Friday, 4 May 2007

Money & Happiness.

Well, that was a bit of a disaster!

A post on giving a cheap, anonymous pleasure to children ended up with me being labelled a paedophile and out of touch with the meaning of happiness.

Oh, the joys of blogging.

OK, lets look at the money-happiness thing.

Can money buy happiness? That begs the question 'What is happiness?' I have no easy answer to that. At the very basic level, if you are in need of food and shelter, money will buy security and some certainty; but is this happiness?

At the top of the range, you can afford better health care, employ people to do the tasks that you don't want to do, live a better lifestyle; but is this happiness?

People argue that if they got a pay rise, they would be happier. But ask them how happy they are a few weeks after a rise and you will find them no more happy. They are used to the money and no longer get pleasure from it.

Have you ever noticed that you get more pleasure buying things than you do from owning them? You go through the whole rigmarole of buying a car, the research, the haggling, the joy of driving it home. A week later it is just a car. People adapt to new circumstances. If I was to give you $100 a week you would not get more and more happy each week. You would get used to getting it and expect it.

You can be well off, comfortably attended to and wanting nothing, and yet be unhappy. Happiness is more closely associated with contentment and satisfaction, whatever your personal circumstances. But it also seems to revolve around a personal set-point. People seems to have an inner happiness 'thermostat' that regulates their perceived happiness, their subjective well-being. Small things, even big things, will take you in either direction but you will usually return to your normal setting.

Footnote 1: Money lets you take holidays. Do holidays give happiness? The evidence suggests no. In real time, at least. People get a lot of pleasure looking forward to holidays and a lot of pleasure looking backward to a holiday but their happiness levels are usually lower while they are on holidays. The before and after perspectives usually ignore the trials and tribulations of the holiday: flight issues, food issues, accommodation issues, health issues, the weather...

Footnote 2: In my previous version of this blog I ran a small survey asking people how contented they felt relative to the 'average person'; 55 out of 85 respondents said they were more contented than the average person, 19 were average and 11 were less than average.

Footnote 3: A survey in the US found that people thought that people who had a lot of money were more likely to get into heaven. (They obviously are not familiar with Matthew 19:24)


  1. Auuww.. things get more complicated huh? Happiness itself is very subjective to me.

  2. To me (us) happiness is more quality time with kids, family and friends, not having a rushed life and never time, to just sit still and wonder, stare into space, read a book, listen to music. To be able to enjoy your kids,life, friends, good wine and good food together, laugh and fun.
    But .. also not to have worries about having to pay bills, to be rid of stress.
    I love the park idea too, sounds great.

  3. I love your idea of hiding things in the sand. When I was a girl, and there was a lot of construction around our neighborhood, I used to hide little trinkets in sand piles for my sister to find. I loved seeing the magical look of wonder she would get on her face and the excitement in her eyes. It's the same why I feel now when I find synchronicitously meaningful objects in the sand at the beach now. I think of them as gifts from the universe.

    Coincidentally, I'm ready Chris Gardner's book: "The Pursuit of Happyness" and it made me stop think what makes me most happy... freedom, my son's hugs, my husband's massages, a sunny day, a beautiful spring garden, camping in Tahoe, finding things on the beach and friends i meet in blogland.

  4. In our younger, working days, when we worked very hard, but earned what seemed like a lot of money, I always felt we paid too high a price for our money.
    I still feel my son & daughter pay too heavily for their money. They are mostly miserable. I do think we are born with a set point for happiness, & it tends to remain fairly constant.
    I am glass half full, whereas, my children, who were given almost everything in childhood, tend to be glass half empty... which is curious, given they had such a 'priveledged' childhood. (Their word)

  5. I have moments of happiness. They are frequent and though I cannot always trace them to their root cause, when I examine them, I find that when they occur, I am always content with wherever I am and whatever I'm doing. I have enough money to get by on a daily basis. Occasionally I get a windfall in the form of extra work or an unexpected gift. Good job I don't believe in heaven - at my pay rate, I'd never get in!

  6. Happiness is a Warm Gun ?? - Bush, America and Iraq
    Happiness is often fleeting , I think and triggered by many factors as with any emotion . Some people are born happy, seemingly, while others with the same upbringing and background are less so . People are born positively or negatively ' charged ' in other words . Money alone won't change anything -- but can buy better sadness !.

  7. Money, money, money. The more you have, the more you want. Is that happiness? Not to me.

  8. I found your Footnote 3 especially funny. I wonder how many people they surveyed that thought rich people were more likely to get into heaven. Seems ridiculous thinking to me, but I am always surprised at what people think.

  9. I read this somewhere and can't remember who said it but it goes like this... I am happy because I don't mind the way things are.

    It makes great sense to me as a foundation for happiness to take root.

  10. Hi Lee! Found you through Meggie ... and so glad I did!!

    I've just spent the last hour chortling my way through your website! Thank you, you magician of the english language, I haven't laughed so much for quite a while!

  11. The age old question, can money buy happiness?.......well, try being happy without ANY. I don't think most people would want to be poverty stricken, completely out of money. Not being rich is one thing, but being totally broke all the time would suck big time, I would think. However can it buy happiness, some people are just miserable....and I don't think anything would make them happy. As my Mom used to say, " I doubt he would be happy if you hung him with new rope." I guess she thought that one through, haha

  12. Dang! You're gonna think I'm pickin' on ya, but, I ain't.

    (Did you just quote the bible back there?) Let's move past that....

    Some say money can't buy you happiness, and on that note, I reckon it may be true, but, I'm not sure if you see the paradox here....
    I'm thinking that those with money aren't particularly of the mind to spread their "misery", as it were, with us po' folks.

    On the other hand, I now have a better idea of what you were up to, and that's not even on the same road as money and happiness, m'friend.
    YOU are one of those folks I keep mentioning to others as a person who sits high in the graces of the CREATOR even without the certification of any organized religion.
    You are doing what you're supposed to do (not pitching pennies at park're openning up avenues of dreams, hopes, aspirations....) and that's half of yer "job", the other half being to love the creation (feel free to ask an artist and we will tell you, love the creation, love the creator) and you do that by keeping things as clean as you do.

    Money has nothing to do with happiness...the having or not having...but, sometimes I come off sounding like a know-it-all.
    Thing is, it could be a grass is greener sort of affair, eh? "if you don't have two coins to rub together in your pocket," my aunt used to say, "the dogs'll pee on ya."
    That turns out to be false. I know because I've had plenty of times as that, but never once did a dog pee on me. Well, not then. Once after a good week, and fer sure with some bucks in my pocket a dog DID pee on my leg....
    "But I HAVE money!" I yelled at the dog.
    While those with money of some sort are working harder than they can imagine to keep what they have paid and current.
    Finally, Gates and such as the like.....
    I'm not sure HE feels the pain of having money is so bad. He even took what Warren Buffet gave up to his quest (several dollars...) happily and set about putting it to work.

    On the other hand, and totally away from your subject (sort of) I doubt very much if you are a ped, and upon reading the said comment, I kind'a got the idea he was sort'a joking.

    and, lastly....
    we all do it to some extent. Putting money out to the general; population, that is.
    Some of us walk with our heads down, not out of shame....rather, because there's money out there in the streets and sidewalks, and, yeah...even in the kids' parks of the world.
    And here's something to consider, too. It ain't such a bad idea to look around at the grocery store sometimes....if you see somebody standing counting money while in front of real food (milk, meats, breads, whatever) get a couple'a dollars up, fold them, walk up behind them and say quickly, "I think you dropped this back there" then walk away before they can think about it.

    Just like finding a shiney copper, all heads up and all, and slipping it into yer shoe.

  13. Hello, This is my first visit to your blog. You have posed a few interesting questions in this post. I suppose that hliza is right in that happiness is very subjective. That being said, I guess that poor people, who have had the good fortune of becoming wealthy, could best answer the question. For myself, although we are not wealthy, my husband and I are both employed, and our children are raised. Thus, we have few financial responsiblities. I am very happy now; however, I was extremely happy when my children were little, and we were poor living one salary. My mother wisely said once, "we always have the same amount of money our lives...$50.00 too little.'

  14. Hi Boneman, yes I did quote the Bible. Don't read too much into it! Thank you for your other comments, especially the one in the supermarket.

    Yes, the ped comment was kind of joking but sort of told me that I hadn't written the original post too well.

    A final thought on money and happiness - if getting money made you happier, why don't people get happier and happier after each pay day? Shouldn't each payday build of the happiness of the previous until you are just bursting with happiness?

    mjd: welcome!


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