“Money won’t make you happy.”
You often hear something like this from rich people on social media in compilation videos or through their individual accounts, and the top comments are always like ….
“Yeah, try giving me all your money then.” or “I’ll definitely be happier with your Rolls Royce, hand it over then.”
Now, let’s take small-minded opinions of random average people on the internet aside and look at the science. There’s been a lot of studies done on this topic, which I’ve written about in depth in previous articles. The gist of it is that money, on average, does bring more happiness until a point of about a first world median income. Then, the correlation starts to diminish rapidly.
I believe when there’s a lack of money, it causes many things that make you unhappy or stressed, like feeding your family, having clothes without holes in them, paying for rent, credit card debt, appearing attractive to mates, and the list goes on. So, of course, more money solves a lot of these materialistic problems and makes you happier when you’re lacking.
I will never deny someone the right to want to be become rich or say that it’s not better. I’ll take rich over poor every time because rich is better. Wealth gives you more freedom. You can buy whatever you want and fix many, but not all, problems of life. You can get a fancy house, have more free time, spend that free time with friends, make more friends, more people will want to be your friend or date, you can wear nice clothes, you can get that fancy watch, and you can travel where you want.
Wealth just brings a lot of opportunities for you to deploy that and fix many problems. You can invest in yourself, invest in others, help others, and more. But once you get beyond the base levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then what? Once food, shelter, providing for your family are met, people tend to next move onto enjoying themselves in the entertainment and pleasure phase. They try to buy expensive, fun, but not necessary things and experiences, like a trip to the Maldives or a Porsche to make themselves happy. And does it work? Well, the science says this will give short-term pleasure for a while, maybe a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, or if you’re lucky, months, but it will die off and then you’ll get used to it and not be happier. The scientific term for it is the hedonic treadmill.
The distinction that these comments are missing is that it doesn’t solve all of life problems and it doesn’t 100% guarantee happiness. If that were true, why are there depressed rich people? Why did Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain kill themselves?
There are intangible, non-material goals and problems that can’t be solved by throwing money around. You can’t make someone love you. You can’t fix your social skills, lack of social intuitiveness, traumatic issues, lack of fulfillment, lack of purpose, disengagement with life, lack of relationships, lack of free time to spend with children because you’re forced to over work to make that money, or a number of other problems just by spending more money. Someone I know once responded to my point by saying something along the lines of, “Yes, you can! Just hire a therapist or purchase a life purpose course. Get a baby sitter.”
You still need a game plan and the awareness to go to the right places to fix these things, and many people lack the awareness and ability to do so. That’s why there’s plenty of rich people who are still sloppy with their fashion, socially inept, lacking fulfillment, or unhappy.
I think money is definitely important. Go get more. We all should. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue a better life. I just think these average people posting these comments are too quick to jump to conclusions or argue back in their small-minded ways without really thinking things through. Why are they so quick to think they’re smarter and know better? Did they not take a second to perhaps consider that maybe this rich person giving this advice has experiences they haven’t and knowledge they don’t? Are they so close-minded they can’t even consider the possibility of someone still being unhappy despite having money?
So, how can you be rich and happy?
I think it starts by avoiding the major pitfalls. Don’t trap yourself in a job or business that generates a lot of money but takes up too much of your time doing something you don’t like.
Avoid neglecting your mental health. Hire a therapist.
Avoid defining your whole life based on a hedonistic lifestyle that depends on spending money on materialistic things that will only end up giving you a short-term pleasure boost like a drug. The nice car, yacht, women are only going to feel good for a while. You’ll soon get used to them, maybe even bored of them.
Consider fulfillment, purpose, and engagement while you’re shaping your career.
Work on fundamental pillars of cultivating happiness: community, gratitude, purpose, giving back, and health.