Great Savings 28 – Money And Happiness

 

In case you were wondering, we don’t believe acheiving a quality lifestyle is a simple matter of spending less money or saving more of it. Money by itself is never the final answer. Ask the richest person you know if they have enough money and chances are they’ll tell you no. Furthermore, as you go to compare the lives of the people you meet, ask whether being rich is the one and only key to their happiness? Having money won’t guarantee who ends up happier or more satisfied in life. There’s little question money is useful for creating certain opportunities. Yet having less or none of it doesn’t automatically imply we need to write off who we want to be or all we want to accomplish. In the end, our quality of life is as much or more about our state of mind as it is a reflection on the state of our finances.

 

Why do we insist on measuring wealth in terms of money?

What makes you smile or laugh? What gives you the most pleasure or satisfaction?

Ask yourself what makes you happy? The love of a significant other? The companionship of friends? A full belly? A roof over your head? Now ask if the things that make you happy are only possible because of money? Is your love for a significant other dependent on a bank balance? Is your ability to stay warm and dry dependent on owning a particular home or large mansion? Is your ability to stay fed dependent on dining at the finest restaurants? Isn’t it curious that as we stop to think about it we can conclude money allows us to have different experiences or certain opportunities, but only to a point. So why then do we insist on defining “wealth” in terms of money alone? In other words, why are we so stuck on accumulating money when it’s ultimately the bounty of love, joy and happiness that make a person rich?

 

There are a lot of ways to define wealth.

Is true wealth ever found from the outside looking in? Isn’t it better to enjoy the things we already have rather than lust over the things we don’t?

It can be helpful to think of money as a tool—a means to an end. As a tool it’s a means to pursue opportunity. It’s a means by which we make trading for various types of goods or experiences more convenient. And while it’s easy to make the leap that having money equates to owning those goods or obtaining certain experiences, the reality is something different. By itself, money can open certain doors or the lack of it can mean other doors remain closed, but appreciating what lies on this side or beyond is the real path to happiness and that’s never only about money. For more on this topic see Great Savings 26) The Power Of Gratitude.

 

Why spend time talking about money and happiness in a series that at its core is all about accumulating wealth? Because the market-driven economic model we all live in would have us believe that money and happiness are eternally bound—meaning we can’t have one without the other. Consider for a moment that our economy is driven by individuals and companies endlessly pursuing profit. Profit, in turn, is created with prices exceed costs and that happens when we create sufficient demand—in other words, when we have a population of unfulfilled consumers. Thus, to insure consumers are unfulfilled and continue buying they are constantly pushed and prodded to upgrade, buy new, and/or buy the very latest gizmo. In essence, we are continually fed certain notions over what we need to do or buy in order to be and stay happy. For more on this topic see Great Savings 22 – Tune Out To Tune In.

 

Great Savings Tip #28 - Money And HappinessThe problem is true happiness is an internal state of being—meaning a condition of the mind. And that implies there’s really very little we can own in our external world that can give ultimate satisfaction internally. If you doubt that, consider it’s not the ownership of a particular something that makes us happy; it’s what we expect to gain from the ownership, meaning what new or better experience we gain as a consequence of possession.

 

 

The sad promise of our economic model is it tells us we’ll be so much happier when we own something “bright, shiny and new”. Yet bright, shiny and new is an illusion not only because it’s externally based, but because it cannot last if the economic model is to keep functioning. In fact, the way it works is bright, shiny and new loses its luster by definition the minute it walks out the door. And of course, bright, shiny and new is only possible when we continue to buy into the notion that we need to keep spending our money in order to be happy in the first place.

 

There is incredible beauty to be found in nature. Isn't that a kind of wealth?

The joy we get from looking up through the leaves doesn’t cost a dime, so why define wealth by money alone?

Don’t take the above the wrong way. Saving money is a good thing. And good for you if you’re planning to spend more wisely and accumulate wealth. No doubt the money you save will provide certain opportunities you’re bound to miss out on otherwise. Yet don’t let accumulating money be your sole purpose in life, or let it keep you from missing out on all the opportunities that only come around once in awhile. Small children grow up quickly. It takes much longer to recover from injury the older we get. Travel is easier when we’re younger than when our mobility or ability to reason become impaired by age. Thus, don’t miss out on all the good staring you right in the face just so you can work harder or longer hours in the hope that someday you’ll be rich and can do whatever you please.

 

Some of the simplest things in life are often the best.

Happiness is a feeling we experience in the moment. Money is a physical token of value–something we hold. We can spend money to buy an experience, but quite often the best experiences won’t cost even an ounce of our gold.

 

In the long run, the accumulation of wealth can’t guarantee happiness. It certainly can’t hurt, but it’s really what you can do or be with whatever you already have at your disposal that matters most.

 

Action Item: Take time out to define what being happy looks like for you. For example, suppose for a moment you have no money at all and then ask what would give you the most pleasure or satisfaction? Now, ask how that might change if money were no object and you had all the money you wanted? Knowing what it means to be happy is a key to having and knowing true wealth.

 

For more on discovering true wealth, see our Great Savings Tip 19 – Less Is Really More
 

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