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Can money make you happy?
Back in 2014, a survey appeared to suggest that money can indeed buy you happiness.
According to the study, which focussed on life satisfaction, nearly 60% of Brits said they were happier than citizens of poorer nations.
We’re forever told that this can’t be the case. Money cannot buy you happiness. Materialism is a bad thing. What matters is family, love and your health. Such advice is imparted throughout our school and working lives.
It’s therefore time to ask the most thorny of questions: can money make you happy? Or, on the other hand, does it only bring about stress, sadness and the ability for perfectly good human beings to turn bad?
What does science think?
Scientists are pretty clear when it comes to the question of money’s ability to buy happiness. It simply can’t, but it can make you less sad. In 2015, a research group investigated whether there could be a link between money and sadness. By looking at 12,291 people on the US Census, they found that higher income can be associated with less daily sadness, but not more happiness.
At first glance, that may seem obvious. Those with higher incomes and larger bank balances probably will be less sad than those struggling to make ends meet. However, dig deeper into the human psyche and it is clear that wealth alone doesn’t guarantee a great life.
Does it make a difference how you spend your cash?
Just ‘having’ money means little. A bank balance, after all, is just a number, and doesn’t really represent anything until you do something with it.
Let’s say you have a windfall and decide to splash all of it on a car you’ve always wanted. Only, twelve months down the line that car breaks down and you find yourself unable to afford the repair costs, so expensive are the parts. That initial spending spree will have given you plenty of happiness, albeit without any form of longevity.
Now let’s say you spend that windfall on a couple of things. A holiday of a lifetime, perhaps, and maybe also your parent’s final mortgage payment. Suddenly, we’re in a different realm of happiness altogether. Using money, you’ve created happy memories that will last forever. In this instance, money can most definitely make you happy.
I’m suddenly earning much more than before – will I be happier?
If you’ve ever longed for something for a considerable period of time only to find that, once you’ve finally obtained it, the initial rush of happiness soon dissipates, you’re not alone. As we earn more, our aspirations rise. So, that dream home you bought three years ago may well start to look rather shabby next to your friend’s house which is worth twice the amount.
Put simply, we adapt to the stuff we buy. Money, therefore, simply can’t buy happiness when it comes to objects of desire. We just get used to them. Again, experiences count for so much more.
What if I give it away?
Money offers something of a curious paradox. For as much as we enjoy earning more, we’re actually happier when giving it to others than spending it on ourselves. This is a timeless tradition we carry out every Christmas, birthday and Valentine’s Day. We like spending money on others and, once again, in doing so we’re creating an experience that will stay with us and those we’re lavishing money upon.
If you regularly give money away, you’ll likely be a happier person. Best of all, it doesn’t matter how you do it; donating to a charitable cause or taking your partner out for a meal will elicit similar feelings of happiness and well-being.
Money can buy time
We all value time. It is incredibly important both at work and at home, but it is in very short supply. Unlike money, you can’t create more of it, but you can use the former to buy yourself better time.
A classic example of this can be found in the process of buying a house. It’s the biggest purchase you’re ever likely to make, yet it is incredibly easy to be blinded by what you think will be your dream, forever home. If that dream home is a two hour commute from your place of work, spending that kind of money on something which will make your working days longer will only make you unhappy, no matter how lovely the living room is. The smaller apartment you found within walking distance of the office, whilst not perfect, will give you back valuable time. Now that is money well spent and a guaranteed way to make you happier.
Money is a part of every day life. We use it regularly, rely on it to keep ourselves fed, watered and warm at night, but we can also be inadvertently suckered in by it magnetic powers. Can money make you happy? Absolutely, but it’s what you do with it that counts. Create memories, treat others and buy back time, and you’ll quickly find that money can, indeed, give you the life you want.