J-Lo said "Love Don't Cost a Thing." The Beatles said money "Can't Buy Me Love." But can money contribute to happiness? You've heard that poor people can still be happy, and that rich people are sometimes miserable. What factor does money play in our well-being?
Author Gretchen Rubin has spent a lot of time researching happiness -- and her book, The Happiness Project, is a New York Times bestseller. On her website, she examines some myths about happiness, one of which is the myth that money can't buy happiness.
Rubin agrees that money cannot buy actual happiness, but it sure can help. Being financially stable can allow you to buy things that can contribute to your overall well-being. Lack of money can increase anxiety, insecurity, stress levels, and other factors that can lead you to be pretty darn depressed. When managed correctly and spent in the right way, money can definitely help alleviate some of these problems.
Rubin points out that having healthy, strong relationships is key to happiness. Money can help this in a few different ways, such as buying a plane ticket to see a far-off relative, going on a date with your significant other, or buying pizza for a small get-together at your house. Using money to spice up your life by bringing in something novel or challenging can also improve happiness.
Whether money (or lack of it) contributes to your overall happiness depends on a few factors:
1) It depends on what kind of person you are. What do you want? A new car? A new pair of slippers? A trip to France? New paint in the dining room? The latest bestselling book? Spending money on things you want can be very expensive or very inexpensive, depending on the material things that you enjoy.
2) It depends on how you spend your money. Are you an obsessive saver? Splurging might make you anxious. But it also might feel good if you splurge on something you've been wanting for a long time. Similarly, if you frequently spend money frivolously, disciplining yourself to save for something you've always wanted can be rewarding.
3) It depends on how much money you have relative to the people around you, or relative to your own experience. Are your friends more affluent than you? Do members of your family seem to throw money around more than you do? Or are you much better off than you used to be?
The third point is perhaps the most important to keep in mind. If you went from making $30,000 per year to $80,000 per year, you may be happier because of your success. Someone else may go from making $500,000 per year to $400,000 and feel like a failure. Feeling worse off than you used to be can be depressing, whether you're still making a substantial amount of money or in the grip of poverty.
Money may not actually buy happiness, but being financially stable can help you focus on the things that really matter to you -- and THAT can make you happy!
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