Is Money Important for Happiness?
How it works
From reading self-help books to magazine articles, we are all too familiar with the idea that money cannot buy concepts like forgiveness, optimism, and relationships, yet the reality remains that for most people, things, like receiving a salary raise and or, even winning the lottery, seem like the key to true happiness. Sure, money can buy us a nice phone, a nice car, and even the house of our dreams, but is it really the answer to all our hopes and dreams? That is, is it really the answer to a truly fulfilling life? A long-debated question, many philosophers have often turned towards science to find out if there really is a correlation between a higher income and higher levels of happiness, frequently arriving to the same conclusion: Money cannot buy happiness. While money can buy us a better diet, a better healthcare, and ultimately even a better neighborhood, in the end, all it really does is boost life satisfaction, unable to buy us optimism, gratitude, and most primarily, love. Playing an integral role in our overall well-being, money will always remain a vital tool in our everyday lives, providing us with the most basic necessities like food and a shelter, but because it cannot buy all the other necessary components for a genuinely fulfilling life, it will ultimately never be able to buy us more than simple life satisfaction.
Regardless of the fact that money cannot buy things like love and relationships, why is it that often times, people still correlate buying materialism like the latest iPhone or perhaps designer shoes with more happiness? Moreover, why is that buying the car or perhaps even house of our dreams usually result in no more than momentary joy? The answer to this, lies in the endless cycle of the “hedonic treadmill.” Explaining how it is human nature to always yearn for more, the theory expounds how, “Happiness depends on how we feel relative to our peers. That is, if you win the lottery, you may think that moving into a mansion will make you happier but then look out the window and see that all your friends live in even bigger mansions,“ materialism thus resulting in only momentary joy (BBC). This goes to show that beyond basic life satisfaction, money cannot buy happiness, thus resulting in only momentary joy.
How it works
That being said, many people- from philosophers to scientists- have long debated whether a higher income can really result in more happiness; Are people with higher wages really happier than those with a lower income? Although money can have its advantages, serving as an essential tool in our everyday lives, is it really the answer to a truly fulfilling life? That being said, what two specific research projects found in 2010, and again in 2015, is intriguing; Money can result in more happiness, but only to a certain extent, its only role limited to providing life satisfaction. In a study led by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University, it was found that an addition of one dollar per work hour had a much greater impact in boosting positive feelings and overall happiness for those in the 20th percentile income than those in the 80th percentile income who unexpectedly received no or even, decreased levels of happiness (CNBC). This shows that while money can certainly result in increased levels of happiness, it is most often only to a certain extent. That is, once a person’s basic necessities have been met for the most principal level of life satisfaction, money ceases to have much of an effect when it comes to happiness, unable to buy us all the other necessary components for a truly fulfilling life. Rather, it’s, “those first few dollars that move someone out of poverty that contributes much more to a person’s happiness than a millionaire earning her next billion” (BBC).
If money is not enough to make a person happy, then what is? While many have long struggled to pinpoint an answer, professor and researcher, Ed Diener, at the University of Illinois, found that there really is no one thing that can truly bring happiness. Rather, it is a collection of factors he narrowed down to five core elements: social relationships, society/culture, a positive thinking style, and money, in which the latter’s only purpose is helping achieve basic life satisfaction (APS). Unable to buy us all the important factors, the only role money plays is through our overall well-being, greatly overshadowed by the more predominant factor, relationships. Running a research project in 2008, Diener found that, “The happiest ten percent of the participants, all had strong, supportive relationships. A strong social network didn’t guarantee happiness, but it was a requirement to be in the happiest group” (APS). Because no amount of money will ever be able to buy or make up for for a lack of relationships, this goes to show that alone, money is not enough to bring a person true happiness. Without a family, strong relationships, and optimism, no amount of money, not even all the wealth in the world, will ever be enough to reach a genuinely, perfect, happy life.
While winning the lottery and never having to work again may sound promising, think again before placing all your hopes and dreams on yet another ticket. Will winning all that money really be the key to eternal happiness? Although winning, and becoming rich beyond our wildest dreams may seem like a dream come true, the reality remains that for most Powerball winners, it is a nightmare. Take former lotto winner, Jack Whittaker, for instance, one of the luckiest people in history to break the world record in 2002 with the largest jackpot ever won by a single ticket. While this certainly sounds like a dream come true for most of us, for Whittaker, it was a curse upon his life (Time). Formerly living in poverty, he had built his way up to a millionaire, by the time he won the lottery. While winning certainly changes his life, transforming him and his family into celebrities overnight, he soon came to consider it his greatest regret in life as the thrill subsided and things took the wrong turn. Attracting the wrong kinds of “friends,” it did not end well for him and his family; Only two years later, and his granddaughter would be killed, with his daughter’s death following three years later. His family falling apart, what was once the luckiest man alive, was now miserable and alone.
“My granddaughter is dead because of the money… she was the shining star of my life, and she was what it was all about for me,” he sobbed (ABC). Losing what was most precious to him, Jack Whittaker later came to consider winning his greatest regret in life, calling it the “curse of the Powerball” (Time). “‘Family is what is dear,’ he said. ‘I don’t know when it’ll end. But you know, I just don’t like Jack Whittaker. I don’t like what I’ve become” (ABC). Still one of the most remarkably wealthy and successful people to be alive, Whittaker came to live the rest of his life in deep remorse and misery, however, as he had finally lost what most mattered to him, his family. Rich beyond his wildest dreams, because Whittaker remained yet miserable, this goes to show how having all the money in the world is simply not enough to bring genuine happiness. Rather, it is a combination of factors in which strong relationships and optimism play the most influential role, with money as a result playing only a small part in our overall well-being.
From buying us nice things to ultimately providing us with the essentials for basic survival, we cannot deny the fact that money plays an integral role in our overall well being but is it really the answer to eternal happiness? While things like winning the lottery may seem like a dream come true for most of us, the reality remains that beyond basic life satisfaction, money cannot buy happiness. That is, while money can certainly buy us a nice phone, a nice car, and ultimately even the house of our dreams, it is important to note that because it cannot buy us all the other necessary components for a truly fulfilling life, however, is it that materialism most often results in no more than momentary joy. Being that, it is not at all too shocking that for even the luckiest man on earth- Jack Whittaker- whose dream of winning the lottery became reality, money simply wasn’t enough to keep him happy after completely losing all his family. Though still rich and successful, Whittaker later came to spend the rest of his life all bitter, and alone. This goes to show that while money can certainly have its advantages, playing an essential role in our everyday lives, in the end, all it really is, is a tool, helping us reach all the basic necessities for our overall well-being but ultimately unable to buy us all the other necessary components for a truly fulfilling life…