Our modern society is quite fixated on money. Some may go farther and call it an obsession. It seems as though money and the idea of what it can buy surrounds us everywhere we go. Many are waiting for their next pay cheque to put towards their next purchase with the pursuit of happiness in mind. Perhaps some of this craze is due to the state of the economy that’s infected with inflation and wealth disparity. It seems like no amount of money provides sufficient financial stability. Which is why so many Canadians are focused on obtaining more and more.
Alternatively, the media could be to blame for this fixation. Everyday, we are exposed to images, advertisements and posts about luxurious vacations, high-end products and brand new cars. In some ways, our society has become overridden by consumerism and materialism in a way that’s almost unavoidable. We are programmed to think about how life could be improved if only we could afford all of these things. On the contrary, some people find bliss in working hard for their money and spending it on things that enrich their life. Maybe it’s not that our economy is sick and that people really do find happiness with money. In this blog post, we will answer the question, can money buy you happiness? We’ll take a close look at some of the research on this topic and try to answer this question once and for all.
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All too often in our society, people find themselves debating over the possible correlation between money and happiness. While some claim that chasing after money is futile and true contentment can only come from life’s purest moments, there is a consistent body of evidence arguing for the opposite.
For instance, take the results of a study exploring how income affects stress levels. Across varying social classes, higher incomes attribute with lower rates of intense stress. This can be explained by more money equating to greater control when it comes to important life decisions. In addition, those with higher incomes tend to report higher life satisfaction compared to their peers in lower social brackets.
Moving beyond subjective claims of satisfaction, cash proves to afford certain privileges such as stress relief when an individual is unable to rely on family and friends for support. For example, having money to afford professional therapy sessions is a luxury not everyone has access to. Furthermore, having more money – or even simply access to tangible resources – can prevent people from dropping into a ‘shame spiral’. Whereby individuals lose all sense of hope in their situation and struggle to climb back up due to financial constraints.
The debate between money and happiness has been going on for some time, with many believing that money can’t buy happiness. Recent research indicates that cash can help to reduce stress by providing a sense of control and security. Moreover, when people have access to money, they tend to adjust better to life’s inevitable setbacks. Thereby breaking the ‘shame spiral’ that traps low-income communities in an endless cycle of poverty. With that said, it’s likely that a set amount of money is enough to satisfy the need for control and security. But after a certain threshold, not much more money is likely to increase happiness. Finally, while it is true that money cannot buy true love or friendship, it can provide an opportunity to invest in experiences and hobbies. Something which may lead us towards feeling more satisfied with life overall.
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A poll conducted by Angus Reid for financial services company Co-operators found that 68% of Canadians think money can buy happiness. But it depends on how we spend it – money can help or impede the pursuit of happiness. Let’s take a closer look below.
According to Harvard Business School professor Jon Jachimowicz, money can help diffuse difficult situations that we may encounter in our lives. Whether it’s simply avoiding discomfort by ordering an Uber during a rainstorm, or more pressing matters such as handling an unplanned hospital bill, having money provides control and eases the stress of these events. What else can money buy that makes us happy?
Purchase the tools you need to improve yourself
After we purchase something material, the happiness it brought disappears almost immediately. Purchase anything from a new outfit to a car and you’ll experience hedonic adaptation (or in simpler terms: diminishing pleasure). An exception to this rule is products used for experiences, such as sporting goods or musical instruments, according to a 2015 study. Playing a sport or learning the craft of music contributes to our greater life experience. Often, our experiences with hobbies and other passion investments extend to the greater world before us. For all these reasons, being able to buy experiences that enhance our lives genuinely does increase happiness.
Another instance of this would be the ability to hire coaches, therapists and other specialists who can enhance your life. For example, if you’re struggling at work and can afford a professional to coach you through your performance issues, you’re bound to leave that situation much more satisfied than someone who couldn’t afford a coach to help them.
Spend your money on life experiences instead of things
According to research, people are happier when they spend money on experiences such as concerts or vacations rather than material possessions like clothes or jewelry. Life experiences aren’t limited to concerts and vacations either. Like we saw above, you can invest in a hobby that you’re passionate about. Or perhaps a certain way of living that brings you an abundant life experience.
Save time for yourself
In a study published in 2017, UBC professor Elizabeth Dunn found that working adults of all income levels reported being happier and more satisfied with their lives after spending money on something that saved them time, such as grocery delivery or lawn care), rather than on a material purchase.
Get what you need while also giving to friends, family, or those less fortunate
A separate Dunn study ascertained that people take greater pleasure in spending money on others when they are able to observe the difference their benevolence makes. More specifically, when they feel a sense of companionship towards the person or cause they are helping; and when they have an opportunity about how and when to give. You’ll feel happier if a charity you donate to periodically updates you with the specific impact your donation has had. Gifts to relatives or friends also augment your contentment levels.
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Though the saying goes that money can’t buy happiness, is that really true? After all, money has its advantages. A study conducted by Nobel Prize-winning scientists Daniel Kahneman and Angus Keaton found that as income rises, life satisfaction does as well. With that said, here’s some reasons why money can’t buy happiness.
Money cannot buy health
No matter how much money you have, it cannot buy you good health. Health is something that must be earned through healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Sure, money can make it easier to buy good food and allows you to take better care of yourself, but you still have to put in the work. One might argue that health can be bought in the medical system, but this is not necessarily true. Even if you can buy the best care available on the market, that doesn’t mean your health issue will be resolved.
Money cannot buy love
Love is a feeling experienced and shared between two people. While some have come to the conclusion that gifting and exchange of money is a type of love language, it’s quite clear this isn’t the basis of true love. Unfortunately, real love cannot be bought or sold no matter how much money you have.
Money cannot buy true friendship
True friendship has a foundation of trust, mutual respect, and shared experiences. It cannot be purchased with money.
Money cannot buy happiness itself
Happiness comes from within and is the result of our own thoughts and actions. Technically, it cannot be bought with money. Sure, we can purchase things and experiences that contribute to our happiness. But this still means the individual needs to take action towards achieving happiness. Money alone won’t buy or bring you happiness — it has to be managed.
Money can buy things that can lead to happiness, but it cannot guarantee happiness. For example, a new car might make you happy for a while. But eventually, the novelty will wear off and you will return to your normal level of happiness (or even go below it if the car causes problems).
Money does not always bring security
Despite what many people believe, having a lot of money does not mean that you will never experience hardship or difficult times in your life. In fact, an abundance of wealth may bring new problems to your life that money could not possibly solve.
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It’s an age-old question: can money buy you happiness? The answer, it seems, is yes and no.
While a certain amount of money is necessary for basic needs like shelter and food, it doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, research has shown that there is only a small correlation between money and happiness. So why do so many people believe that money can buy happiness?
One reason may be that we tend to compare ourselves to those who have more than us. When we see others with nicer clothes, cars, or houses, we naturally assume that they must be happier than us. It’s easy to overlook the hardships they may be going through and assume they are happier simply because they have more. However, what we don’t see is the stress that comes with trying to maintain a certain lifestyle. Money may be able to buy material possessions, but it can’t buy peace of mind.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not money can buy happiness is a personal one. For some, the pursuit of wealth may lead to happiness through achievement, while for others, it may only lead to frustration. At the end of the day, happiness doesn’t come from money directly. However you choose to live your life, be sure you are pursuing real happiness and you have the finances to support that lifestyle!