Only The Poor or Super Rich Say “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

Achieve Big GoalsWhoever said, “money can’t buy happiness” is either poor or wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. The incessant amount of studies by researchers trying to prove money can’t buy happiness is simply a result of the researcher’s own poverty or unhappiness. Because they are financially mediocre, researchers are trying to console themselves that it’s OK not being wealthy.

Generally, researchers have a higher sense of self because they have more educational training. Hence, it tears them up when they see other “lesser beings” make more than them. Meanwhile, those who continue to highlight research stating that money can’t buy happiness are trying to justify their own financially unspectacular selves as well!

You see, the financially mediocre are all in cahoots with each other. They’ve banded together to proclaim that being middle class regular people is good enough. It probably is good enough for most people, but not for these unsatisfied folks who think they are smarter and better than everyone else!  If being middle class or poor was good enough, then they’d leave well enough alone and be happy with their financial mediocrity.  It’s a hard pill to swallow, but swallow they must.  Not everybody can make multiple six figures, live in million dollar houses, and pay cash for luxury automobiles. That’s just life and they are trying to bring you down.  Don’t let them!

THE TRICKY RICH

On the flip side, you have the super rich who also say, “money can’t buy happiness.”  They’ve got all the luxury in the world, with not an ounce of financial worry. It must be nice never having to budget during Christmas season. It must be nice going to $1,000/head charity galas and paying $200 for front row seats to watch the great Itzhak Perelman play violin.  These types of people need to fight for the poor because otherwise, they’ll be deemed as greedy bastards.

The guilt factor the super rich have is enough to say statements such as, “The rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes!” Even if you slapped a 99% marginal income tax rate on Warren Buffet, he still will make more than 99% of the world.  Of course it’s OK to raise taxes when you have so much wealth! The super rich will lecture us to stop focusing so much on money and just following our dreams.  Don’t listen to them for one bit!  They’re just trying to win you over and pretend to be like one of you.

DEFINITELY HAPPIER

I don’t know about you, but I’m very happy making more than I did 10 years ago. 10 years ago, I was worried whether I could afford getting desert for two on a date. Now, the cost of a seven layer chocolate cake for $8.99 doesn’t even cross my mind, only the 5 miles I’ll have to run tomorrow instead.

10 years ago, I used to stress more at work because if I ever got fired, my safety net was as think as sheets of wet Kleenex! Now, I’m focused on all the good things at work and don’t worry about face time issues and work place politics. 10 years ago, I would never be able to consciously buy two round-trip tickets the day before to celebrate Valentines week in Hawaii. Now, I’m excited to go on more last minute adventures because experiences are what matter most!

The reason why money does buy happiness is because once you have money, you don’t worry about money anymore. All the stress that comes with a lack of money melts away. You’re not pissed at your friends for short-changing the pot during a group meal outing. You don’t care if you get a flat tire and have to spend $200 to replace. You’re just not worried anymore, and that feels fantastic!

Money also allows you to buy fantastic memories. Most would agree that your happiest moments are spent with friends and loved ones.  If you have money to travel and be with those you care about, is that not happiness production? It absolutely is. What about all the fun times you had taking salsa lessons or playing tennis at the club? Not a cheap endeavor, but so fun, and made possible by money.

CONCLUSION

When people start telling you money can’t buy happiness, take a good hard look at their finances. They are likely telling you this because they don’t have much money themselves. They haven’t tasted the freedom money buys. And if they so happen to be research PhD’s, well you can forget about their advice right there. If they are super rich, then you know they are just trying to blend in and not look selfish.

Money can buy happiness because money buys peace of mind and opportunities for great experiences. Don’t be fooled by ego-consoling research and those who espouse! They are just trying to keep you from achieving your financial goals so they can feel better about themselves.

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Regards,

Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I can tell you this: I’ve had some money, and I’ve NOT had some money. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure does make it a lot easier to actually BE happy!
    I love your post. I think you’re absolutely right. People DO make excuses to coddle themselves into thinking that they’re doing ok, and that their situation is “right where” they want to be. I would give anything to have a great income right now, but I’m building a business and sometimes it’s tough. However, I know what I’m building, and I know I’ll be successful. That part makes me happy. Once I have achieved a level of that success that will come with a nice income, I will be much more happy. And for those who don’t believe me, I invite you to come along for the ride and watch!
    Thanks for the post, Samurai! I enjoy the blog!

    • BD says

      Wrong.
      If you have a million dollars, and your body is sick, you can afford health care and fix it. That goes a long way to improve happiness.

      I’ve been in situations where my body was sick, and I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor to get things fixed, because I didn’t have money (for either health insurance or for a doctor’s care). It SUCKS.

      I’d be a whole lot happier if I had a million dollars and I was sick, than if I was poor and sick. Because at least with the money you can buy either a cure, or at the very least, some drugs to help with comfort.

  2. says

    I agree with Valentina, Jacob, and vga. The marginal utility of increasing disposable income really diminishes quickly after a certainly threshold.

    I would argue that there is a second threshold, where you have too much money. I grew up in one of the richest cities in the nation and went to the best private high school, whose tuition per annum exceeds what most people spend on new cars. What I learned from living in my hometown and going to my school was that money really doesn’t make you happy. The rates of alcoholism and divorce in my area are staggering. Our divorce rate exceeds 50%. At my high school, at least 45% of our parents were alcoholics. You’d think that beautiful, rich people would be happy, but they aren’t. My school was also known as “The Pharmacy” for our drug habit. All of the best private schools had drug problems. Rich kids can afford the drugs. Some kids become alcoholics at age 9-11. Money gave them ephemeral happiness and lifetime addiction. There’s more than one thing at work in this town, but does money make the people in my area happy?

    • says

      Yikes Mneiae, that is a really sad phenomenon. I wonder what it is that really corrupts people. Can it simply be money that causes you to go drink and do drugs? There must be something else!

      • says

        My theory: It is something else – we all have a “happiness void” if you will that we desperately try to fill with money, sex or power (among other things). It could be different for all of us – but once we achieve that very thing we think will fill that happiness void and then find that it really doesn’t ultimately satisfy we turn to the next thing.

        So in this case that Mneiae mentions, folks thought that money would bring ultimate happiness – it doesn’t, so they turn to sex, drinking or drugs to help fill the void.

  3. says

    Total ad-hominem, but you always generate a lot of buzz Sam – you’ve definitely got a gift for that.

    Not sure the “conspiracy theory” is enough to convince me that these researchers want to keep others down to make themselves feel good, but let’s say they do – I guess I would say, “So what”

    Is that research really keeping people from pursuing more wealth, building their business or working hard to make more money? Doubtful.

    Personally I think most folks want to desperately believe money will make them happier because then it will justify all the time spent away from families killing themselves to build their own little kingdoms.

    I’m not naive that a certain level of money makes people happier. Beyond a certain level however it simply doesn’t work because we weren’t designed to be ultimatley fulfilled with joy by money.

    Great post!

    • says

      Just wanted to add one more point – There is a sense that money can make us happier when we are using it for others. In other words, the more we view our money as a tool to be used to help and serve others, the more satisfaction we get from it.

      • says

        Yes, the Researchers and their financial backers are trying to lull people to not shoot for the moon and accept their fate as average people so they don’t revolt against those who have more money and power.

        It’s all about revolution prevention.

  4. DrJ says

    I’m going to agree with someone above who said it depends on how hard you have to work to make that extra money. I’ve you’re putting in reasonable hours and you enjoy what you do then sure, more money is nice. However I was working 90-100 hours/week as a physician which I did not enjoy. I hated it beyond explanation. I was putting away for retirement, but that’s down the road quite a bit and I want to enjoy my younger years doing things now. I quit and took a job making quite a bit less, allows me so much more time to pursue hobbies and interests and lets me travel the world now. In this scenario I am immeasurably more happy with less money, but it’s less about the money and more about the time and freedom.

    If I could have my current lifestyle but also get some incredible inheritence or something than yeah, that might make me happier. Otherwise I’m putting time and freedom above money. Of course part of the key to this is that I don’t really care about a bigger house or a fancier car to impress other people. I had enough impressing people as a doctor and honestly other people don’t care after 5 minutes. In fact the status and income often alienate you from other people who are intimidated out of no fault of your own, but simply by their own insecurities.

    • says

      Sounds good Dr. J. 90-100 hours a week is brutal, and is only sustainable imo if you’re doing something that’s absolutely your own.

      The good thing is, despite doing something else, you are still a Doctor!

  5. Ary says

    Hey Sam,

    In reasonable limits I agree with what you have stated above, that money can buy happiness and only that poor or rich people tell you that money doesn’t bring happiness.
    But let’s just give an example of a average girl, that just lost her beloved sister in a car accident, do you think that money would bring a smile on that girl’s face? I’m not so sure about it. Also there are a lot of good and precious moments in one’s life that money can’t compete with.
    Even if we can sort the world by money, our thinkings will always be different.

    • says

      Hi Ary, of course not. The only thing that average girl would want is for her sister to be alive and well with her. And all things being equal, the average girl would sure appreciate the money to comfort her in her trying times.

  6. Ira says

    Debating if the “group” should be happy with a certain amount of money is without point to me. It makes much more sense to devide “self” and others.
    Myself, I have decided to be wealthy, meaning financially independent…personal decision, really, and one that is rooted in realism of my future security. It seems most people here have similar mindset.
    However, it seems some must feel guilty about having money, or derive stress from the situation of accumulating money, especially when I see that the nominal savings rate is still only about 4-5%

    Also, “happiness” is funny. Some studies have shown that persons who are concerned about ozone depletion are much less happy than those concerned about species extinction.

    so maybe happiness from money is just a more abstract concept …. like ozone (O3), and not as cute as saving the Pandas

    However, there is some very good information from this type of study….
    1. Most Americans are happy, especially slightly above-average wage earners. Excellent news for the stability of our nation, and should encourage the Chinese to buy more T-Bills
    2. Most Americans seem to be bad at math. The phrase “hit the lotto” rich makes me sick, and I dont get why people dont understand that 1 million is not very much money from a cash flow perspective.
    3. In the future, I should have many propective tenants for the apartments I plan to buy. Many Americans do not want the added stress of managing cash, investments or tenants, and may therefore be happier to pass that money along to me (or any of you)

    Cheers!

  7. says

    With this phrase “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”
    , I would argue, as this eternal question depends on many factors and human consciousness. I believe that all the same availability of money in our society offers more opportunities to see the world, and Gross pens a man more pleased than the man who all his life spent at home in his neighborhood.

  8. Hal says

    I’m curious as to what the writer’s salary is. And I think there’s a misconception about the “money can’t buy happiness” phrase. Yes it can buy you different oppurtunities and fun experiences without a doubt, but if you look to money to buy you exemption from the human experience then no money will not buy you happiness.

    “Most would agree that your happiest moments are spent with friends and loved ones. If you have money to travel and be with those you care about, is that not happiness production?”

    Of course there’s always anti-deppressents :) but then you need a prescription and I think (I hope) the hypocratic oath says something about taking money for that.

    But I agree with what the writer says about the very poor or very rich saying what they say. Humans want to feel like they’re a part of something, anything. And if they’re a part of one of the financial extremes they may feel isolated and trapped but still desire to relate to more people outside of their financial realm.

      • Hal says

        Money to buy your way out of something. To be exempt from something.
        Maybe I misspelled it?

        We all have days when we’re sad, maybe friends die, parents die, etc.
        Just things that all people have to deal with at some point in their lives that are
        unfortunate or tragic.

  9. Hal says

    Ok my computer just freaked, but in response to the quote in my post….Yes spending time with loved ones are very happy moments, but if you love each other so much why do have to travel to them? Why aren’t you just near each other already?

    Ok I’m done

  10. chase says

    I just wanted to add my $0.02. I am a musician, programmer, and tinkerer. Not professionally but these are my 3 main passions in life. While money it’s self would not by me happiness, the free time to dedicate more to the things in life I enjoy most and the means to afford the things that go along with them (working equipment, updated books, a complete toolkit) would bring a great deal of peace of mind and happiness to my life.

    What the things that are important in your life may differ but ultimately money can buy you more time with the interests or people that you value/love most in your life. And ultimately time is the one thing we never have enough of. so being able to spend more of that precious time doing the things and/or being with the people we love most would be the greatest reward of wealth.

    If you don’t know what makes you happy, then you will never be happy. Otherwise, money can most assuredly buy you more happiness.

  11. says

    I was reading some updated research on this in The Economist which is showing that if you look at it on a countrywide level, money does buy happiness.

    i.e. The richer countries of the world *are* happier than the poorer ones, on the whole. So much for the hippy trail!

    Perhaps it’s because they’ve all got TVs now and they know what they’re missing?

    The saddest place in the world relative to income? Bulgaria!

    • says

      The Economist is a magazine for the educated folk with wealth right in the middle… not poor, not filthy rich, although some are. Clearly, that researcher is doing pretty darn well for him/herself!

  12. Robert says

    I believe true happiness comes from a sound philosophy, education and speculation of perception of what is actually going on around you and the way you deal with it. I think true good perpetuates true good in all areas of life and you shape the world around yourself. I believe fortune can be a consequence of true good and deep understanding. Not saying that money can’t buy you happiness, but I believe, and I think you do too, that it’s secondary to true happiness. Example> If you do something for someone for the sake of feeling good about yourself, then it only leaves you feeling empty. But, if you do something out of empathy for another or for a higher being (in my case “God and Christ” then you are purposeful) and that’s true happiness. I like the burden of my life. I enjoy intense heat, Freezing cold, mowing my grass, fixing my house, helping others, raising my son, eating chinese, going to movies, having the almost impossible chance of existing and actually being alive and so on and so on. I don’t know if I agree or disagree with anything you wrote, just wanted to add a little.

  13. Positive Brother says

    Great post! Really liked this “The reason why money does buy happiness is because once you have money, you don’t worry about money anymore.”

    On the flip side, once you have that money, some people then turn their worries to elsewhere!

  14. says

    This is more complicated than the initial question of “Can money make you happy”? Some of my best experiences or memories have nothing to do with money! Certainly lack of money would make me very unhappy! Money in itself does not make me happier. More money would provide better experiences. For me, money is more of a score card. This is one of the ways, we measure success.

  15. says

    Awesome post. I think it depends on the person and what motivates them to be financially successful. Personally, my happiness will come when I’m able to give back to the community and help others. To achieve this, I need to be financially fit. So therefore, money WILL buy happiness.

  16. says

    Very true post. Money does buy happiness, because the more money you have the less issues and problems you have. Therefor, you have no worries regarding money. However, you may have problems with love or companionship, but nevertheless money does buy happiness. Also, I watched a documentary the other day “The One Percent” about the Johnson Family(J&J) and throughout the whole movie, the family avoids the film. Like you said, they didn’t want to be viewed as greedy, so when they were on film they were giving charity or what not.

    • says

      It might be a curse to be THAT wealthy like the Johnsons b/c the expectation is that you have to continue giving forever or else you will be perceived as greedy.

      They are in the 0.1%, not 1%!

  17. says

    I’m going to agree with you. Money can provide things that can help with our happiness. I’ll admit though, there are times I wish I could get rid of 90% of the things I have and just travel and live wherever.

  18. says

    I agree! money can buy security and things that would make people happy. The book “Rich dad, Poor Dad” tells us something… That money is not the root of evil, it is the lack of money. There are a lot of things you could do with money if used in a right way. Too much of something is bad that includes too much poverty and too much money. Thanks for this post.

  19. jj says

    I admit that i haven’t had time to read comments so maybe someone already addressed this. Anyway, the truth is : You wouldn’t think this if you did not have your health or had a sick kid (like I do). Money cannot buy health. I wish everyday that my child had good health.

  20. says

    I’ve read many (not all) comments and still feel the same… which is I totally agree and disagree at the same time. Of course I am happier now than I was about 10 years ago when I had basically no money. But is that only b/c of the money or also because I like the work I’m doing and I work just enough to have a little luxuries without missing spending time with family and friends? I think happiness is more a question of balance between money and more “meaningful” things such as love, health, friendship… and every individual has its own balance. Some people “needs” more money to really feel happy while others go through life with a smile, being fulfilled by their kids, passions or anything else not necessarily related to money. Money does really help to be happy b/c it means a lot more freedom like you clearly said. But I don’t think its the answer to every dream.

  21. klaviatury says

    Your silly did you just pull this article out of your tuat? Front row Pearlman tickets were the cheapest since a hall is an instrument and the beat sound is generated in the center of the hall. More money just means larger bills, and higher cost for gratification. Gratification becomes a costly thing to satisfy, ie a colored person gets the same amount of gratification from a bottle of shilz malt liquor that bill gates get from a three thousand dollar bottle of cognac. 1.50 = 3000.00 gratification remains the same. Money buys better things not better happiness. At times it can be a curse, food becomes bland, people get boring, ultra adult entertainment just hardly stimulates the glands. Guess it depends how you were raised, what excites the commoner even neuvo riche does nothing for older generations. I can imagine if a vagabond was given money after years squalor the concept of money not buying happiness would be absurd. There are groups of wealthy individuals that actually take vacations where they leave their Amex onyx at home and live as a hobo for a period of time even the late Howard hughs was a proud member.

  22. Untemplater says

    I’m a lot happier than 10 years ago too and I think it’s both because I’m more financially secure and also bc I’m doing work that I love now. More money would be great but I don’t feel I need more to be happy now.

  23. says

    I have always been a believer of that old adage. After reading your post, it made me think twice.. and I think I will agree. Money CAN buy happiness. When we have the money to spend for good food, out-of-town trips, and see the smile from my children, I feel an indescribable happiness because I was able to provide for my family.

  24. Tails says

    Hold on now, the research says that happiness maxes out at 75k; so happiness does decrease with a decrease in income from that level. I live on 15k (saving 22k) and am doing great so I think that sum is fairly luxurious.

      • Jon says

        Living on 15k a year would be easy for a single guy with no kids. I lived on 1k/month in my college days. Mostly eat at home, rent a room in a house, drive a used car… Give someone like that a 50k salary and he can save 20k easily a year.

  25. D Evans says

    I’m like Tails in that I live on 15K per year. I work and make more as does DW. and live in a small city.

    Experiences create happiness. Cultivate fun experiences and hobbies that don’t cost much, or better yet, pay for themselves. Make a determination to be optimistic, live a healthy lifestyle, and enjoy and be grateful for what riches that you have.

    I like to garden in a small way (grow fresh herbs), cook, hike, DIY projects, and read. A good day could include some shop time, a walk to the library and a home made pizza or Thai, spent with the partner that I love. I could wastefully spend more, but why? Think “Millionaire Next Door”, apply its lessons to your own circumstances and get rich!

  26. Jon says

    I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. I’ve seen the budgets of my local university and I can tell you a lot of those researchers are making a nice six figures! Very far from poverty. Also, it’s not like the researchers in the world have some mass conspiracy and just making up the data.

    I found your site recently from Mr. Money Mustache and I’ve been reading a few of your posts. Mostly some decent stuff but I notice you tend to take shots at various groups of people, like Democrats and now Researchers in this article. I’m neither a Democrat or Researcher myself but these cheap shots just come across as petty and bitter. Anyway, just some constructive criticism. Continue making generalizations if you wish! ;)

    From the research I’ve read, money DOES affect happiness, but only up to a point. Here’s one study: http://wws.princeton.edu/news/Income_Happiness/Happiness_Money_Summary.pdf

    It’s not just about money, but how it is being earned. Making $200,000 annually would be fantastic, but not if you were working 90 hours a week at a job you hate to do it.

    I think when people say that “money can’t buy happiness”, they mean it in the sense that money ALONE can’t buy happiness. That’s why it is possible to be rich and miserable. Having financial security is just one part of the happiness equation, and it’s not even the most important part.

  27. says

    I believe money does play a major role in defining happiness. If you have the money to enjoy the freedom and be able to do what you want, whenever you want life can be good. Overall I believe its the element of success and the work you’ve put in to achieve something great that makes you happy not just the physical aspect of money.

  28. ap999 says

    I believe it can to a extent. I remember the days when I was only making 1500 to 2000 dollars a month. I always stayed out of debt, paid bills on time, saved money, contributed to my IRA. I was doing all things right, but there was never enough to just go do what I want. I was being financially responsible and sure I could go out and eat at a nice place. Or go to the movies without breaking the bank. But I wanted to do bigger things!

    These days when making mid 6 figures finally. Whenever I have time to take a week or two off, I can book that trip out to the islands off thailand and go on that 5k scuba diving trip I always wanted to do without a second thought. What I like to say is, money has bought me some freedom to do what I want to do. It has created the ability to know that yes I have something for retirement, yes i can take that trip that I always wanted too without going into debt for it or stretching myself to thin financially.

    I have to say making more, I am happier. It was no fun dreaming about doing these things making only 15k or so a year. Dreams are good to have, but dreams that you can actually make into reality are that much better. Overall I am just more stress free too. I have a buffer. It can also buy me time and security, if tomorrow I loose my job, I don’t have to stress it for a while.

    By no means I am rich. I still consider myself middle class.

    • says

      I completely agree! Does making more money make the average person happy (if you aren’t a happy person it likely doesn’t matter much)…probably not. However, making more money does give you the options to do the things that make you most happy!

      My hobbies have stayed the same as my income has grown. However, I am happier now because I can do these things much more frequently (travel abroad, invest in real estate and snowboard).

  29. EW1 says

    I generally agree, money in itself does not bring happiness, the financial freedom that comes with it does.
    Or as a smart man once said: Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery much more comfortable.

  30. Nathan says

    It seems that this article is based entirely on anecdotal evidence and unsupported claims. The author’s cynical view of researchers and belief that people who conduct scientific studies into this matter have shady personal agendas undermines the credibility of this article entirely.

    • says

      Ah, but the evidence is not anecdotal. Researcher salaries are under $100,000. And I have been poor and I have been rich, and I have said “money can’t buy happiness.” Now that I’m in the middle, I absolutely believe money can at least rent happiness.

      Have you gone the entire income spectrum like I have?

  31. Mike says

    In general, I agree that more money and financial freedom makes life better. It seems so simple and self evident that one wonders why anyone would even try to disagree.

    I recently went back to school for an MBA and I was surprised to learn about all the supposed research about how money doesn’t motivate people and after 75K or so a year you don’t get any happier. I find it offensive when I’m told that money isn’t what I want, or isn’t going to make me any happier. My message to the egghead professors is, “Speak for yourselves eggheads!”. Money is and always will be the Primary motivator. There will be exceptions of course, there are always exceptions.

    But why does the research point in this direction if it isn’t true? My best guess is that the belief that anyone should only have so much, or needs so much or wants so much is the very foundation for socialism. It makes it ok to tax the rich beyond reason because you aren’t doing them any real harm if they are just as happy before the tax as after the tax. My next best guess is the university environment is so politically charged that trying to suggest anything other than what is deemed appropriate and acceptable is career suicide for professors who disagree.

    • says

      Just be a little careful of the viewpoints of MBA professors and financial journalists besides financial researchers.

      Every single one of them I’ve spoken to secretly wishes they could have become a great financial success, but they decided to stick with their professions.

      How did you find my article always curious to know. Thx

      • Mike says

        Samurai,

        I found your article when I was trying to decide what car to buy and you’re 1/10th rule came up in a Google search. I’m still trying to decide on a car, but I’m leaning towards the cheap side with a 2003 to 2008 Honda Civic. I started reading some of your other articles because I tend to agree with what you say and I like to find out what other people are thinking in the comments.

  32. Anon says

    Money does make you happy in this age where money is the currency of everything. Money is like energy, it can be used to do things or get things done. If you are in a place where money has no value then, money does not make you happy. It’s just a piece of paper. Ignorance and stupidity can also make you happy :)

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