Can Money Make You Happy?
The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman
Have you ever heard this parable? It’s a striking display of two completely different mindsets and lifestyles.
The fisherman is seemingly full of gratitude, contentment, and living his life in a fulfilling way. He is living in the moment, enjoying what he has, and spending his time and effort on the things that are most important to him. His family and friends.
The American in contrast is living in and for the future, thinking of what could be. There’s nothing to indicate he’s a bad person though. He’s driven, smart, a big thinker, and thinking about how to get better or achieve more.
So what’s the point? The parable forces us to think about what we ultimately want and is there a way to experience it in some way now instead of waiting most of our life for the chance to do so.
If you look further into the parable, these two characters have some things in common. Both are focused on what they find important, they are resourceful, and they have a plan. In the end, both of them ultimately want the same thing.
This parable makes you think about what really matters. To some people, it may still be more rewarding to chase growth. At least in this season of life. There’s no perfect solution that fits everyone.
That leads to the next step, what is happiness and how do you get it?
What is happiness?
How do you define happiness? Have you ever even thought about that? If not, I invite you to take a few minutes now and consider how you would define it.
If defining happiness is too hard, take some time to think about what makes you happy.
This is a question I ask in my first meeting with every potential client. I think it’s one you should ask yourself too.
The answer to this question will go a long way in answering the question, “can money buy happiness?”
On a more scientific approach, researchers have found that our happiness is made up of three categories.
- Genetics: about 50% of our happiness comes from our genetic disposition. There’s nothing we can do about this part.
- Environment: things that happen to us out of our control make up about 10% of our happiness. This number was lower than I expected it to be.
- Our actions: We have a direct influence on about 40% of our happiness. What and how we think as well as the things we do play a huge role in our happiness.
So if we know these things, why or how do we get off track? Keep reading.
Money As A Drug?
There’s a study done by Hans Maeder and Daniel Kahneman that showed obtaining more money activates the same parts of the brain as illicit drugs.
This sounds crazy, but if you’ve ever been to a casino, you get it. Slot machines are designed to play directly into this fact. They are the biggest money-makers for casinos, but people still flock to them. Why?
Because the sound of the machine going off every time they win activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as someone high on cocaine. Crazy, right?
This isn’t just true in degenerate gamblers though. That’s the scary part. This same truth applies to anyone who makes money. Like with anything else, the bigger the stakes, the more amplified everything seems.
This is evidenced by another study that was done in 2018 by Harvard. It surveyed over 4,000 millionaires and showed that even those with $10MM+ needed a lot more wealth to be happier.
In fact, ~72% of those asked said they would need at least 100% more money to be as happy as they can be!
Don’t want to end up like that? What can you do?
Live Like You Were Dying
There’s an old Tim Mcgraw song that says “someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”
I think that’s a great thought. Thinking about that specifically has led to bringing up the topic with potential clients when I’m getting to know them.
One question I ask them is what they would do if they found out they only had a year left to live.
While this may seem morbid, my hope in asking it is to find out what’s truly important to people.
There are some fun and wild answers in there like going skydiving or swimming with great white sharks for sure.
Most of the answers I get though are centered around spending quality time with the people they care about most, traveling to places they’ve always wanted to go, and doing the things they’ve always wanted to do but didn’t feel like they had the time to do (write a book, start a business, serve in their community).
There’s some good evidence that supports these answers too.
Bronnie Ware is a nurse who spent many years taking care of people in the last weeks of their life. She ultimately wrote a book titled “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.”
Depending on your perspective, you may or may not be surprised to find that making more money wasn’t on the list. But what made the list?
- Not having the courage to chase after their dreams or go after what was important to them. Living life “the way they were supposed to” instead of going after what their heart yearned for.
- They wished they hadn’t worked so hard. Yup, you read that right. They regretted spending so much time working and not enough on the things that really mattered to them.
- They wished they’d learned to express their feelings. They too often played peacemaker instead of sharing how they felt.
- They wished they’d done a better job staying in touch with friends. This most likely relates to #2 above.
- They wished they’d let themselves be happier. They lived the life they were “supposed to” instead of choosing the things that brought them joy. This relates to #1 above.
Do We Even Need Money To Be Happy?
In short, yes. At least some.
Research shows that depending on where you live and what your cost of living is, there is a certain level of income that seems to be the tipping point for a person’s overall happiness.
A big takeaway was that once all of your necessities are taken care of, additional income does not add to happiness levels.
I hope this has given you some things to think about. I also hope you don’t take this as me saying money is bad. I don’t think that at all.
Money is just a tool in my opinion. One we have the ability to direct.
My hope is that this makes you pause to think about your life, about the role money plays in it, and if there are any changes you’d like to make or you’ve wanted to make, but haven’t yet.
I know the more I learn and the more I contemplate the correlation between money and happiness, the more I consider how money impacts my family and my life.
I’m personally several years into a journey towards contentment. I think it’s a journey I’ll be on the rest of my life, but one I continue to make progress on.
If you’d like to discuss what you’ve read above or just have a discussion about wealth and contentment, I’d love to chat with you.
You can schedule a call here.
Be on the lookout this quarter for more helpful information on money, happiness, and contentment in our upcoming Monthly Minute releases.
Get to Know Our Team
This past quarter our team had some exciting things happen.
In January, Lee and his wife Susanne celebrated twelve years of marriage and 17 years of being together.
February was a big month for Lee. He celebrated his birthday. He got to play golf at a course on his bucket list, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Lastly, he made his second ever hole in one while winning a tournament with his father-in-law in Big Canoe.
March was a big month for the Ray family. Kyle, Genna, Blair sold their home in Atlanta and closed on a home back in Kyle’s hometown!
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