Many researchers have tried to determine if money can in fact buy happiness. They’ve conducted studies, done interviews, gathered data all in an effort to put a price on the emotion.
One study a few years back put the amount at $75,000. They found that as income goes up, so does happiness; up until one makes more than $75,000. After that happiness mostly levels off. The happiness money brings you doesn’t keep growing after that, it plateaus more or less.
Another, more recent study, put the price of happiness at $161,000. They surveyed residents in 13 countries across the globe and asked how much money they needed to make annually to be happy. Different nations said different amounts but the global average was $161,000 a year.
What these studies are trying to prove is that money does buy you some level of happiness. Certainly not having money can make you unhappy.
Try telling someone who is truly poor that money can’t buy happiness. You’ll likely get a sneer and an eye roll thrown your way.
Don’t believe me? Try paying your light bill or your phone bill with happiness. Having enough money to pay your rent, water bill, electric bill, phone bill, groceries and bus fare every month may not buy you happiness, but it sure as heck buys you peace of mind.
When you aren’t constantly worrying which bill you are going to have to pay late this month and which bill collector is going to shut off your service this month, you have the luxury of peace of mind. Having enough money to pay all of that off every month relieves you of that constant worry.
I love it when people say things like, “You don’t need money to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.” What simple pleasures are we talking about? Talking with friends? Listening to music?
Well the last time I checked you need a cell phone to talk to your friends; an item that costs money. Whether I use my cell phone or not the bill for it arrives dutifully in my mail box every month. If I don’t pay it, the company shuts it off.
I’m sure the naysayers are saying well it doesn’t cost anything to talk to your friends face to face. You’re right. But how many of your friends live within walking distance of your house? Certainly not all of them or even a lot of them. To talk to your friends you need a car and gas to go see them or a bicycle to meet them at a half-way point. Both of which require cash.
OK, how about the simple pleasure of music. Money can’t take that away from you, can it? Last time I checked music doesn’t come from trees. You need a radio to listen to it or you need a venue to go hear it being played live. Any venue I’ve ever gone to listen to music at either charges a cover fee or requires you to buy at least one cup of coffee to stay and take up space in their establishment. Money buys you pleasure, even the simple ones in life.
Let’s go straight for the jugular here and talk about the most important thing that everyone says money can’t buy… Love.
Ah yes, every movie and play ever written about love has this reoccurring theme. In the movie Titanic, Rose leaves her evil, wealthy fiancé for a poor man who teaches her how to enjoy life. Also see Dirty Dancing, The Notebook, The Wedding Singer. We are always taught that the poor guy is the hero and the wealthy man is the villain.
We’ve been fed a steady diet of love is free, it doesn’t cost a thing. The actual feeling of love, yes that is free. But to get to love you need to go on a date or two. You need money for even the cheapest of dates. You need money to pay for that internet connection to meet someone online. You need money to go visit that person you hope to fall in love with some day. Love requires money, maybe not a lot of it, but some of it.
I’ve tried to debunk the myth that money doesn’t buy happiness. Because I believe it does…well at least to a certain extent. There has to be some truth to why all these millionaires and billionaires say it doesn’t right. I mean they aren’t just telling poor people that line to make us feel better about not being in the 1 percent category I hope.
I have met my share of truly wealthy people. I don’t hob nob with the elite of Palm Beach or England’s Royal Family every weekend, but Mr. Patterson and I do have a friend or two with yearly incomes that contain as many digits as my cell phone number.
And what I can tell you is that money can’t buy class. There are plenty of rich folks who are rude assholes and plenty of poor people who have manners and respect for others. The amount of money in your bank account doesn’t correlate with good behavior and class.
You can look at past headlines to see that. Multi-millionaire, antivirus guru, John McAfee was arrested for allegedly killing his neighbor. Or how about Andrew Luster, one of the heirs to the Max Factor fortune. He was convicted on 86 counts involving drug induced rape and poisoning. The only thing money can buy you is entry into a better financial position, but it cannot make you behave with decorum or class.
And no matter how many zero’s there are in your net worth, you can’t buy respect. You may have become wealthy and successful, but if you did it by stomping over the little guy to take their piece of the pie then nobody is going to respect you for your accomplishments.
You’d do better to focus your energies on being a good friend, making yourself valuable to others, giving back to others, helping out your neighbors. Those are the only things that result in respect and likeability.
For every feat I tell you money can’t buy, there are just as many things it CAN buy. There is no doubt in my mind that having enough money to cover basic life expenses will make me happier than being broke. But after I cover those expenses, what then?
Money can’t make my kids turn out to be good people. It can’t make my neighbor’s accept me or even respect me. Money can only get you so far. The rest you have to do on your own with or without money.
I’m sure you’ve got some thoughts on this topic. What has money bought you? And what has it never been able to give you? Drop me a note if you’d like to share.
Looking forward to reading your responses!
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,