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.
BROKE AND HAPPY
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?