Can Money Buy Happiness? I Dunno; Can it Buy Brocolli and Cookies?

Ah, the age old question, can money buy happiness?

Several debates are raging at the Fastlane Forum about the very topic. I’ve neglected to participate in either thread and decided to contribute my opinion here. (Here are the two threads: HERE AND HERE)

So, does money really buy happiness?

In short, absolutely, positively, YES.

However, there’s one caveat.

Money also buys misery.

To question the very nature of what money can buy is like questioning what money can buy when you walk into a grocery store.

Can money buy unhealthy donuts?  Sure.

Can money buy healthy stalks of broccoli? Yup.

The fact is, what money can buy is YOUR CHOICE.


As I mention in my book, The Millionaire Fastlane, money buys happiness when it is used for purposes that are likely to make you happy in both the short and long term. Unfortunately, most people use money to acquire, what I call, Trojan Happiness, which are simply Trojan horses that appear to bear joy, but harbor future misery via the destruction of freedom.

Trojan Happiness are things that you *think* will make you happy, and they often do for a few days, or perhaps weeks, but long term, they cause stress, misery, and entrapment.

We’re talking about the big house with the big mortgage. The fancy Infiniti SUV that sucks gas like a M8 Military Tank. Those great looking Prada shoes.  That speed boat you take out only in the summer months.

The problem is, these *things* will not make you happy if two things are present:

1) If you are already unhappy


2) If they are destructive to your freedom.

First, your current generalized state, without money, will likely dictate your future state, with money.

Let me repeat that:  Your general state of happiness, without money, will dictate your future state, with money.

Second, money cannot buy happiness if it entraps you into an already existing state of unhappiness.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you make $40K/year doing a job you hate, although, you are highly competent in your work. If we measured your satisfaction on the happiness scale, you aren’t — you’re in a job you loathe and hate getting up at 5AM to face a 1 hour commute.  Your generalized disposition is unhappiness, except of course, on the weekend.  Nonetheless, you do the job because it’s the best thing out there.

After a year or so, you get a big promotion and now make $150K/year.

Your new job increases your workload with additional hours and travel responsibilities; instead of a routine 40 hours a week, you’re now working 60. With your new promotion and big increase in *money*, you fall into the myth that “money buys happiness” and rationalize “I deserve it!” — you go out and buy a Porsche 911 and a big house.

Welcome to Trojan Happiness.

Is money buying happiness here? In the undefined short-term, perhaps. Long-term? No.

Money has purchased bondage in the form of lifestyle entrapment.  In short, you’re bankrupt in time, void of freedom. You’re now a prisoner to your job, a subordinate to your stuff; the mortgage, the car payment, that “looking successful” illusion you must convey to friends and co-workers.

Money has purchased misery at the expense of your freedom.  Money, and the stuff it buys, becomes an illusion to mask your misery. Driving to prison in a Porsche 911 doesn’t make you FREE.

Again, money buys whatever you want it to buy.


The point when my life turned from misery to happiness occurred when I was 27 years old.

And guess what?

I was flat broke.

So what happened at age 27?

This was the age when I become fully self-supportive in my chosen career of entrepreneurship. I officially had no boss. No part-time jobs. No alarm clock, and no authoritarians hovering over me. I was in control over my destiny, and could fully support myself doing so. From this point, earning more money increased my level of happiness because I was a careful steward of that money to ensure it created freedom, not destroy it.

I chose to have money buy happiness via virtue of freedom.

Today I awoke from bed at 7:37am and haven’t awakened to an alarm clock in years. Money made that possible.

It was my dream to write the book, The Millionaire Fastlane, and to write it without worrying about how many would sell, or worrying about who’d I piss off writing it. Money made that possible.

It was my dream to be able to travel anywhere, wherever, and whenever. I can. Money made that possible.

I love playing softball and play as much as 3 times a week. I can stay out late as I want and not worry about how I will feel in the morning. Money made that possible.

It was my dream to own whatever sports car I wanted, pay cash for it, and not be a burden to the purchase.  Money made that possible.

It was my dream to live in a home with a view of the mountains. Money made that possible.

I work by choice, not by need. Money made that possible.

Conversely, let me be clear about the alternative use of money.   If my house, cars, or *things* ever became destructive to my freedom, I’d sell them immediately.  There’s a reason why I don’t own a fleet of exotic cars and a wardrobe full of designer clothing … my freedom is simply too important.

Question is, how important is it to you?

There are two main points here you need to realize:

First, pay attention to your life as it is NOW, without money.  Are you happy? If you aren’t, money will not likely make a big difference in the long term.  Focus on your happiness NOW, in your daily work, and your daily life.  Make money work for you, instead of against you.

Second, pay attention to the most prescient happiness maker out there:  FREEDOM.  Are you using money to finance FREEDOM?  Or BONDAGE?

I don’t care who you are and where you live — FREEDOM is the ultimate foundation unto which happiness can be created.

So, money can’t buy happiness?

Wrong.  It will buy whatever you want it to buy.

It buys Trojan Happiness. It buys freedom. It buys misery. It buys cookies and doughnuts. It buys broccoli and apples. It damn well buys whatever you want it to buy.

The question is, what are you going to buy with it?


  • I love this point of view and I love your book. I’m processing it in my mind and trying to live it :)

    • Gracious, thanks for reading!

      • Oh, I didn’t only read it. I told all my friends about it and how it changed my thinking. I’m getting a copy as a Christmas present for someone I care dearly about. I’m not sure if this person is ready for such a shake of philosophy of life, though. One has to be ready.

        • Marta, I really appreciate that you’ve told people in your circle of friends/family!! Much obliged.

  • Simple and true too. I also read your book, it changed my life and are allready enjoying more freedom. Thank you for that, be good.

  • As my father used to say, “money can’t buy happiness, but it will help you buy things that make you happy” (or something like that).

    He as yourself, was referring to freedom, and also health, among other things.

    I just started reading your book, and it’s been years since a book has grabbed me like yours. Thanks for writting it!

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  • I love your answer regarding this question. Everything you say in your book just makes so much sense. It seems as though your book managed to unify all the bits of information i picked up through all the other book i`ve read on wealth and finance. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Jen

    Money can buy freedom, one of the three “F”s that are the foundation of happiness. The concept is so clear to those who read the book! I think freedom is the essence of it all, as the other two Fs (family & fitness) get neglected when you have to slave 5 days a week. Yikes.

  • Jen

    By the way, MJ, why did you change the cover of the book? Is it based on any research on consumer preferences? I personally liked the first cover – wonder whether I can get a copy with the old cover?

    • The overall consensus was the people didn’t like it. I felt that the market was telling me to change it, so I did. If you want to order one with the old cover, you can do so at although I only have a dozen or so remaining.

  • Ninor74

    Oh, I don’t know…I’ve always liked the saying “People who say money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.” LOL

    Having been very well off at one point, and broke recently due to a divorce I can unequivocally say I was happier when I had money. The stress that comes from not being able to pay bills, knowing your once awesome credit score is being eroded etc. truly makes me very unhappy.

    I do agree 100% though with the statement about how you are without money is how you’ll be with it. Jim Rohn used to say it’s just a magnifier. If you’re a poor alcoholic and you come into money you’ll be a rich alcoholic. If you’re an egotistical maniac and broke and you come into money you’ll be a rich egotistical maniac.

    Great book by the way…is there ever going to be another one?

  • Alex

    MJ, just curious how many copies have you sold worldwide to date of your book?(if you can disclose?)

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  • Idil

    Hey MJ

    Just came across your website and I immediately loved it :) I especially resonated with this article because I want to become wealthy to be FREE from the system and awaken from the Matrix (lol). Beautiful toys and great vacations around the world are fine by me but I value the daily experience of my personal freedom and serenity first .Thanks for the marvelous book too!!

  • ron

    MJ Demarco is a genius.. Obviously.. Why? Besides the obvious money he acquired, The FOCUS on life being over soon is huge. It sticks that flame up your butt with a serious kick. Life is going to end… Soon… That means we will never be in these bodies ever again doing the things we know. Thus, why would one NOT pursue what he says? People act like they have another 1,000 years to go.. Quite the opposite. Even the Bible speaks of life being a vapor. Indeed it is…. This is by far the best finance book I ever read.. By far.. A true life planner. A true focus that opens the reader up like a can of tuna… Exposes it all. Blows away the round table guys I would see on TV..In fact I think it can be argued this is in the elite books EVER put out in Human history.. Mr. Demarco is also quite funny.. Hilarious at times, actually. I LOVE the fact he is not embarrassed to focus on TIME instead of just impressing people with a job so you can BS about it at a party… Even better, I LOVED the partner issues. One must have a partner on the same page or out ya go!
    People are forgotten very quickly once they die. Over 250,000 people died in a Tsunami in south east asia.. Do you remember them? Even if you did, so what? They are still dead. New generations come in and slowly the TOTAL memories of people from past generations simply goes away….. A great book, legendary in fact. Among the best in human history no doubt. I love this guy.. Great, funny, smart, on point, exposes you, helps you. And yet a fellow you can have a drink with.. Thank you Mr. Demarco for this amazing book. You are awesome. Where you point, I will read and watch..Thank you for giving a whole bunch of folks real direction in a sea of misery…. GOD Bless….

    • Akanbi Damola

      Incredible write up, I learnt a lot, thanks ron and thanks MJ