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. Celine says

    This is so true. I went from being raised poor to “not being worried about the cost of changing the tyre” like you say (or fantastic holidays, or restaurant meals) and feel much happier. Thus said, family, love and relationships are the primary source of happiness. If you’re not successful in this part of your life, no amount of money will make you happy. But once you have a loving family and great friends, money is the next thing that makes all the difference.

  2. Mike Hunt says

    Sam,

    If you have $1 million in the bank, how much happiness will the 2nd million bring you?

    I would argue not much, really. Losing 15 lbs would bring me more happiness.

    -Mike

    • says

      Mike –
      Yours is an interesting view. Many of us (personal finance bloggers) see $1M not as you might, but as “$40K/yr withdrawal.” At any age, there’s a world of difference between $40K/yr and $80K/yr.
      So, the fellow who has his eye on an $80K retirement views that extra $1M as the difference between retirement and years of work ahead. I’d say that correlates to some level of happiness, as it charges his day to day life or has the potential to.

      On the other hand, the guy who pre-crash had $1.8M and finds he now has $1M, is pretty upset, as not too long prior he was within a year or two of retiring, and now may be a decade away.

      • says

        Yes, good point from a draw and retirement perspective. 80k vs 40k is a very big difference per year in terms of being able to do a lot of activities and see the world. Now that interest rates are even lower now thanks to the Fed, you’ll need $2 million more to generate that extra $40,000/yr in retirement and not $1 million!

        Thanks Bernanke!

  3. says

    Hi Sam,
    While I agree that many miserable people snipe about what others have and outwardly state they don’t envy them while they really do, there are some interesting factors at work.

    We’re moderately well off (I’m guessing top 10%) and I feel our income/wealth certainly helps, but I honestly don’t think we’d be much happier, say, when my wife goes back to work and we’re making more. I also don’t think inheriting a few hundred K would make us much happier. We’re happy now. Sure, maybe a nicer house or some trips to Europe would bring some temporary benefit, but there’s more to it than than – being content in your career, your marriage, your family, etc. I’m kind of in the middle on this.

    Here’s an interesting study (attached link to another blog since the data is far into the video) outlining that after about 60K in the US, happiness pretty much stays steady and doesn’t increase. So, in effect (if you’re typical), you could be relatively happy as a school teacher or low level white collar employee living in a moderate cost of living area and still be just as happy as a high-powered attorney or highly compensated executive.

    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2010/05/happiness-is-earning-60000-a-year.html

    It’s all about how people view themselves relative to others…and in the US, 60K is around top 20%, so it’s “good enough” for many it seems.
    .-= Darwin’s Money´s last blog ..Is Private School Worth It? It Depends… =-.

    • says

      Yep, I’ve read that $60,000 study, which I frankly don’t believe. Getting $150,000 a year in interest income will make a happiness difference than $60k/yr in interest income. Thanks for highlighting it btw, as I was too lazy to find it myself.

      The study is a nice way to keep people DOWN, and coddle people’s fragile egos for only making around $60,000/yr, which is “coincidentally” is close the the median per capita income of the states. These studies are very socialistic in nature, and they are very dangerous. Don’t believe em.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Who Needs A Job When You Have A Private School Degree =-.

  4. says

    Well, I guess it depends on if you can actually enjoy your money. If you work 100 hours a week and have all the money you want, are you really going to be happy? Maybe not.

    I think some of it is just a mind-set. I think back to my grandma that lived through the Depression. She had plenty of money into her retirement years, but just never felt like it was enough. She was still generally a happy person, but I don’t think she ever realized how ‘free’ she really was.

    I also believe some of ‘happiness’ comes from maturity. You mentioned that you no longer feel like you have to kiss up like you did 10 years ago. I know as I have gotten older, some of the ‘little things’ don’t bother me like they did before either. (Be it work life, home life, wherever.)

    Anyway, you do raise some really good points. I think money can buy happiness if you realize you have the money, are mature enough to handle it and not blow it, and you have the time to enjoy it.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Opportunity Cost – Trading Financial Gain for Security =-.

    • says

      Yeah, not being able to enjoy your money is a prob if you’re working 100 hours a week.

      It really is the little things that no longer bother ie 50 cents more for gas, friend short changing the dinner bill by $20 bucks etc.

  5. says

    I’m going to have to debate this one with you. I think whether you’re happy or not has very little to do with money. I’ve known some very happy people who live pay check to pay check. I have to say I don’t know very many wealthy people, but the media sure has a heyday whenever one overdoses on drugs. This leads me to believe they weren’t happy.

    And what about your friend Lyndon? He sure doesn’t seem very happy to me based on your article you posted a while back. He’d be much happier pursuing his dream of photographing wildlife for National Geographic.

    So does money buy happiness? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on if the person was happy to begin with.
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Finally Took the Plunge… =-.

    • says

      Everybody knows someone who is happy who is poor, and unhappy who has money. All else being equal, I sincerely believe having more money makes you happier b/c it allows you to experience more wonderous things and not have to stress out as much about money.

      Lyndon doesn’t seem happy, yet he chose not to leave in the end. He is “happy enough” making $300k/yr or more now I suppose.

      If you believe a person is happy or not to begin with, then you are giving up control of one’s own ability to improve and become a happier person. I don’t believe that. We all have the power to become more happy, or happy in genera.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

    • says

      This actually summarizes well what the research finds. Beyond meeting the basic needs satisfaction increases less than people think as income increases. There is also another aspect in terms of time series. GDP has doubled over the past 20 years and people are no happier! We drive bus sized vehicles, have amazing technology, live in McMansions, have 300 tv channels to choose from and we don’t feel any better off! I only feel better off if my income goes up and all of my neighbors stay the same (ha!ha!).
      .-= DIY Investor´s last blog ..Cool and informative =-.

  6. Powell says

    It’s like Hilary Clinton saying “The rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.” in a recent video. Of course she has to say that, she’s a multi millionaire and it’s cool to say so b/c she is a democrat!

    I’m certainly happier now than when I was only making $60,000 a year. Not 500% happier, but much happier indeed! I don’t worry about the little things anymore, and that’s great!

  7. says

    I think you’re confusing “buy happiness” with “reducing stress.” The scientists say that there’s no correlation between money and happiness, or at least not like we think.

    I wholeheartedly agree that when you have money, you don’t worry about little things. And I can’t wait until I’m all the way there (if there is such a thing).

    My goal is to be stress-free, financially speaking. I don’t want to have to worry about an emergency fund, buying a candybar, or paying extra for awesome experiences. And I think money can help me do all of that.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..Bank of America Responds…Far Too Late =-.

  8. Samer Forzley says

    I think the worst case would be someone who instantly got rich, like someone who just won a big jackpot of a few million. You go from money cant make you happy, to I cant shake off all these people who want me to make them happy, to money cant make you happy at all
    .-= Samer Forzley´s last blog ..Secure Cash Payment Option Increase Online Retailer’s Conversion Rate and Average Order Value =-.

      • Igotadose says

        Most folks that hit the Lotto, are back to their original wealth levels prior to hitting it,
        in short time. If you don’t have the habit of being frugal, you’ll spend it all.

        The single biggest impacter of overall happiness is overpopulation, in my opinion. It’s
        the root cause of much of the woes in the US and worldwide. Reduce population and
        happiness will increase. Stress will reduce, good jobs will come back, and we’ll stop
        being so afraid of Corporate America.

        • says

          I agree on the overpopulation part 100%, which is why I also appreciate your comment on “Don’t Have Children If You Can’t Take Care Of Yourself”.

          Less stress = more happiness. I don’t understand why more people don’t agree with this.

    • Jeff says

      Evan, I agree with you completely.

      My wife and I are looking to retire soon and we don’t need the stress of us outliving our money, or not being able to do some traveling and golf.

  9. Mike Hunt says

    Sam,

    You do bring up a good point- I just went out for drinks and some snacks with some friends and picked up the bill for everyone- it was $150. A minor splurge but just a blip on the radar. 15 years ago that would be a hardship.

    It would be unwise to do this everyday but once in a while it is nice.

    -M

  10. says

    I don’t believe that money can buy happiness.

    There are lots of happy poor people. There are lots of unhappy rich people.

    I see money as a plus. It can help you achieve happiness. That’s not nothing but that’s about all you can say for money, in my view.

    Does gasoline make for a great vacation? It can help. But you can have a great vacation without any gasoline at all and you can have a horrible vacation with tanks and tanks of the stuff.

    Rob
    .-= Rob Bennett´s last blog ..Investing: The New Rules #5: The Great Karnac Knows (Not Quite) All =-.

    • says

      There’s a lot of a lot of things Rob. All else being equal, I’d rather have more money than less. I’m trying to tell people that it’s OK to want to improve your finances and make and have more. It’s not uncool to want financial wealth.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

  11. says

    Sam, wait a second. I certainly don’t think all Ph.Ds feel that money can’t buy happiness nor are all of us (finishing mine later this year & my wife has one as well) broke. You are defining happiness as spending time with your friends and love ones who live far away, doing salsa lessons, not stressing over restaurant bills etc. Money does afford you more resources to do all of these things. However, money in itself is not buying you happiness. It’s the freedom to do what you love without financial concerns that gives you the happiness. In other words, a mere increase in money would not necessarily equate to a proportional increase in happiness, especially if you have less time to do what you enjoy.

    In other words, I think your justification agrees with (not disproves) the broke researchers that you are discrediting. BTW, I’m not trying to be adversarial, but I do want to challenge the thought that the researcher’s bias is invalidating their results.
    .-= Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog ..Yakezie Round Up and Uncommon Money News (Vol. 96) =-.

    • Fun In The Sun says

      Don’t think he’s challenging people with PhDs. I think he’s challenging research who are against money and wealth, who most likely have their PhDs because they are researchers.

    • says

      Fun In The Sun is right. I don’t mean ALL PhDs, I just mean the researchers who are trying to prove this silly point, who all happen to have PhDs, b/c that’s what researchers do.

      Research bias often is prevalent, and in this case does invalidate results. They go in with an assumption that money does not buy happiness, and go to all ends to prove it doesn’t. If they were all rich, they’d know there is an increase level of happiness, and would try and prove it does.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

      • Larry says

        No, I think Roshawn is on to a fatal flaw in your argument:

        “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. 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.”

        This is a classic ad-hominem argument, trying to disprove a position by making assumptions about the character or motivations of your opponent. You have presented no evidence to justify any of the above comments. It would one thing if you examined some of this “research” you’re talking about and showed flaws with its methodology or conclusions. But how much the researcher is earning doesn’t matter in the slightest if their studies are well-constructed and properly documented. (In other words, supposing the researcher was a multi-millionaire and came up with the same conclusions you are so dismissing?)

        • says

          Isn’t it interesting how there have been a ton of studies already on this subject, and STILL researchers continue to try and prove money doesn’t lead to more happiness?

          The reason why a conclusive result isn’t good enough is b/c it’s not true! Hence, why they have to try and show over and over again why they think it is.
          .-= admin´s last blog ..“The Happy Loser” Archetype By Clotaire Rapaille =-.

  12. says

    Awesome post Sam. I believe that we want want money buys us. Just like you said…Exciting vacations, good dessert, having the peace of mind of not worrying about costs. Our upbringing may have ingrained those “money doesn’t grow on trees” mentality or that “it’s evil to want too much money”…where we feel bad if we want to be rich! It’s about time to break free of those “it’s good to be poor” mindsets and strive to be, do, and have as much as we can! :)

    • says

      Kristine, thanks for reading the post in its entirety! You’ve got the gist of it.

      It’s so silly society continues to try and tell us that it’s a bad mentality to want more money. It is a bad bad thing to think it’s bad to be rich.

      Break free I say, and don’t let society keep people down from wanting to make more!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Oops! The World Is Coming To An End! =-.

  13. says

    I don’t think Money and Happiness have 1 to 1 correlation, especially once you get beyond a basic level of existence. For example, is money going to make you happier if you’re living in poverty? Sure, because it would allow you to get beyond existing and trying to survive, to a point where you can truly live. Now did the money create the happiness – or the sense of well being and security? Once you get beyond a certain level I don’t think money can make you happy – it comes from an internal sense of self worth, of believing in something bigger than yourself and from giving and doing things for others.

    So yes, i think money can help people to improve their situations and reduce stress and create a better living environment, but happiness comes from elsewhere.

    That’s my 2 cents!
    .-= Money Smarts´s last blog ..Don’t Fall Prey To A Victim Mentality. Be Responsible For Your Actions And Live Free =-.

  14. says

    Oh, I thought it was the high income people who had higher sense of self because they had more money and that it tore them up to see lesser beings, such as the higher educated or the less stressed people be happier than they are :-D So they banded together to proclaim that spending money is good enough, indeed the final arbiter of what is great about life and so they go on vacations on mega yachts they don’t know how to drive, drink fine wine even though they can only tell that it is expensive and therefore good by the label, and first row seats to games they don’t know how to play themselves,… but I digress :-D

    Seriously though, sure money can buy some happiness, the kind of happiness that has money as a limiting factor, but money can’t buy all happiness, say, the kind of happiness that has time, good friends, skills, achievements, good looks, etc. as a limiting factor.

    In short … money has decreasing marginal utility like everything else.
    .-= Early Retirement Extreme´s last blog ..The ant and the grasshopper =-.

  15. says

    I think when my hubby and I made like $32,000 a year combined we were much happier than we are now and we make a lot more than that. It seems like when we have more money, it’s harder to figure out what to do with it and we worry if we’re doing the “right” thing.
    .-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Run to the Doctor, or Tough it Out? =-.

  16. says

    Another polarizing post, my friend. I think you revel in making people really think about many issues that no one else will touch with a ten-foot pole (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    There are SO many variables for this one — personality, how you were raised, who you surround yourself with, etc. But the first thing that strikes me is that I think it’s not that money can make you happy, but that it can make you less STRESSED (at least as far as paying the bills and having a safety net).

    But having money (say, upper or middle classes) may solve a few issues while creating a host of other problems. Sure, you have financial stability, but you still have to worry about your investments disappearing in the next Ponzi scheme or stock market crash, friends and family who want to suck you dry, and making yourself a target for thieves who want to rob you of your expensive material possessions.
    .-= Rainy-Day Saver´s last blog ..Marriage and Managing Finances =-.

    • says

      Hi Nicole – So many variables indeed, but all else being equal, people are lying to themselves when they try and proclaim having more money does not bring more happiness than having less money, simply by all the more wonderful things you can do with your life.

      The peculiar is people with no money, who never made a lot of money telling us that money doesn’t bring more happiness! Love it!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Oops! The World Is Coming To An End! =-.

  17. says

    I think scientists just need to have topics that trigger attention because they need to justify grant money to pay their living expenses. (I’ve been there writing grants and competing. You try to give the sexiest spin you can on super dry topic such as brain chemistry and neurons speed. The people who approve grants aren’t scientists and they pass out from boredom if you don’t sex it up.)

    Money itself does not buy happiness but the things money buys such as comfort, security, reduction of fear and stress bring happiness. However, after a certain level of money, anymore is rather meaningless and you start looking for ways to use money to influence the world around you.
    .-= Kim | Money and Risk´s last blog ..Your Home is not an Investment or Retirement Asset Pt 1 =-.

  18. says

    I’m a financial professional and if I had $100 Mil I can definitely tell you I would be a lot happier. I have to agree with you in your sentiments here, that feeling of not being happy is totally based on the way you are perceived and your financial stress. When you are financially secure you’re right, you don’t have to worry regardless of you’re perceived social class. If you are comfortable where you are then everything on top of that is gravy. The problems come when you are trying to live a few pay grades above what you actually make and the stresses that come along with the chase. Nice approach to money and utility!
    .-= Nunzio Bruno´s last blog ..Must Read For New Traders And Give Away! =-.

  19. says

    I don’t feel that it buys happiness. Just look at half of the reggae music I listen to..They all sign about being happy! :)

    No but seriously, having money can allow you to avoid certain headaches that many people have to deal with as a result of not having enough money. Though once you let your money control you, you run the risk of living an unfulfilled life.
    .-= MyFinancialObjectives´s last blog ..Entrepreneur! =-.

    • says

      The reason why they sing about not worrying and being happy is because there is an enormous amount of poverty on those islands. Trust me, the Haiti quake is really devasting and has open a poverty sore for the world to witness!

      If try were happy, they wouldn’t have to sing about the topic so much!

  20. says

    It’s very simple really. The people who say money can’t buy happiness are people who aren’t motivated by money. Typically, those people don’t rise to the ranks of the wealthy.

    The people who are motivated by money tend to disagree with the statement. Because they are motivated by money, having more of it is a good thing. That makes them happy.

    It’s the same thing with the super rich. Why would money motivate them when they have so much of it? At one point it clearly motivated them, although I would argue that most super rich people were motivated by running their business the best way they could. Money was just the by-product of running a great business.

    Us people who read/write finance blogs need to remember that not everyone is as interested in money like we are. Researchers are fueled by a burning curiosity about how the world works. They’re not doing research into the topic of money vs. happiness because they’re secretly jealous of the wealthy, they’re doing it because they want to know.

    Sam, you are clearly not a researcher. You throw out ideas that are controversial (and frankly, borderline ridiculous sometimes) because you like being the devil’s advocate. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s your blog and you can do whatever the heck you want. I just think that you shouldn’t pretend to understand the mindset of people who are so much different than you are, and you certainly shouldn’t assert they are secretly jealous of the wealthy.
    .-= Financial Uproar´s last blog ..Now For Something Completely Different =-.

    • Larry says

      “Sam, you are clearly not a researcher. You throw out ideas that are controversial (and frankly, borderline ridiculous sometimes) because you like being the devil’s advocate. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s your blog and you can do whatever the heck you want. I just think that you shouldn’t pretend to understand the mindset of people who are so much different than you are, and you certainly shouldn’t assert they are secretly jealous of the wealthy.”

      Without necessarily agreeing with everything in the above comment, I certainly support this paragraph. Personally, while I like having enough money to live comfortably, I have never had an all-consuming drive to accumulate great wealth. (I confess freely to pride, lust, gluttony, envy, wrath, and sloth in varying degrees, but avarice has never been a biggie for me.)

    • says

      “The people who say money can’t buy happiness are people who aren’t motivated by money. Typically, those people don’t rise to the ranks of the wealthy. ”

      Good point and probably very true for many people. For those who’ve been defeated to think this way, because they feel they cannot make money, I’m here to tell them that you can and don’t give up.

      Regarding your last point about being a researcher, yes, Financial Samurai isn’t “Scientific America” or “Time” magazine. It’s a blog. And given it’s my blog, it’s such fun to write whatever I want. Ain’t freedom great?

      Good luck with your businesses. Would like to read more about what you’ll be doing with your life. Don’t let defeat keep you down.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

  21. says

    Hi Sam. You’re right that being poor is miserable. As far as I’m aware nobody is disputing that fact.

    The issue is whether there is a continuation of happiness with a continuation of salary. And while you may be a black lab rat in a maze of white rats, study after study has proven it does not. Generally, after you reach a level of reasonable lower middle class satisfaction (around £40K in the UK, so I guess $60K in the US, depending on the city?) you don’t really get much happier when you get more money.

    If there was a correlation then people would be 1% (or 0.1% or whatever) happier with every 1% extra wealth. And that doesn’t happen.

    Also, I’m sure you were miserable when you didn’t earn much. All your posts show you’re very dedicated to your job, and to earning money. Not only would not earning much have annoyed you, but it was surely also a reflection that you weren’t where you wanted to be yet in work.

    I think your post is right when it applies to those not earning much (I relate to the chocolate cake example!) but it misses the bigger picture.

    But you know that, you old controversy stoking rogue. ;)
    .-= Monevator´s last blog ..Are BP shares a buy? =-.

    • says

      The 60K / year limit of happiness is hogwash. There is no 1 to 1 correlation, but there is def a positive correlation.

      Choco cake example baby! I’m being for real in that one. $9 for desert a person after tax and tip is like $22 bucks at a restaurant for a couple when we can just eat 25 cent cookies at home!

      You’ve made me think about how I was when I didn’t earn much money. I was more miserable b/c I had to work so damn long and hard and worry about what everybody thought since I was young and new. But, on the money scale, I was happy b/c relatively I was doing fine.

      Cheers
      .-= admin´s last blog ..“The Happy Loser” Archetype By Clotaire Rapaille =-.

  22. says

    I agree with others that there is a marginal utility of “more money”, but I can also look back at some of the happiest times of my life and I had WAAAAYYY less money then than I do now.

    In fact had to scramble to find cover charge at the bar, didn’t have enough to buy a drink once we got in, etc. But all my friends were in the same boat so there were no comparisons either. Cripes, travel to some of the Caribbean islands, Fiji, Greece, Mexico, S.A…. loads of happy people there who think we’re all insane for busting our humps for a few more bucks.
    .-= Single Mom Rich Mom´s last blog ..Catfight of the Personal Finance Blogger Chicks =-.

  23. says

    I agree with Everydaytips 100%. I don’t think that having a lot of money is insurance for happiness but it does certainly lead to an easier life. If you have the time to travel with loved ones and work on projects that are fulfilling and bring meaning to your life then who the heck wouldn’t want to be rich?? I know plenty of people who make a lot of money, don’t know how to use it and are generally miserable. I think it depends on the maturity and outlook of the individual regardless of income.

    • says

      Because the evidence is flawed. Why do you think there are a bagillion studies try to say the same thing? The reason is b/c they aren’t conclusive. If they were, they’d stop doing the same dang studies!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

        • Larry says

          admini: “It’s actually perfectly rational and exactly right.”

          No, it’s not. Academic research in any discipline is rarely expected to be air-tight or definitive. Studies often raise questions as much as they answer them. But if a “bagillion” studies all arrive at similar results, then it’s far more logical to presume that they’re all stating plauslible points-of-view; otherwise, there would be plenty of studies pointing out the “flawed” evidence you assume. And as far as your position goes, I have seen nothing in your original post or any of your replies other than ad hominem attacks on the character and motives of the researchers themselves, and not a shred of hard evidence to prove them wrong.

      • ctreit says

        Let’s think about another reason why there are supposedly so many studies out that all tell the same story. (And let’s just go with your point of view that none of these studies that say the same thing are conclusive.) How about there are enough researchers or people out there who think like you do and do not accept the results? They commission or do another study just to prove the same thing. Then another one shows up and another study gets done; again with the same result. Ad finitum….Possible?
        .-= ctreit´s last blog ..A Thank You to Our Hosts =-.

        • says

          I think that not understanding the methodology is what leads one to question the reults, Sam. The Bush administration did not accept climate change as a theory, either :-) You mention elsewhere in these comments that you wish people didn’t confuse joy with happiness. Well, you’re confusing a lack of stress and happiness. Weddings and raising children are two of the most stressful activities in which we can participate, yet according to most they are the two most happy times of peoples lives. A reduction in stress does NOT necessarily mean an increase in happiness. I personally find the results of social science research very credible, even in cases where I happen to be the outlier.
          .-= Honey´s last blog ..How Likely Are You To Get Divorced? =-.

    • says

      BTW, regarding your question of all these studies with the same results, it’s b/c of human population and folks graduating from school who have no uniqueness. They keep on trying to do these studies b/c they don’t believe them. If they did, they’d accept the first 100 studies!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..East Coast Living – Is It Really That Bad? =-.

  24. The Genius says

    You’ve got a point. It’s much EASIER to say money doesn’t buy happiness and use it as an excuse why you don’t have any money, than to go out and make your own money.

    Once again, saying money doesn’t buy happiness is the easy, weak person’s route. Kind of parallel to your “The Dark Side Of Early Retirement” post, where you postulate those who retire early, would rather NOT have to deal with their career failures anymore.

    You sir, are onto something.

  25. says

    I believe that happiness comes from being intellectual and having a philosophical way of looking at the world. I would estimate that the vast, vast majority of people are incapable of happiness because they don’t have the intellect or the philosophical mindset required to do so. Things that make me happy include travel and learning new things – and while money is required to do both of those things, if you’re not smart and curious, you won’t be happy even if you do have the money to do them.
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..How Likely Are You To Get Divorced? =-.

  26. chubbuni13 says

    Rappers used to claim, “more money more problems”. As in, “Hmmm, should I take the Rolls or the Bentley to the club tonight?” Those are the problems that I’d like to have.

    Money gives one more choices. What they do with it is their choice, but I think Sam knocked it out on this post.
    .-= chubbuni13´s last blog ..The Bride of Frankenstein is Our Gardener =-.

  27. says

    Maybe they try to prove money can’t buy happiness because from a values standpoint, they don’t want society obsessing over money.

    I don’t think they’d necessarily have “poor” finances, but maybe they’re just “average”.

    I won’t lie, I’d be super happy to inherit $100 million. But I don’t think the happiness from the money will last forever. I’d also feel a sense of responsibility to use it wisely.
    .-= Darren´s last blog ..Use Math To Alleviate Fear Of Stock Market Volatility =-.

  28. Charlie says

    nice. I like your points at the end of the post. Yeah, it’s true that we can do more fun things, travel to see long distance family, and not stress about bills when we have a comfortable amount of money. That said, things don’t have to be expensive for them to be better but money definitely gives us more options. I’m also healthier than when I first started working b/c I’m able to buy good foods like fresh fruit and veggies at the farmers market instead of ten pack of instant ramen noodles!

  29. says

    I think when you come from a background of very little money, and through luck, hard work and opportunity, become rich, you enjoy it more and therefore are more happy than someone born into a rich family. If you have had money since you were born, you are use to having anything at a whim, so it’s no longer special.

    IMHO, I guess we human beings live for the struggle, and feel happiness with accomplishment…
    .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..A Perfect Frugal Drive, Maximizing Your Driving Return! =-.

    • says

      More choices can mean more happiness or less happiness, depending on what choices you make. If I was a factory worker in destitute Kabul, I’d like to have the choice to get out which would make me very happy.

      If I had the choice to buy this view condo or that pied de tierre, I’m not sad by any means.

  30. The Genius says

    How funny it is that those who are most opposed to the thesis of this topic are also some of the youngest and most financially unsuccessful people upon looking at their bios.

    What I’ve also noticed is that people who have commented with a friendly disposition, whether they agree or not, like Nunzio or MFO just seem to be nice people in general!

    Maybe it’s all about genetic disposition!

    Hell yes, I would be happy with $100 million, because I would give away like $80 million and make other people feel happy by taking care of their basic needs!

  31. says

    Tackling the age old question of whether money buys happiness, huh? =)

    I am going to be diplomatic and sound very “Deepak Chopra” and say that people can create happiness within themselves. Whether you have money or not, you have a conscious choice to choose to be happy or not, to choose to envy people’s nice homes and fancy cars.

    I think what’s most important is that people are healthy =) and money can’t necessarily buy health.
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..Youngandthrifty Book Review and Giveaway: Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It, and Give It =-.

    • says

      Hi Y&T – I’m actually not tackling the age old question of whether money buys happiness, b/c I believe it does for the reasons I stated in the post.

      The point of the post is to understand WHY there are so many studies who try to disprove that money doesn’t buy happiness, when I for one believe it does.

      It’s about understanding how society tries to repress the masses and make them zombies thinking it’s OK not to give life your best shot.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..The List of Jobs I’d Do For Free Baby! =-.

  32. Hanie Lee says

    I haven’t read the other comments, but regarding this post, I would have to disagree to some extent. I say “some extent”, because I do agree that having the freedom to spend without worry is one fewer thing to be sad about. However, I think the happiness itself isn’t directly related to the money, but is possibly more related to achieving goals. I think I’d have to read the studies you’re talking about to understand what exactly the researchers are trying to prove, though. I think when people say, “Money can’t buy happiness,” they’re telling people who are less wealthy that the happiness part is personal and that money is not the answer to all of their problems (although it would, perhaps, alleviate many of them). I suspect that people who are comfortably off tend to assume they would be miserable if they were “poor”, but I don’t think people who are actually “poor” consider themselves to be as unhappy as everyone else believes them to be.

  33. BD says

    Whaaa? All the poor people I know, including myself, know DARN WELL money buys happiness. It buys stability, a roof over your head and food. Being able to survive comfortably without a lot of worry really helps in happiness.

    In my experience, it’s usually those comfortably well-off, who sit in their nice homes with their family, surrounded by possessions who offer wishy-washy sayings such as “well, money can’t buy happiness” while folks like me who are struggling to keep a roof over our heads know damn well that is NOT the truth.

    Money can buy happiness all day long. It just can’t buy spiritual Joy. And too many people confuse joy with happiness.

  34. VINY says

    I just love the way you challenge the so called established thoughts! Regarding more money, there is no doubt that i get more happier with more money but it could be the law of diminishing marginal utility at work which explains the level of happiness with extra dollar earned. But surely, money makes happy with increased freedom.

  35. says

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six,
    result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure
    twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
    -Wilkins Micawber in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield

    I’m thinking this quote, 160 years old, is no less true today. I think that emotions occur at the margin. Elsewhere a blogger referenced the joy of a million dollars, this happened to be right around S&P 700 after the crash. I replied to him “not when one had nearly $2M less than a year ago.” Someone with a net worth of $5M whose spouse is blowing through it like a hot knife through butter is less happy than the millionaire next door whose spouse is happy with their lifestyle.
    My wife and I both work, she averages a bit more than I make. When she bought an expensive car (with cash) a coworker of ours asked me in a joking way about the purchase knowing I claim to be frugal. “Jane will probably drive that car 10 years, the extra $8K spent on it was worth her incremental happiness.”
    Back to the point. I think one can study this and find there’s absolutely truth to what you suggest. But it’s more about the change to one’s income to maintain that happiness than the absolute numbers.

    • says

      Indeed, it’s all relative. That’s quite a pertinent quote you found there from Sir Dickens!

      I’m impressed you let your wife buy a spanking new “expensive” car with cash! You guys must be doing quite well. A happy wife is a happy life as they say!

      Hope you are hanging in there with this market correction.

      Best, Sam
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Who Needs A Job When You Have A Private School Degree =-.

  36. says

    It’s all a bunch of hogwash – all of it!

    As T. Harv Eker (Secrets of the Millionaire Mind) says when someone tells him that money does not bring happiness “You’re broke!”

    I’ve had money and I’ve had none and I can tell you that having is a lot “happier” than having none for all the reasons that Sam points out in the post.

    I’d like to address the rest of my comment to those who say that once a certain level of income and comfort is realized additional money does little to bring more happiness.

    I think that happiness, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, also has a hierarchy and how high you go up that hierarchy depends on your beliefs and mindset about money. The notion that income beyond a certain amount ($60K per year! … gosh, if you live in San Francisco or Vancouver as I do that would definitely not put you into a cushy position in life) does not add happiness is in my view short sighted and even self serving, it signals to me that it is only all about you.

    Not everyone can make money – whether here or anywhere else. The reasons are varied and not necessarily of their own making. What if as your income grows you do more good with the increased cash flow?

    Here is my completely unresearched hierarchy of happiness (any PHDs out there are welcome to take on the research :-)

    - satisfaction of basic needs: euphoria, no need to worry about food, clothing and shelter.
    - fun (holidays, dinners out, entertaining): feeling of well being.
    - education (of yourself, your children & grandchildren): freedom born from the feeling of being beholden to no one.
    - charity: pride in being able to step up financially when/where others are unable
    - funding foundations: peace of mind and and contentment of soul that you are using your money for the betterment of humanity.

    In my view if you are one of the few who are able to make money and stop at a certain point because hey, its not going to make you any happier then you are not living up to your full potential to be the best that you can be for yourself, those around you and those who need you.
    .-= Valentina´s last blog ..Sunday Morn Musings: Parting of Ways =-.

    • says

      I think you hit the nail on the head Valentina when you say people are self-serving when they just talk about “money doesn’t buy happiness” b/c they failed at making their own.

      Beautiful happiness is achieved by giving to others. Why people who say “money doesn’t buy happiness” doesn’t understand this, i don’t know. But, one of my big champions in life is to make money for others. In fact, this is a big part of the existence of this site as revenue proceeds are all given away to someone who hopefully needs the money more than me.

      I am very impressed with your comment and your wisdom. I hope EVERYBODY reads your comment!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

  37. says

    Money sure helps things, no question. I completely believe that wealth, health, and relationships are all interrelated. To the extent that one is impacted – positively or negatively – the others are impacted in the same direction as well. For example, if one obtains $100 million, the stress of working for a living to survive is essentially over. This allows for more time to focus on health and relationships. Sure, stresses don’t go away, and other, new ones can emerge that are specific to this type of situation – but come on, it has to help to have money like that.

    Health, Wealth, Relationships feed off each other, and impact total quality of life. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it puts us in a position to do things that improve the quality of our lives – which, one would think, would make us happier.
    .-= Squirrelers´s last blog ..Squirreling Gone Wild #8 – Doubling Down =-.

  38. says

    a lot of people have some pretty off perceptions of money. It’s a very stock phrase, ‘Money cannot buy happiness.’ Which kind of makes me want to bark back ‘Neither can poverty!’

    Though there is some truth to the statement. It’s great to have enough wealth that surpasses your necessities, for example. That’s an extremely incredible bliss! But I think it’s important not to make it one’s primary aspect in life. Even though I’m absolutely mad capitalist, to me, money is ultimately a means to an end. My real happiness is accomplishing something through writing. <3

  39. dosewife says

    I believe that 60k a year (more or less) would make me very, very happy. I believe that Americans who make that much are happy too. In fact, here’s an article about people who made somewhere around 60k a year, and were obviously very happy to be living their dreams: good (expensive) educations, great jobs, nice houses, expensive consumer goods, three or four kids, and mostly a wife who stayed home and made it all look easy:

    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2010/06/07/for_many_recovery_means_lower_expectations/

    These peoples’ losses illustrate the fly in the 60k Happy Ointment: When I actually made 60k a year, I was scared and unhappy when I thought about my finances, and, as this article shows, with good reason. I would be quite happy to make 60k *as long as it was guaranteed for the rest of my life.* I would happily spend everything beyond a reasonable level of savings, because I would have nothing to worry about.

    The once-happy people in this article didn’t have guaranteed incomes, but they pretended they did. Now that the puppet show has ended, they’re unhappy. A fifty-year-old welder is one back injury away from a crummy retirement on disability, and one inevitable housing cycle away from layoff. How on earth did he think four kids young enough to be living at home, a non-working spouse, a big house, a boat and an RV on credit were a good idea? He probably had 20 or more years left on his mortgage, based on the type of homes that Zillow shows for sale in Gardnerville, so he was obviously planning to…aw, I won’t bother. He obviously engaged in no planning at all. He lived for the minute, and his minutes have run out. Insert another sixty thousand dollars for another minute, please.

    Like all those who are happy to make 60k a year, he denied reality. In his mind, he’d be getting that 60k a year forever. He confused being able to afford everything he wanted with being able to afford the payments on everything he wanted. Savings, schmavings. Savings are for sissies. He walks the iron! When his job went south, *as jobs always do,* he lost everything within about a year. If I was him, I would have skipped the boat and the RV and the fancy house and instead put all my spare income into a modest, paid-off home, but I’m obviously not him. Apparently the amount of material goods you can actually, realistically afford on 60k isn’t enough to make him happy, and he had to buy on credit instead.

    This article is a compendium of all the sweet lies that were eagerly swallowed by those who wanted what they wanted when they wanted it, and were therefore quite happy to engage in Wishful Thinking so that they could have everything on a pittance like 60k a year. It’s a litany of denials. There is the manager who believed that he was too valuable to let go. What made him think that? Being promised a promotion and having his hours cut instead? There’s the advertising copy writer who thought a college degree that took 16 years and three colleges would guarantee a rich life. What made him think that? Couldn’t he do the junior high arithmetic and add up his student debt, lost earnings and los…aw, I won’t bother. Of course he can’t do math. Whattya think he is, a college graduate or something? Lucky for him that his father the plumber holds the mortgage on his house.
    So why do people who earn 60k a year claim such happiness? Because they’re lying, lying, lying. They’re lying to everyone else by presenting a picture of affluence they don’t actually possess. They’re lying to themselves that living paycheck to paycheck is grand, as long as you have lots of stuff. Why wouldn’t they be lying to the researchers too?

    • says

      Dosewife – You have made a brilliant observation! It’s like tax cuts.. behavior doesn’t change unless people think it’s permanent.

      The delusion of guaranteed income is so dangerous. We are all dispensable whether we like it or lot. I love your conclusion. What a comment!!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

  40. says

    The academic concept of money or wealth not equating to happiness was based on a peer reviewed study conducted in the 1950′s I can’t remember which. But recent research shoes that, while not being directly proportionate more money does make you happier.
    .-= Bankruptcy Ben´s last blog ..FFJ – Ways to Save Money =-.

  41. A. says

    I inherited several million dollars when a parent passed away. Before this, I was on gov’t disability due to a temporary medical issue. The inheritance is enough money to live comfortably (My new expenses are about 1500-2000 a month) on the interest alone, and never have to work again (which I didn’t while medically disabled, which I am no longer). It has alleviated money stress, nothing more. I am still the same person, and have about the same amount of happiness I did prior to this. It simply has made life more convenient.

  42. says

    Wow, FS, another interesting and thought provoking blog entry that seems to have everyone talking (or arguing at least). Here’s a shocker for you: I’m going to agree with you. (At least, on the main point of money being able to buy happiness; as for researchers deliberately distorting the issue to make themselves feel better about earning low salaries (or keep the poor content with their poverty), I don’t think that’s the case. But more on that later.)

    Money is just a concept, a means we humans have devised to exchange goods and services more easily. The more you have of it, the more options you have available to you. Someone with ten thousand dollars has more options for what to do with that money than someone with one thousand dollars; more extravagant vacations, bigger and better gadgets, or (since we are largely personal finance bloggers here) investing a larger amount for the future. Similarly, someone with one hundred thousand dollars has more options (and can take advantage of more expensive options) than our ten thousandaire, someone with a million dollars has more options still, and so on. Whatever stress (or ‘unhappiness’) having to choose between those extra options causes, should be more than made up for by the fact that those options exist, rather than choices like ‘do we eat tonight, or keep the heat on for another week?’

    Why the abundance of studies saying that happiness and money aren’t linked, then? I think it’s in part because the researchers aren’t taking into account the source of the money, which for most people is that dreaded four-letter word: work. For many people, earning a higher salary goes hand in hand with working more, working harder, and/or working less desirable jobs. Unless you take the unhappiness caused by work out of the equation, you’re going to get skewed results.

    If you want to prove to me beyond any shadow of doubt that earning more money doesn’t increase happiness, show me a study that also takes hours worked into account. I’d bet that among people working the same amount of time (in equally stress inducing jobs), there’s a direct correlation between salary and happiness; once you remove any confounding factors, why would more money not increase happiness? (At least until we get to super rich levels, where the utility of an extra dollar earned is so low that yes, more money has lost virtually all meaning.) Or compare people earning the same annual income; the less time required to work in order earn that money, the happier people are, I’m sure.

    Perhaps I’m off the mark, and the researchers we keep discussing realized this potential problem and made sure that work hours and environment were considered as confounding factors. (I wouldn’t bet on it, though; from what I remember of my social science classes, it’s nearly impossible to control for all factors in your research, at least without a simply gigantic sample size, and correspondingly high expenses.) Until someone proves differently though, I’m sticking to my guns and saying that work is the confounding factor that these studies (and those who quote them) seem to ignore.
    .-= Roger, the Amateur Financier´s last blog ..Book Giveaway: Enjoy Your Money! =-.

  43. vga says

    The best way to approach the study data is that added money after 50-60K or so doesn’t provide as much of an increase in happiness per dollar. It’s the law of diminishing returns as applied to happiness.

    To put it another way:

    Going from 10K to 25K is a massive improvement. You can afford rent and food. You can get an old used car. You can move out from living with your parents.

    Going from 25K per year to 40K per year represents a big improvement in lifestyle. Now you can afford good clothes and an apartment that isn’t in the ghetto. You can even take a vacation without breaking the bank.

    Going from 40K to 55K (same size increase) provides much smaller improvements. Do you need a 3 bedroom apartment if you’re single?

    Going from 55K to 80K is yielding very small improvements. By this point you’re probably just dumping the extra money into retirement accounts.

    ———-

    As for money directly being able to buy happiness. Based on the research I’ve read, the answer if a yes, sort of.

    If you buy a physical thing you get a boost of happiness that fades quickly.

    Spending money on experiences gets you a more long lasting boost. But again it fades over time.

    Oddly enough, the one thing that you can actually buy that will increase your baseline happiness for the long term is cosmetic surgery.

    ———

    Also, how much money you need to be happy depends on how much everyone around you has. If you make 60K and everyone you associate with makes 57K, you’re going to be feeling much happier than they are. But if they are making 63K, you’re not going to be as happy.

    ——–

    There are also plenty of things that money will not buy you that contribute significantly to happiness. Relationships, family, and friends for example.

    Study after study has shown that people with better marriages, more strong friendships, and better social lives are happier than those who don’t have them.

    ——–

    There is also significant happiness derived from having a career and hobbies that all you to enter a state of flow. But I fear that I’ve written small novel by now, so I’ll stop here.

    ——–

    In conclusion, money is just one part of happiness. Having money will help you move along the road to being happy, but it will not get you there by itself.

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