“Money Can’t Buy Happiness” Is Stupid And Simplistic
It’s a canard–an unfounded rumor or belief–that material wealth can’t bring happiness. Of course it can. Two very expensive cats over the years have more than proved that for me. A lot of studies have come out to show that more money does not bring more happiness. And it is true that a poor miserable person may not become less miserable with more money. But I think this perspective misses the point. Money by itself does not have the power to influence our state of mind, but the wise use of money can definitely improve life, bring a lot more pleasure and joy into one’s life, and allow one to participate in one of of the most certain ways to produce happiness: generously giving to others.
In my research for this post, I came across this interesting article on the subject:
So Where Did It All Start?
Some say this misperception started with Adam Smith, that there is a limited ability to achieve happiness by acquiring wealth, as discussed in his 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
And of course in modern times, it has been put out there by wealthy bosses wanting to keep their workers happy with less-than-fair wages, or governments wanting to raise taxes.
Now some caveats here. I’m not saying money is the most important factor in bringing someone happiness, or even an essential one. I’ve been happy poor and I’ve been happy rich, and I can’t say rich is better in this regard, but it certainly makes it easier–and, mainly, money can buy you freedom in terms of the time to do what makes you feel good.
An interesting aside in this research is that scientists have found that people who are happy tend to make more money, especially later in life.
Celebrate The Temporary
A lot of the reports make much of the fact that receiving a sudden windfall only produces a temporary burst of pleasure, as if something is wrong with that. My contention has always been that a life well lived and well enjoyed is a series of temporary pleasures–like falling in love at first sight, or moving into a new home, or a wonderful vacation, or having a wonderful meal. All of these can bring lots of joy and happiness, but that initial burst wears off. And we need to celebrate the temporary nature of almost everything rather than decry it.
This awareness is exemplified in the old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly rent it.”
Though I think a quote that wraps my view up perfectly is from actress Bo Derek.
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.
One of my quotes on the subject:
While money certainly can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you a lot of courses on how to achieve happiness.
An even more recent quote of mine:
Money is the lubricant for a smoothly satisfying life.