The question has been around for almost as long as money exists, but still it is hard to find a simple answer: Can money buy you happiness, or not? Before you can answer such a question at all, you will have to decide what “happiness” actually means. And yes, that could be something different for everyone. For example, Mary might be happiest when she can travel and explore as many new things and experiences as possible, while John would feel completely miserable from the uncertainty all that travelling would bring. So you really need to start with finding out what “happiness” means to YOU, so you know what is important. The Internet provides plenty of information about that topic, such as action plans and procedures to figure out exactly what works for you. A simple starting point would be the definition of happiness on Wikipedia.
OK, so you cannot simply state that money makes you happy, or that it doesn’t. But maybe there is something meaningful to be said about the role money can play in being happy or not. For example, having less money than the people in your direct environment, will generally lead to a reduced feeling of happiness. This is easy to explain, because in that case you’re surrounded with people who can buy and do things, that you can not. Some of those things may not interest you at all, but others definitely will. The continuous confrontation with the fact that you can’t have or do the same as other people, will probably not make you happier…
So, are you happier when you have more money than your environment? Yes, but only up to a certain level. There is definitely going to be a limit to the effect: People usually have a deep desire to belong to a group, this makes them feel safe and accepted. If you have a lot more money than “your” group, you will find that you no longer really belong to that group, because you’re doing and buying different things than the others. This may even lead to feelings of jealousy from the other group members. People might also expect things from you, things that you do not feel comfortable with. Ultimately, when the difference becomes too large, you will feel less happy.
Can money buy you happiness? Here is The Answer…
What have we got so far: having less money than your environment makes you unhappier, having a lot more does the same. Basically, this means that if you have just a little bit more than the people around you, money can have a positive impact on your feelings of happiness. One way to look at it is this: you will be the happiest, if you have enough money to maintain yourself in your environment, without having to worry (too much) about money at all. Sounds quite logical, doesn’t it? Money has the greatest positive impact if it is not an obstacle, and not a burden. So, what’s the verdict: Can Money Buy You Happiness? Yes, it can, but not as easily as you would think!
Food for Thought
To end this post, a little thought-provoking story:
A western tourist on holiday meets a man who is half asleep under a banana tree, crammed with ripe bananas. The tourist addresses the man and asks him why he does not harvest the ripe bananas. In response, the man asks what he would be doing with so many bananas. He does not need them, he just occasionally takes a banana to eat and leaves the rest hanging in the tree. The tourist tells him that he should gather as much bananas as he can and bring them to the market, to sell them. The money he earns, the tourist says, can then be invested in transportation, so next time he could take even more bananas to the market.
“And then what?”, the local man asks. “Well”, says the tourist, “If you work hard enough and sell a lot of bananas, you might start employing others to gather the bananas for you, so you can make even more money”. “Eventually you could even become the owner of a thriving banana trade company, which earns you lots of money and makes you very wealthy”. “And what should I do then?”, the man asks again, to which the tourist replies: “After a few years of hard work and investing all the money back into your company, you might be able to sell your thriving business to someone else, or maybe take ot to the stock exchange”. “And once you have reached that point, you will no longer have to work, for the rest of your life, so you can enjoy your days in the shade, under a nice tree, eating bananas. “