us anymore happier, we begin to extoll the idea that “money can’t buy happiness.” And since money can’t buy happiness there’s no need to master it or find better ways to make more of it.
Believing money can’t buy happiness impacts your relationship with money.
Why make more of it or spend it mindfully if ultimately money has no impact on your wellbeing? Accepting that money has a role in your happiness, you can learn to make more of it so you can do more or have more of the things that bring happiness into your life.
Happy Money is about managing your finances that align with your values–what matters most to you. When you’re managing your money well, you’re in the zone of what I call Happy Money. In this zone, you have a healthy relationship with money and understand personal finance concepts, and equipped to ask professionals for financial advice.
The Happy Money Zone is a place where you’re saving purposefully, spending mindfully, investing with intention, and using tools–money, credit, apps–to achieve financial goals.
The next stage is what I call Happy Life. When you’re money is aligned with your values and working to support your dreams, you’re in the Happy Life Zone. You are living in the present moment and making moves towards a brighter future that gives you joy in everyday life.
Happy Money, Happy Life is about finding the intersection of money and living so you’re enjoying your life today as you work to create a better future. You’re not postponing your happiness for some time that’ll never come. You’re not chasing some goal that may make you happier in the future.
I’m going to continue exploring this concept and plan to share with you ideas and stories from those who are living in the happy intersection between money and life.
Not convinced? Here are some of my favorite articles that explain the connection between money and happiness.
“But keep in mind that no matter how you spend your money, you should avoid debt. Debt is corrosive to our happiness, undermining it more than we expect.” – Three Ways Money Buys Happiness – Psychology Today
“It’s a question central to daily life: Do you spend money to save time or spend time to save money? Well, if happiness is the goal, you might consider opening that wallet.” – Want to Be Happy? Buy More Takeout and Hire a Maid, Study Suggests – New York Times
“In attempting to answer these seemingly depressing questions, the new scholars of happiness have arrived at some insights that are, well, downright cheery. Money can help you find more happiness, so long as you know just what you can and can’t expect from it.” – Here’s How Money Really Can Buy You Happiness – Time