Does more money result in more happiness?
As my wife and I lazily follow American Idol, we’ve noticed a common statement of hope uttered by many of the contestants, “American Idol is the best thing that has ever happened to me, it’s gonna change everything!”
The contestants are not alone in their zeal to believe that happiness is a direct result of more money, fame, and/or success. Still… Every time I hear those words I cannot help but wonder if these changes will be for the better.
Setting aside fame and success, let’s hone in on the presumption that more money leads to more happiness.
Money and happiness – the wrong way
Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, many of us believe that if we just had more money, things would be better. But would they really? I mean, think about it… What have you done with the money you’ve earned up to this point? Were you responsible with it, or did you spend with disregard and without a plan?
If you’ve failed to responsibly manage little then it’s rational to assume you will do the same with more, only on a much larger scale.
We need only examine the life of the late Michael Jackson to see the possibility of earning untold millions yet departing awash in debt and scandal. Irresponsible money management is not cured by more money, and happiness is not achieved as a direct result of attaining more money.
I believe the “troubled rich” are troubled simply because they place an inordinate amount of attention on the money itself. When we improperly equate money with happiness, we set ourselves up for disappointment and possibly heartache.
Money and happiness – the right way
When kept in the proper perspective, it is possible to achieve an improved state of happiness through the wise use of money.
At this point in my life I can honestly say that more money would increase my happiness, but that statement hinges on my understanding the following two points:
- Have a specific goal for using the money. It’s important to have an explicit goal in mind to buffer the risk of tying happiness to the money itself rather than to the achievement of the goal.
- Define a specific amount and do not covet more. If we don’t cap the amount necessary to reach our goal, the fine line between need and want is too easily crossed. Defining amounts protects against temptation.
My goal is to be debt free. I need a specific amount of money to meet that goal. My happiness is tied to the goal, not the money. Ultimately, my happiness lies in the freedom and flexibility that accompany the absence of owing others.
More money can afford us the ability to reduce or eliminate debt, thus increasing our financial freedom and free time. At the same time, more money can lead to corruption, stress, and burden of possession.
Just as personal finance is personal, the link between money and happiness can only be determined at the individual level. Based on my needs and intents for using the money I believe more money could very easily increase my level of happiness.
As Dave Ramsey is quick to point out, money is amoral. Our use of it can be moral or immoral, but money itself is neither. The link between money and happiness is much the same… It’s not the money itself that influences our happiness, but rather how we view the money and how we choose to use it.
Would more money make you happy?
What do you think of money as an amoral entity, attributing the relative good or evil to the person and their use of it rather than to the money itself? What about your particular situation – would more money bring you more happiness? If so, why?