There’s a happiness conundrum that needs solving. Despite living in a rich country with income levels that put us in the top 1% in the world, there are still many unhappy people. This post explores what we can do to elevate our happiness.
After a tense 14-12 softball victory, the six of us went to a nearby brewery for some beers and burgers. I ended up sitting next to our centerfielder who told me he used to hate his life. Let’s call him Biff.
In high school, Biff was a popular guy. At 6′ 5″ tall, he played varsity baseball and varsity basketball. But he admitted he was sometimes cruel to the smaller kids and exchange students. He wasn’t proud of his actions and wished he could apologize to them today.
After the financial crisis hit in 2008, Biff fell into a deep depression. The house he had bought when he was 27 years old ended up losing half its value. He was told he couldn’t lose and that real estate was the surefire way to riches. Not only had he lost all his equity, but he also owed more than the house was worth.
He was so deep under water, all he wanted to do was turn in his keys and walk away as so many Americans did. There was just one problem. Florida was not a non-recourse state. As such, the lender could easily obtain a deficiency judgment and garish his future wages and non-exempt assets.
Biff proceeded to gain over 100 pounds as he literally locked himself within his rapidly depreciating prison. At 30, he was morbidly obese, broke, and girlfriend-less. Life had no more meaning to him.
Then one day out of the blue, the state of Florida threw him a lifeline by offering him a free $75,000 to pay off some of his mortgage if he promised to keep up with regular payments. He took advantage of this tax payer’s money and fulfilled his side of the deal.
Despite feeling a little guilty for getting a bailout, Biff started gaining positive momentum in his life again. Over the ensuing two years, he lost 70 pounds, got a promotion, and finally at 32 found a girlfriend. He also stopped hating on anybody who seemed to be doing better than him because he was finally in a better place.
The first step to him feeling happy was to make sure his finances were no longer going in reverse. Once his finances had stabilized, Biff’s happiness grew because he found someone who loved him despite all his flaws. Today they are married and have a daughter.
Being rich didn’t matter anymore to Biff. Making progress did. Oh, and being able to crush a softball 350 feet as our cleanup hitter makes Biff and the rest of the team ecstatic.