Four Words That Have Ruined Countless Lives


“Money Can’t Buy Happiness” Is Stupid And Simplistic

It’s a canard–an unfounded rumor or belief–that material wealth can’t bring happiness. Of course it can. Two very expensive cats over the years have more than proved that for me. A lot of studies have come out to show that more money does not bring more happiness.  And it is true that a poor miserable person may not become less miserable with more money. But I think this perspective misses the point. Money by itself does not have the power to influence our state of mind, but the wise use of money can definitely improve life, bring a lot more pleasure and joy into one’s life, and allow one to participate in one of of the most certain ways to produce happiness:  generously giving to others.

So Where Did It All Start?

Some say this misperception started with Adam Smith, that there is a limited ability to achieve happiness by acquiring wealth, as discussed in his 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

And of course in modern times, it has been put out there by wealthy bosses wanting to keep their workers happy with less-than-fair wages, or governments wanting to raise taxes.

Now some caveats here. I’m not saying money is the most important factor in bringing someone happiness, or even an essential one. I’ve been happy poor and I’ve been happy rich, and I can’t say rich is better in this regard, but it certainly makes it easier–and, mainly, money can buy you freedom in terms of the time to do what makes you feel good.

An interesting aside in this research is that scientists have found that people who are happy tend to make more money, especially later in life.

Celebrate The Temporary

A lot of the reports make much of the fact that receiving a sudden windfall only produces a temporary burst of pleasure, as if something is wrong with that. My contention has always been that a life well lived and well enjoyed is a series of temporary pleasures–like falling in love at first sight, or moving into a new home, or a wonderful vacation, or having a wonderful meal. All of these can bring lots of joy and happiness, but that initial burst wears off. And we need to celebrate the temporary nature of almost everything rather than decry it.

This awareness is exemplified in the old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly rent it.”

Though I think a quote that wraps my view up perfectly is from actress Bo Derek.

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.

One of my quotes on the subject:

While money certainly can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you a lot of courses on how to achieve happiness.

An even more recent quote of mine:

Money is the lubricant for a smoothly satisfying life.

Most of the happiest people I know do not have money worries or struggles. On the other hand, in 12 years of incarceration–broke and in prison–I was happy a lot of the time. Happiness is, after all, an inner experience and not dependent on externals, unless you make it so. But is also true that when my friends Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson and Susannah Lippman, among others, bought me lots of books and magazine subscriptions and quarterly packages of edible goodies, my happiness level definitely went up a notch or two or three. And when I would earn $100 in a month of writing captions for my magazine cartoonist clients on the outside, it felt like a fortune.

I think ultimately what brings the most happiness is being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it, and where you want to do it. And money definitely helps a lot in this regard.

And lack of money is probably more responsible for unhappiness than having money is for happiness. But saying that money can’t buy happiness is simply wrong, small-minded, and misleading. And to make it less of a hypothetical discussion, you might choose to make a list of 10 USES OF MONEY THAT MADE ME HAPPY.

I’d love to hear your comments and experiences about this subject.



About the Author Jerry

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