Can having wealth make us happy?
First, it’s not money which brings lasting satisfaction, it’s:
- the confidence that comes from earning it, and
- the knowledge that your skills are worthy, and could be applied elsewhere in a new adventure.
It is that self-confidence, that sense of believing in yourself, which is the gold.
Money is wonderful stuff. It can provide food and shelter, and get a toothache fixed. It can buy pleasures in the form of toys, back massages, theatre tickets . . . which add colour to our lives, and that first type of happiness, pleasure. Money provides education, musical instruments, abseiling experiences, all of which help us grow.
Despite all that, it won’t bring core happiness. The adjoining pages look at why.
‘Show me someone who thinks that money buys happiness and I’ll show you someone who has never had a lot of money.’
David Geffen, billionaire.
‘Money can’t buy happiness, but I would like to find that out for myself.’
The claims examined in this book:
We need money to feed and shelter ourselves. So, money can bring happiness. Click here.
Retail therapy brings happiness. Click here.
Money provides a decent standard of living. Click here.
Financial security relieves anxiety, and therefore brings happiness. Click here.
People respect wealth. Click here.
Money can allow us to flourish as human beings. Click here.
Accumulating money is innate, and we need to satisfy innate needs. Click here.
Q. ‘Is there anything wrong with being rich?’
Not really, but if you felt the need to be rich, would that not indicate a discontent? Needing something indicates insecurity, does it not? If so, concentrate on understanding that insecurity and addressing it. Otherwise, you might spend a good part of your life becoming rich, and still feel insecure.
But if you don’t feel the need to be rich, I can’t see that being rich would be a problem. Just be aware that your core happiness won’t increase with wealth, and while you want something, you can’t be content with what you have.
Q. Being rich means you don’t have to worry about how to pay the next bill.
Obviously, if there is simply not enough money to pay the bills, there will be stress. But that doesn’t mean you need to be wealthy; it just means you need sufficient funds and money management skills. The poor and the wealthy need money management skills.
Q. ‘Studies show that the super rich are happier, on average, than the rest of us.’
I am sceptical about studies purporting to measure happiness, but let’s assume the claim is true. Then it must be asked:
1. Are the rich happier because they have all that money, or do they have all that money because their happiness (and values) have encouraged them to be adventurous and confident?
2. Would a super-rich person be able to have all that money and still admit to being unhappy?
Q. ‘Despite what you say, a lot of people want to be rich.’
I’m not sure that’s true. Most of us would be pleased if we became rich, but most of us are not prepared to rearrange our lives to make it happen; we are not interested enough in being rich to go to all the trouble. We prefer to choose jobs which interest us or pay the bills.
Many wealthy people didn’t aim to be wealthy, they just aimed to run their business well, and ended up rich.
‘Wealth is a by-product of dong a good job. The satisfaction doesn’t come from having wealth but from coming up with an idea, seeing it grow and become a success.’ Graeme Wood, founder of Wotif. Fin Rev
But even if what you say is correct, that people do want to be rich, it’s because they mistakenly believe it will make them happier.
Q. ‘Are there disadvantages to having lots of money?’
1. Having lots of money can raise a person’s expectations of how happy they should be, and when they aren’t happier they feel cheated.
2. The super wealthy have to worry about:
b) losing their money and looking foolish,
c) logistical problems protecting their money,
d) people being more interested in their money than in them,
e) guilt about how they obtained their money (eg. inheritance),
f) the condemnation, or envy, of many people who are not wealthy.