Can money buy happiness? If you asked me that question prior to mid 2009 when I was at the peak phase of my corporate lifestyle, I’d be able to give an answer that’s hard to refute. I’ve been up to my ears in debt since 2006 (yes, still am but not for much longer) and when you spend the best days of your life killing yourself going to work and taking overtimes so you can make ends meet, an influx of money would definitely deliver happiness. Back then I knew for sure that if I had the money to pay off my debt, I’d feel much happier than I was so don’t be telling me that money can’t buy happiness. Yet there’s been leagues upon leagues of people who made it big and became rich, both past and present and they all said the same thing in unison – money can’t buy happiness. So what’s the deal? Why do all those people who lived miserable lives when they were flat broke say that money can’t buy happiness now that they can afford anything their heart desire? Do they know something we who have not reached that level yet don’t know?
This was something I was having hard time accepting. How can money not buy happiness? Have all those people who say that money can’t buy happiness forgot what it was like being poor? And then I started paying more attention to people around me. Especially people with clear signs of affluence – those driving $200k cars, business owners, large entrepreneurs, et cetera. There is hardly anything they can’t afford to buy, yet you look at their faces and they look miserable. They walk around with their Blackberries at the ready because they must be available 24/7 to solve problems. Other people’s problems.
It has quickly become clearer than the sky that money truly can’t buy happiness. Being flat broke is no happiness either, but being rich doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be happy. It will allow you to solve your debt problem or whatever other financial problem you may be currently facing, but it comes with problems of its own. Being rich, just as being poor are the two extremes on the opposite sides of the same spectrum. Happiness lies somewhere in between.
I’m sure you have one of those neighbors yourself. He drives brand new Lexus with leather upholstery and all available extras. Sound system he had installed can be heard from three blocks away. He goes on a five week vacation three times a year yet each time you see him, he looks grumpy. He gets about 5 phonecalls every 30 minutes and always seems to be in a rush to go somewhere. He has all the money in the world, so why is he not happy?
It is because pursuit of money is akin to chasing your own tail. At one point in your life when you are flat broke you see money as the only solution to your problems. You start killing yourself working long hours, your life becomes all about elbowing your way up to the top and work becomes your life. You eventually reach the point at which you are promoted to a position which pays enough to quickly pay off your debt. But as you got consumed by the corporate lifestyle, the only goal you had in your life was to make X amount of dollars and now that this X was reached, you simply set yourself with a new goal and increase the value of said X. The pursuit of money continues.
At this point your bank account is nice and thick and you quit work to start your own company so you can make even more money. The temptation of driving that new Lexus in leather with navigation system is irresistible. The more money you make, the more you want to make. You are on the sure way to working until you die. You have been asking yourself all the wrong questions and because of that it’s not clear in your mind what it is that fulfils you. So you fulfil yourself with work because it provides you with the sense of purpose. You are financially secure, but you continue working to feel productive. Is there any way you are gonna tell anyone that money can buy happiness now that you have all the money in the world?
That being said, if I were to choose between being broke and being rich, I choose being rich. However, when asking whether you’d rather be rich and sick or poor and healthy, I choose rich and healthy. Never compromise your happiness. Happy person is an enthusiastic person. Happiness boosts energy and creativity. As a result, happiness can buy you money. If you set yourself up to living an enjoyable, fulfilling life, your mind will be clear to come up with fresh ideas for financial freedom and instead of wondering whether money can buy happiness, you will find out that happiness could lead you to money.