Can money buy happiness?

The Beatles said money can’t buy love, but can it buy you happiness?  We have all seen enough miserable celebrities with lots of the paper stuff who seem doomed to miserable, even tragic lives to know that having wealth is no guarantee you will be happy. Think Amy Winehouse, Howard Hughes or Princess Diana. 

The most contented rich folk seem to be those with a sense of purpose, who love what they do.  Maybe it just happens to make them money. I am thinking off the top of my head now: Richard Branson, J K Rowling, Paul Newman. All have (or have had in the case of Paul Newman, who died in 2008) wealth and success but also a social conscience.  They also all seem to have good family relationships. Paul Newman was married to wife Joanne for 50 years. All are considered philanthropists.

Equally there are many people of limited means who have wonderful happy and fulfilled lives, but I doubt the same can be said of someone living in grinding poverty, who is working for pennies on a tea farm in India and sleeping on the floor of a shack with no clean water or decent sanitation. 

We don’t need to be hugely wealthy to be happy but we do need to have our basics covered to stand a chance. Somewhere decent and warm to live, enough to eat, clean water, access to medicines. After that I would say we need something useful to do, people to love and love us back, the opportunity to have education and to learn. 

In this country and much of the western world most of us have all we need in material terms, so why do we seem so miserable? Is it because we want more? We are certainly prepared to get ourselves into debt to have a new car, fantastic foreign holidays, designer fashions and the biggest home we can manage. We can then appear to have the perfect life whilst losing sleep over the mortgage payments and credit card bills.

I would love to have more money. £10,000 would be enough to sort out a few things around the house and install a new kitchen. Another £10k would buy me the camper van I am dreaming of. It would be nice to have a pay rise to make things a bit easier every month. However, it doesn’t make me unhappy that I am where I am. I look at the people who live in slum areas in places like India and I am so grateful that I have a house, a job, enough to eat, NHS medical care at the end of the phone, a lovely partner and children who have been to good schools and are all employed. I don’t have much left at the end of each month but I don’t hanker for a bank account the size of J K Rowling’s. In fact,I would need to do the same as she did and give half of it away! She no doubt recognises that once you have enough plus a bit more on top to have fun with that is all you need – any more on top doesn’t bring you more happiness, it just means you have to spend more on accountants!

What’s your view? Can money buy you happiness?

13 thoughts on “Can money buy happiness?

  1. I agree with you on this. I am 60 hubby is 65, we’re both still working , me part time hoping our pensions when we get them will allow us to enjoy things we do now but we will have to change some spending but we’ll be ok. You’ve made me think back over past 38 years married we had a house, jobs and hardly any spare cash, our honeymoon was a week off in our first home together, probably the biggest expenditure that week was a wooden airer and an electrical one to plug in and put under it to dry washing if we couldn’t get to the laundered. We married late autumn so not much line drying. The only new big things we had were our bed and our cooker, everything else, which still wasn’t much, was second or third hand. In the case of our 3 piece suite – not something people choose now, came from a house friends had just bought and it was horrible, no idea how old it was but it became ours for nothing. We were so happy, so many people now want everything new and straight away and are unhappy and can’t understand why they have the debts they have. We’ve lived through 15% mortgage interest rates with 2 small children and hubby’s redundancies. We chose to have children and worked out how we’d manage our money, we didn’t have expensive holidays, if they wanted Disneyland then they could do that when they could afford it, if they still wanted to. I’ve often thought if I had the millions, billions even that some people have what point would there be having it sit in a bank making money for the bankers when it could do so much for so many other people. If I had a big win on the lottery I’d probably get a slightly better house but not splurge on one or an expensive car. I’m happy to get safely from a to b in what I have. I love reading your blogs and the replies from others. Thank you from an essentially happy person who has enough.

  2. You are right, happiness isn’t for buying, but it can make life more comfortable. I can remember when we were young and our children were young how very tight money was, it was going out almost before it came in, and it was a constant worry. Now we are comfortably off but not wealthy. We still watch the pennies because after a lifetime of doing that, you can’t change that habit, but it means that if I want a book or an extra bunch of flowers or a bottle of perfume – things which were out of the question at one time – I can now buy these. They are not highly priced but they would’ve been considered frivolous purchases when there was the mortgage to pay or new football boots to buy for our sons.
    I think happiness comes from within, you tend to be a person whose cup is half full or it is half empty (or drained dry in some cases!) Money softens the edges if you are up against it – if suddenly a big bill comes in, say a new boiler is required, money takes away the worry of how to pay for such a thing. No, money doesn’t make you happy, but it’s better to have it than not to have it. Not to have to rely on food banks, or wondering how you can get through the week. I don’t think anyone can be truly happy if everyday living is a real struggle, but you can be happy if you have sufficient, and sufficient means different things to different people. We have sufficient for our needs. Others would say we are well of.

  3. I don’t think money buys happiness but it does go hand-in-hand for some of us with a sense of greater security. I enjoy knowing that I won’t be broke if an emergency should arise or knowing I can take my elderly cat to his vet if need be. I also like knowing I can enjoy the odd day out now and again.

  4. Pertinent question this. Have had to do a whole lot of reading for my PGE Cert. and one of the areas that keep on coming up is the area of human needs and the definition of abundance. There are some economist and psychologists, namely Manfred Max Neef and Victor Maslow, who have made this into an subject of study. What they found, was that interestingly, money that was not associated with basic survival started to bring in diminishing returns after basic needs were met.

    What stood out for me though was that the fact that consumerism was a social construct, and that unfortunately it has turned into “virtue signalling” here in Westernised societies. In other words, it’s replaced what used to be more solid forms of abundance such as our standing in our friendships, communities and extended families as a marker of what our status is in society. It’s a form of abnormal adaptation, and is at the heart of a lot of the brokenness in society today. Sad, isn’t it?

  5. There have been studies where they have monitored people’s income alongside of their “happiness” level. The results are fairly conclusive regardless of how much you make. It seems that if you have nothing, and I mean nothing, then money to meet basic needs greatly increases life satisfaction. But once those basic needs are met, the ratio of happiness to sum of money drops right off. So you are right…third world people benefit greatly from having enough money for food, shelter, medicine, and education. After that, money seems to have little effect on overall life satisfaction.

  6. Money cannot buy happiness per se, but it can can do much to alleviate the UNhappiness caused by relentless money problems. Happiness is a relative state. In a very poor country, adequate shelter and food and the fact that one’s children receive an education would very likely increase happiness. In a society when many can take those for granted, other issues can affect happiness. I was raised by a very negative mother and have to constantly remind myself of the good things in my life. I would like more money because it would allow me to do more of the things that make me happy in the moment but this is not necessarily the same as intrinsic happiness.

  7. In reply to the two above comments. I won’t be presumptuous about anyone’s personal situations. And this is not my own opinion. Anyhow, Manfred Max Neef discusses what he calls “false satisfiers”. In other words, there are some absolute psychological needs aside from basic survival needs such as food and shelter. One such might be, say, affection. Another one might be safety. These needs are met by what is termed a true satisfier, such as satisfying personal relationships, or an inclusive community such as say, a neighbourhood or friendship group that looks after your back, or, it may be met be what is known as a false satisfier, such as money. Or possessions. The problem with using a false satisfier is, unfortunately, that it never ever meets the real need, so you’re then off chasing even more of it. It’s like an addiction. I’m not trying to diss anybody by the way, but do you see what I mean?

  8. I’ve just travelled back to Delhi from Shimla and the poverty and conditions some families are living in are truly unbelievable you need to see it to believe it

  9. Having worked for a few millionaire property developers and business owners I can honestly say that they didn’t appear any happier than the rest of us. In fact some were really unhappy in their home life and very stressed with business demands. I think a happy home life is the precursor to happiness ie contentment living alone or in a settled, relatively stress free, family structure. Also good health leads to people being happy which is something money cannot buy. Today’s attitude of replacing everything every few years to ‘keep up appearances’ leads to a lot of unhappiness as it causes money worries and debt in a lot of cases. But, more money would not necessarily alleviate this, as there will always be someone with more expensive clothes, furniture etc etc. One thing I definitely do know from experience is that when you have severe money problems all the lovely friends you had before tend to disappear, leaving behind just a few caring people. So money doesn’t buy true friends either.
    Love the blog really interesting
    All the best x

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