Can money buy happiness?

We spend a significant amount of time worrying about money and happiness.

As a species that strives to survive, spending most of our time worrying about money is logical since it’s our means for survival, but linking it with happiness? That should be unusual. Or should it?

Definitions change over time, to adapt to modern life and language, which can explain why we link these two words together.

Survival in our modern world is not the same as before, to survive is to strive nowadays, we strive for the bigger house, faster car, and “better life” which is mostly followed by luxury. Besides, that is of course due to our fast-paced evolutionary system, especially if you live in one of the world’s biggest cities. Everything and everyone moves so fast, as the movie Ferris Buller’s Day Off puts it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Alan Ruck, Matthew Broderick and Mia Sara in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)

According to an article by CNN about Winning the lottery: “research in psychology and economics has found that people do get happier as their income increases, but only up to a certain level where they are comfortable. One of the more recent studies on the subject, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, found life satisfaction rises with higher incomes up to a household income of about $75,000, and levels off afterward. In general, the research on the happiness of lottery winners is mixed. A 2006 study in the Journal of Health Economics of lottery winners in Britain who won up to $200,000 found an improvement in their mental well-being two years later. However, an often-referenced study from 1978, comparing 22 major lottery winners with people who did not win, found no difference in happiness levels between the two groups.”

Winning the lottery can make you feel at ease, you don’t have to worry about money now or anything for that matter, but in the article above, you can see that it doesn’t put your life on the satisfaction mode, since most lottery winners end up either spending all their money really fast and ending up in debt, or losing or their friends and become anti-social.

When I started researching this subject, I was surprised to see that almost every article or video concerning the question “Can money buy happiness” concludes that we can buy happiness.

If you ask anyone whether money can buy happiness, they tell you no without thinking about the question because they don’t want to look greedy, but that’s where they might be wrong.

We are born with all the time in the world, so none is earned in contrast to money, so we tend to take our time for granted and some of us “spend all of our time” just to realize in the end that it was all wasted.

Money can buy a certain time, and rich people tend to value their time more, so they pay other people to do simple tasks for them. For example cleaning the house, while poor people might spend a couple of hours a week cleaning their houses wealthy people pay for such a service which gives them more time to do the things they love or communicate with one another.

Another study concludes that the way we spend our money plays a vital role. If you spend money on yourself more without considering others you’re more likely going to be sadder than if you use it to help others and grow socially. Professor Michael Norton said that in a study at the University of British Columbia, students that were given money and spent it on others became happier, while students that were given money and spent it on themselves were not any happier. Norton said that the same effect happened in Uganda.

Another Research from Dr. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University reveals that spenders experience more long-term happiness and satisfaction when they buy experiences rather than possessions. A new watch or necklace increases happiness for a short while, but it soon becomes a routine part of the purchaser’s environment, contributing little to happiness and possibly even inducing buyer’s remorse. However, dinner with friends, a Broadway play, or an Alaskan cruise creates valuable memories shared with others. Connection creates meaning, and we’re more likely to bond with someone who also hiked the Appalachian trail than someone who purchased the same television.

Which brings us to see that this title is a bad one, since money is not a variable in these researches, because it doesn’t matter how much you spend, what matters is how you spend it.

Still, we humans tend to depend on many things to go through the day that we become addicted to it, coffee, medicine, shopping, tobacco etcetera. And depending on these things might make us think we are happy for a minute, but do we really stay that way? “as long as I have my morning coffee I stay happy and functional” but those needs are bound to increase, the coffee becomes two and more, there might be an afternoon coffee a night coffee etcetera, because our bodies evolve and adapt with that coffee or medicine. Moreover, that’s what happens with money. Maybe money could buy your happiness on the first sip, but we can’t depend on such a thing to get us satisfaction. We can’t depend on anything for that matter.
Those who suggest that money buys happiness are the one dependent on it, but I think that if you genuinely want to be happy, you could find more efficient ways to do so without depending on anything, the question here becomes as Lucifer puts it “what do you desire?”

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