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  • Wendell Brock

Can Money Buy Happiness?

It’s no secret, times are tough. We have seen prices on gas, groceries, utilities, and other products go up, and, up, and up. Money is tight. Families are having to change, not just their spending plans, but their travel and family plans. People are having to say no to things on their wish lists. This certainly isn’t bringing smiles to the masses. In fact, all this may seem depressing and bring on feelings of uncertainty and even fear. It brings to question if the old adage, “Money can’t buy happiness” is wrong. But this isn’t the first time our country has seen tough times, nor is it even close, worldwide. And yet, happiness has prevailed throughout history. So how do those two ideas converge?

If simply acquiring money is your sole ambition, then you will inevitably be disappointed and enjoy little happiness. If you consider money (or the acquisition of it) to be evil or vain, you will be unable to find success in your monetary pursuits. But, if you consider the good things money can do, when you change your focus to what money can be used for, then you will start to see beyond the cold hard cash and find joy in the pursuit of happiness. It is when you become aware of the worthwhile causes and the enriching experiences that we are able to see how money can truly be associated with happiness.

You must be cautions, if you tell yourself you are pursing money and ambition for the sake of others, but you become prideful in that pursuit, you may discover that that path is empty and void of satisfaction. It’s all in your mindset.

So, what is your reason for pursuing or acquiring more money? What do you value? What is the end purpose for your money? If it’s simply to have more money, happiness may elude you, simply because money can only be a means to an end.

Ask yourself what are the most vital things you can acquire; are they temporal, or of a more lasting nature? What lasting value do your possessions have?

Our greatest happiness and fulfillment comes, not from our possessions, but from the relationships we form, the knowledge we gain, and the growth we experience as people. Are you investing as much into your relationships and yourself as you are your 401k?

In 2008 a study was done with a group of college students. Some were given money with instructions to spend it on themselves, others were given money to spend on someone else. They were asked in the beginning which group they thought would increase their levels of happiness more. Most thought it would be the group spending the money on something they wanted. However, they were dead wrong. The study found that, “people experienced happier moods, when they gave more money away-but only if they had a choice about how much to give.” And “thinking about money may propel individuals toward using their financial resources to benefit themselves, but spending money on others can provide a more effective route in increasing one’s own happiness.”

Similar studies have shown that when people give to charities, they tend to be more careful in their own spending, becoming more conscientious of frivolous spending. Givers tend to be more financially successful. Giving to others awakens our emotional connection to those around us and has physiological effects that make us happier and healthier.

If you find yourself feeling down and despaired over our current economy, instead of dwelling on those uncertainties, look outward and find a way to help someone. The results will be compounding. Eventually, we discover that it isn’t how much money we have acquired that brings happiness, but our attitude towards it and what we did with that money to benefit the lives of the people we love; it’s our gratitude, our challenges, and the service we gave.

Picture by Szilvia Basso

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