Money can’t buy happiness is one of those most annoying quotes I have ever heard. At face value it has some merits. You can’t just buy stuff and expect to be happy. That will just put you on the hedonic treadmill where you are trying to buy a dopamine rush with every purchase. That self-medicating consumerism puts you on the same treadmill as someone who is chemically dependent on a substance such as meth or heroin. In that sense, the quote is valid.
But here is the thing. Money can buy the time, freedom and experiences to be happy. You know what can’t buy those things? Poverty. Poverty can’t buy anything that will make you happy. It’s foolish to assume that there isn’t a correlation between money and happiness.
You know what the number 1 stressor in the United States is? Money. It beats out jobs, relationships and politics by a wide margin. 73% of Americans stress about money. I suspect in many countries you will find the same data. The stats for America were just easier for me to find.
Money is one of the biggest things couples argue about. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 divorces occur due to money related issues. Sure, some folks in the upper bracket of income have this issue but most of the cases involve people who have money related stress.
When PWC, a major accounting firm, did an employee wellness survey they found 38% of their employees had less than a thousand dollars in savings to deal with unexpected expenses. In the lower age bracket this jumps up over 60% as these people generally make less money and have had less time to save money but even 38% of Gen X had less than 1000 bucks in savings. Many of you reading this might be in that boat so I don’t need to tell you how stressful that is. An unexpected medical expense or car repair could lead to bankruptcy. If you have a pet that needs expensive medicine or diagnostics you are going to be on for a heart wrenching decision at the vet’s office.
All this doom and gloom is to highlight the negative side of money. If you had enough money in your bank account for 6+ months of expenses then a significant amount of stress would disappear in your life. Less stress alone can improve your mental well being by an order of magnitude but it does go further than that. When you remove stress you create space. When you have more space you now have the option to fill it with things that bring you joy. Let me bring up some scenarios and ask yourself if this could ‘buy’ you happiness.
- Spending a week on a tropical island.
- Taking your children to Disney World.
- Owning your own home.
- Having enough money to quit your job or make demands when your employer is being a jerk.
- Having enough money to try starting your own business.
- Having a weekend retreat at a spa or wellness center.
- Going out for a weekend fishing trip with the boys(or girls!)
- Doing an extended backpacking trip.
- Being able to work less and spend more time with friends or family.
- Sail around the world
- Learn how to fly an airplane
Money can buy all those things and more. Can you think of any other experiences that you would add? The list is limitless.
It’s worth mentioning that having money won’t automatically make you happy. You need the proper mindset. The list of rich, celebrity suicides is daunting and sad. Money couldn’t buy them happiness nor could it treat their mental woes. There are celebrities who don’t fall that far but rarely ever seem happy. To them the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness” is probably true… but you know what? If they were poor they would be even worse off. They would bring their mental baggage with them down the financial ladder and then have the extra stress of living paycheck to paycheck on top of that.
All this sound good but perhaps lives you a bit frustrated because “How the *!#& do you expect me to have more money!?”. Well, from an article I can’t address you at a personal level but there are options out there. This deserves it’s own article, to be honest, but I haven’t written that yet so here is a quick primer.
First off, if you are struggling with money you might not be able to afford coaching. I understand, coaching is expensive(albeit worth it). I have two options. The first is we have our private community which, at the time of writing this is 10 bucks a month. It won’t be coaching but we have a lot of knowledgeable and helpful people there who can help offer advice including myself. The second option is subscribe to my newsletter and make sure to follow me on Instagram. I am working out some group sessions which will be much lower cost though, obviously, not as personalized. I’ll be announcing those through the newsletter and through social media.
When it comes to having more money you really have two paths. You can make more money and you can spend less money. That’s it. There are some investment strategies you can follow with your extra money but that is too in-depth for this. For now I recommend reading The Simple Path to Wealth which is the most basic effective way to invest your money. Anyone can get rich using it given enough time and effort.
When it comes to saving money pretty much everyone spends more than they need to. When I worked in a corporation I was one of the most well paid employees at my company. I suspect the owner and possibly my boss made more money but that was it. I drove a 15 year old car that we estimated had 500k miles on it. The odometer stopped at 299,999. I had one of the crappiest, beaten down looking cars in the parking lot. Some of my co-worker who possibly made ⅓ to ¼ of what I made would buy brand new cars. Some of them would trade them in every time they paid off the car just because they wanted the upgrade. I wore clothes I bought from thrift stores. Not in a hipster trendy way, just that I could get a basic, normal looking shirt for 2 dollars. Jeans were more like 4 dollars. I always brown bagged my lunch so often it cost me about a dollar. Again, my co-workers who got paid significantly less would have food delivered and I am sure their lunch often cost 15+ times what mine did.
Does that sound bland and miserable? If you follow me on social media do I seem that way? Here is the deal. I only spent money on things I valued. New clothes? Don’t give a shit. New car? I just need something reliable. Eating out? When I did eat out it was always a special occasion to go to a good restaurant with my wife and we really enjoyed it. This goes back to the hedonic treadmill. All those things might make you happy at first but quickly just because normal. Why not make something normal that saves you money and allows you to occasionally treat yourself?
So what about making money? Making more money almost always comes down to improving your skill set. Maybe you need to learn how to negotiate. Maybe you need to learn how to market yourself better. Maybe you just need to learn an in demand skill. A lot of people get stuck here because they feel like they need to go back to college to do this or spend a ton of money. Not really. There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require college but just require some skill. My favorite one I point people to is software engineering. That is what I did for 15 years. Software engineering has had a negative employment rate for decades. There are never enough of them. This results in the wages being high, and as of writing this they are getting ridiculous, plus it gives you a lot of power over choosing where, when and how you work. You don’t have to be super smart to do it. 99% of programming jobs don’t require you to be some math whiz. I never was. I also don’t have a college degree in programming. It hasn’t been a requirement in decades for most businesses. The reality is programming is a trade skill. If you wanted someone to build you a piece of furniture would you check what college he went to or would you check his website and see what his previous work looks like? That’s what most employers do.
But what about learning it? There are a ton of cheap options for learning how to code. There are free tutorials on YouTube or even cheap tutorials on Udemy. There are boot camps that cost X dollars a month and, depending on the time you put in, you can graduate in a few months with a portfolio. This is going to date my post but as of right now I have seen entry level positions for being at or very close to a 6 figure income.
There are other options out there but I just wanted to show that paths are available to start making more money within a relatively short period of time. If that doesn’t sound appealing you should ask yourself… Do I love what I am doing now? For most folks the answer is no so why not do something you don’t like that also pays well?
The basic concept to remember is that money accompanied with a proper mindset can buy happiness.