Jade Wu Ph.D.

Can Money Really Buy Happiness?

Money and happiness are related—but not in the way you think..

Updated November 10, 2023 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

  • More money is linked to increased happiness, some research shows.
  • People who won the lottery have greater life satisfaction, even years later.
  • Wealth is not associated with happiness globally; non-material things are more likely to predict wellbeing.
  • Money, in and of itself, cannot buy happiness, but it can provide a means to the things we value in life.

Money is a big part of our lives, our identities, and perhaps our well-being. Sometimes, it can feel like your happiness hinges on how much cash is in your bank account. Have you ever thought to yourself, “If only I could increase my salary by 12 percent, I’d feel better”? How about, “I wish I had an inheritance. How easier life would be!” I don’t blame you — I’ve had the same thoughts many times.

But what does psychological research say about the age-old question: Can money really buy happiness? Let’s take a brutally honest exploration of how money and happiness are (and aren’t) related. (Spoiler alert: I’ve got bad news, good news, and lots of caveats.)

Higher earners are generally happier

Over 10 years ago, a study based on Gallup Poll data on 1,000 people made a big headline in the news. It found that people with higher incomes report being happier... but only up to an annual income of $75,000 (equivalent to about $90,000 today). After this point, a high emotional well-being wasn’t directly correlated to more money. This seemed to show that once a persons’ basic (and some “advanced”) needs are comfortably met, more money isn’t necessary for well-being.

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But a new 2021 study of over one million participants found that there’s no such thing as an inflection point where more money doesn’t equal more happiness, at least not up to an annual salary of $500,000. In this study, participants’ well-being was measured in more detail. Instead of being asked to remember how well they felt in the past week, month, or year, they were asked how they felt right now in the moment. And based on this real-time assessment, very high earners were feeling great.

Similarly, a Swedish study on lottery winners found that even after years, people who won the lottery had greater life satisfaction, mental health, and were more prepared to face misfortune like divorce , illness, and being alone than regular folks who didn’t win the lottery. It’s almost as if having a pile of money made those things less difficult to cope with for the winners.

Evaluative vs. experienced well-being

At this point, it's important to suss out what researchers actually mean by "happiness." There are two major types of well-being psychologists measure: evaluative and experienced. Evaluative well-being refers to your answer to, “How do you think your life is going?” It’s what you think about your life. Experienced well-being, however, is your answer to, “What emotions are you feeling from day to day, and in what proportions?” It is your actual experience of positive and negative emotions.

In both of these studies — the one that found the happiness curve to flatten after $75,000 and the one that didn't — the researchers were focusing on experienced well-being. That means there's a disagreement in the research about whether day-to-day experiences of positive emotions really increase with higher and higher incomes, without limit. Which study is more accurate? Well, the 2021 study surveyed many more people, so it has the advantage of being more representative. However, there is a big caveat...

Material wealth is not associated with happiness everywhere in the world

If you’re not a very high earner, you may be feeling a bit irritated right now. How unfair that the rest of us can’t even comfort ourselves with the idea that millionaires must be sad in their giant mansions!

But not so fast.

Yes, in the large million-person study, experienced well-being (aka, happiness) did continually increase with higher income. But this study only included people in the United States. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that our culture is quite materialistic, more so than other countries, and income level plays a huge role in our lifestyle.

Another study of Mayan people in a poor, rural region of Yucatan, Mexico, did not find the level of wealth to be related to happiness, which the participants had high levels of overall. Separately, a Gallup World Poll study of people from many countries and cultures also found that, although higher income was associated with higher life evaluation, it was non-material things that predicted experienced well-being (e.g., learning, autonomy, respect, social support).

Earned wealth generates more happiness than inherited wealth

More good news: For those of us with really big dreams of “making it” and striking it rich through talent and hard work, know that the actual process of reaching your dream will not only bring you cash but also happiness. A study of ultra-rich millionaires (net worth of at least $8,000,000) found that those who earned their wealth through work and effort got more of a happiness boost from their money than those who inherited it. So keep dreaming big and reaching for your entrepreneurial goals … as long as you’re not sacrificing your actual well-being in the pursuit.

money can never buy happiness essay

There are different types of happiness, and wealth is better for some than others

We’ve been talking about “happiness” as if it’s one big thing. But happiness actually has many different components and flavors. Think about all the positive emotions you’ve felt — can we break them down into more specifics? How about:

  • Contentment
  • Gratefulness

...and that's just a short list.

It turns out that wealth may be associated with some of these categories of “happiness,” specifically self-focused positive emotions such as pride and contentment, whereas less wealthy people have more other-focused positive emotions like love and compassion.

In fact, in the Swedish lottery winners study, people’s feelings about their social well-being (with friends, family, neighbors, and society) were no different between lottery winners and regular people.

Money is a means to the things we value, not happiness itself

One major difference between lottery winners and non-winners, it turns out, is that lottery winners have more spare time. This is the thing that really makes me envious , and I would hypothesize that this is the main reason why lottery winners are more satisfied with their life.

Consider this simply: If we had the financial security to spend time on things we enjoy and value, instead of feeling pressured to generate income all the time, why wouldn’t we be happier?

This is good news. It’s a reminder that money, in and of itself, cannot literally buy happiness. It can buy time and peace of mind. It can buy security and aesthetic experiences, and the ability to be generous to your family and friends. It makes room for other things that are important in life.

In fact, the researchers in that lottery winner study used statistical approaches to benchmark how much happiness winning $100,000 brings in the short-term (less than one year) and long-term (more than five years) compared to other major life events. For better or worse, getting married and having a baby each give a bigger short-term happiness boost than winning money, but in the long run, all three of these events have the same impact.

What does this mean? We make of our wealth and our life what we will. This is especially true for the vast majority of the world made up of people struggling to meet basic needs and to rise out of insecurity. We’ve learned that being rich can boost your life satisfaction and make it easier to have positive emotions, so it’s certainly worth your effort to set goals, work hard, and move towards financial health.

But getting rich is not the only way to be happy. You can still earn health, compassion, community, love, pride, connectedness, and so much more, even if you don’t have a lot of zeros in your bank account. After all, the original definition of “wealth” referred to a person’s holistic wellness in life, which means we all have the potential to be wealthy... in body, mind, and soul.

Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A.. High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. . Proceedings of the national academy of sciences. 2010.

Killingsworth, M. A. . Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year .. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2021.

Lindqvist, E., Östling, R., & Cesarini, D. . Long-run effects of lottery wealth on psychological well-being. . The Review of Economic Studies. 2020.

Guardiola, J., González‐Gómez, F., García‐Rubio, M. A., & Lendechy‐Grajales, Á.. Does higher income equal higher levels of happiness in every society? The case of the Mayan people. . International Journal of Social Welfare. 2013.

Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. . Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. . Journal of personality and social psychology. 2010.

Donnelly, G. E., Zheng, T., Haisley, E., & Norton, M. I.. The amount and source of millionaires’ wealth (moderately) predict their happiness . . Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2018.

Piff, P. K., & Moskowitz, J. P. . Wealth, poverty, and happiness: Social class is differentially associated with positive emotions.. Emotion. 2018.

Jade Wu Ph.D.

Jade Wu, Ph.D., is a clinical health psychologist and host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast. She specializes in helping those with sleep problems and anxiety disorders.

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Happiness Economics: Can Money Buy Happiness?

Happiness economics

It only costs a small amount, a slight risk, with the possibility of a substantial reward.

But will it make you happy? Will it give you long-lasting happiness?

Undoubtedly, there will be a temporary peak in happiness, but will all your troubles finally fade away?

That is what we will investigate today. We explore the economics of happiness and whether money can buy happiness. In this post, we will start by broadly exploring the topic and then look at theories and substantive research findings. We’ll even have a look at previous lottery winners.

For interested readers, we will list interesting books and podcasts for further enjoyment and share a few of our own happiness resources.

Ka-ching: Let’s get rolling!

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Happiness & Subjective Wellbeing Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify sources of authentic happiness and strategies to boost wellbeing.

This Article Contains

What is happiness economics, theory of the economics of happiness, can money buy happiness 5 research findings, 6 fascinating books and podcasts on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message.

Happiness economics is a field of economics that recognizes happiness and wellbeing as important outcome measures, alongside measures typically used, such as employment, education, and health care.

Economics emphasizes how specific economic/financial characteristics affect our wellbeing (Easterlin, 2004).

For example, does employment result in better health and longer lifespan, among other metrics? Do people in wealthier countries have access to better education and longer life spans?

In the last few decades, there has been a shift in economics, where researchers have recognized the importance of the subjective rating of happiness as a valuable and desirable outcome that is significantly correlated with other important outcomes, such as health (Steptoe, 2019) and productivity (DiMaria et al., 2020).

Broadly, happiness is a psychological state of being, typically researched and defined using psychological methods. We often measure it using self-report measures rather than objective measures that are less vulnerable to misinterpretation and error.

Including happiness in economics has opened up an entirely new avenue of research to explore the relationship between happiness and money.

Andrew Clark (2018) illustrates the variability in the term happiness economics with the following examples:

  • Happiness can be a predictor variable, influencing our decisions and behaviors.
  • Happiness might be the desired outcome, so understanding how and why some people are happier than others is essential.

However, the connection between our behavior and happiness must be better understood. Even though “being happy” is a desired outcome, people still make decisions that prevent them from becoming happier. For example, why do we choose to work more if our work does not make us happier? Why are we unhappy even if our basic needs are met?

An example of how happiness can influence decision-making

Sometimes, we might choose not to maximize a monetary or financial gain but place importance on other, more subjective outcomes.

To illustrate: If faced with two jobs — one that pays well but will bring no joy and another that pays less but will bring much joy — some people would prefer to maximize their happiness over financial gain.

If this decision were evaluated using a utility framework where the only valued outcomes were practical, then the decision would seem irrational. However, this scenario suggests that psychological outcomes, such as the experience of happiness, are as crucial as other socio-economic outcomes.

Economists recognize that subjective wellbeing , or happiness, is an essential characteristic and sometimes a desirable outcome that can motivate our decision-making.

In the last few decades, economics has shifted to include happiness as a measurable and vital part of general wellbeing (Graham, 2005).

The consequence is that typical economic questions now also look at the impact of employment, finances, and other economic metrics on the subjective rating and experience of happiness at individual and country levels.

Theory of the economy of happiness

Happiness is such a vital outcome in society and economic activity that it must be involved in policy making. The subjective measure of happiness is as important as other typical measures used in economics.

Many factors can contribute to happiness. In this post, we consider the role of money. The relationship between happiness, or subjective wellbeing, and money is assumed to be positive: More money means greater happiness.

However, the relationship between money and happiness is paradoxical: More money does not guarantee happiness (for an excellent review, see Graham, 2005).

Specifically, low levels of income are correlated with unhappiness. However, as our individual wealth increases and our basic needs are met, our needs change and differ in their importance.

Initially, our happiness is affected by absolute levels of income, but at a certain threshold, we place importance on relative levels of income. Knowing how we rank and compare to other people, in terms of wealth and material possession, influences our happiness.

The relationship between wealth and happiness continues to increase, but only to a certain point; at this stage, more wealth does not guarantee more happiness (Easterlin, 1974; Diener et al., 1993).

This may be at odds with our everyday lived experience. Most of us choose to work longer hours or multiple jobs so that we make more money. However, what is the point of doing this if money does not increase our happiness? Why do we seem to think that more money will make us happier?

History of the economics of happiness

The relationship between economics and happiness originated in the early 1970s. Brickman and Campbell (1971, as cited in Brickman et al., 1978) first argued that the typical outcomes of a successful life, such as wealth or income, had no impact on individual wellbeing.

Easterlin (1974) expanded these results and showed that although wealthier people tend to be happier than poor people in the same country, the average happiness levels within a country remained unchanged even as the country’s overall wealth increased.

The inconsistent relationship between happiness and income and its sensitivity to critical income thresholds make this topic so interesting.

There is some evidence that wealthier countries are happier than others, but only when comparing the wealthy with the poor (Easterlin, 1974; Graham, 2005).

As countries become wealthier, citizens report higher happiness, but this relationship is strongest when the starting point is poverty. Above a certain income threshold, happiness no longer increases (Diener et al., 1993).

Interestingly, people tend to agree on the amount of money needed to make them happy; but beyond a certain value, there is little increase in happiness (Haesevoets et al., 2022).

Measurement challenges

Measuring happiness accurately and reliably is challenging. Researchers disagree on what happiness means.

It is not the norm in economics to measure happiness by directly asking a participant how happy they are; instead, happiness is inferred through:

  • Subjective wellbeing (Clark, 2018; Easterlin, 2004)
  • A combination of happiness and life satisfaction (Bruni, 2007)

Furthermore, happiness can refer to an acute psychological state, such as feeling happy after a nice meal, or a lasting state similar to contentment (Nettle, 2005).

Researchers might use different definitions of happiness and ways to measure it, thus leading to contradictory results. For example, happiness might be used synonymously with subjective wellbeing and can refer to several things, including life satisfaction and financial satisfaction (Diener & Oishi, 2000).

It seems contradictory that wealthier nations are not happier overall than poorer nations and that increasing the wealth of poorer nations does not guarantee that their happiness will increase too. What could then be done to increase happiness?

money can never buy happiness essay

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What is the relationship between income/wealth and happiness? To answer that question, we looked at studies to see where and how money improves happiness, but we’ll also consider the limitations to the positive effect of income.

Money buys access; jobs boost happiness

Overwhelming evidence shows that wealth is correlated with measures of wellbeing.

Wealthier people have access to better healthcare, education, and employment, which in turn results in higher life satisfaction (Helliwell et al., 2012). A certain amount of wealth is needed to meet basic needs, and satisfying these needs improves happiness (Veenhoven & Ehrhardt, 1995).

Increasing happiness through improved quality of life is highest for poor households, but this is explained by the starting point. Access to essential services improves the quality of life, and in turn, this improves measures of wellbeing.

Most people gain wealth through employment; however, it is not just wealth that improves happiness; instead, employment itself has an important association with happiness. Happiness and employment are also significantly correlated with each other (Helliwell et al., 2021).

Lockdown on happiness

The World Happiness Report (Helliwell et al., 2021) reports that unemployment increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this was accompanied by a marked decline in happiness and optimism.

The pandemic also changed how we evaluated certain aspects of our lives; for example, the relationship between income and happiness declined. After all, what is the use of money if you can’t spend it? In contrast, the association between happiness and having a partner increased (Helliwell et al., 2021).

Wealthier states smile more, but is it real?

World_Happiness_Report_2020_-_Ranking_of_Happiness_2017-2019_-_Top_20_Countries

If we took a snapshot of happiness and a country’s wealth, we would find that richer countries tend to have happier populations than poorer countries.

For example, based on the 2021 World Happiness Report, the top five happiest countries — which are also wealthy countries — are Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands (Helliwell et al., 2021).

In contrast, the unhappiest countries are those that tend to be emerging markets or have a lower gross domestic product (GDP), e.g., Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and India (Graham, 2005; Helliwell et al., 2021).

At face value, this makes sense: Poorer countries most likely have other factors associated with them, e.g., higher unemployment, more crime, and less political stability. So, based on this cross-sectional data, a country’s wealth and happiness levels appear to be correlated. However, over a more extended period, the relationship between happiness and GDP is nil (Easterlin, 2004).

That is, the subjective wellbeing of a population does not increase as a country becomes richer. Even though the wealth of various countries worldwide has increased over time, the overall happiness levels have not increased similarly or have remained static (Kahneman et al., 2006). This is known as a happiness–income paradox.

Easterlin (2004) posits four explanations for this finding:

  • Societal and individual gains associated with increased wealth are concentrated among the extremely wealthy.
  • Our degree of happiness is informed by how we compare to other people, and this relative comparison does not change as country-wide wealth increases.
  • Happiness is not limited to only wealth and financial status, but is affected by other societal and political factors, such as crime, education, and trust in the government.
  • Long-term satisfaction and contentment differ from short-term, acute happiness.

Kahneman et al. (2006) provide an alternative explanation centered on the method typically used by researchers. Specifically, they argue that the order of the questions asked to measure happiness and how these questions are worded have a focusing effect. Through the question, the participant’s attention to their happiness is sharpened — like a lens in a camera — and their happiness needs to be over- or underestimated.

Kahneman et al. (2006) also point out that job advancements like a raise or a promotion are often accompanied by an increase in salary and work hours. Consequently, high-paying jobs often result in less leisure time available to spend with family or on hobbies and can cause more unhappiness.

Not all that glitters is gold

Extensive research explored whether a sudden financial windfall was associated with a spike in happiness (e.g., Sherman et al., 2020). The findings were mixed. Sometimes, having more money is associated with increased life satisfaction and improved physical and mental health.

This boost in happiness, however, is not guaranteed, nor is it long. Sometimes, individuals even wish it had never happened (Brickman et al., 1978; Sherman et al., 2020).

Consider lottery winners. These people win sizable sums of money — typically more extensive than a salary increase — large enough to impact their lives significantly. Despite this, research has consistently shown that although lottery winners report higher immediate, short-term happiness, they do not experience higher long-term happiness (Sherman et al., 2020).

Here are some reasons for this:

  • Previous everyday activities and experiences become less enjoyable when compared to a unique, unusual experience like winning the lottery.
  • People habituate to their new lifestyle.
  • A sudden increase in wealth can disrupt social relationships among friends and family members.
  • Work and hobbies typically give us small nuggets of joy over a more extended period (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 2005). These activities can lose their meaning over a longer period, resulting in more unhappiness (Sherman et al., 2020; Brickman et al., 1978).

Sherman et al. (2020) further argue that lottery winners who decide to quit their job after winning, but do not fill this newly available time with some type of meaningful hobby or interest, are also more likely to become unhappy.

Passive activities do not provide the same happiness as work or hobbies. Instead, if lottery winners continue to take part in activities that give them meaning and require active engagement, then they can avoid further unhappiness.

Happiness: Is it temperature or climate?

Like most psychological research, part of the challenge is clearly defining the topic of investigation — a task made more daunting when the topic falls within two very different fields.

Nettle (2005) describes happiness as a three-tiered concept, ranging from short-lived but intense on one end of the spectrum to more abstract and deep on the other.

The first tier refers to transitory feelings of joy, like when one opens up a birthday present.

The second tier describes judgments about feelings, such as feeling satisfied with your job. The third tier is more complex and refers to life satisfaction.

Across research, different definitions are used: Participants are asked about feelings of (immediate) joy, overall life satisfaction, moments of happiness or satisfaction, and mental wellbeing . The concepts are similar but not identical, thus influencing the results.

Most books on happiness economics are textbooks. Although no doubt very interesting, they’re not the easy-reading books we prefer to recommend.

Instead, below you will find a range of books written by economists that explore happiness. These should provide a good springboard on the overall topic of happiness and what influences it, in case any of our readers want to pick up a more in-depth textbook afterward.

If you have a happiness book you would recommend, please let us know in the comments section.

1. Happiness: Lessons from a New Science – Richard Layard

Happiness

Richard Layard, a lead economist based in London, explores in his book if and how money can affect happiness.

Layard does an excellent job of introducing topics from various fields and framing them appropriately for the reader.

The book is aimed at readers from varying academic and professional backgrounds, so no experience is needed to enjoy it.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think – Paul Dolan

Happiness by Design

This book has a more practical spin. The author explains how we can use existing research and theories to make small changes to increase our happiness.

Paul Dolan’s primary thesis is that practical things will have a bigger effect than abstract methods, and we should change our behavior rather than our thinking.

The book is a quick read (airport-perfect!), and Daniel Kahneman penned the foreword.

3. The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness – Morgan Housel

The Psychology of Money

This book is not necessarily about happiness economics, but it is close enough to the overall theme that it is worth mentioning.

Since most people are concerned with making more money, this book helps teach the reader why we make the decisions we do and how we make better decisions about our money.

This book is a worthwhile addition to any bookcase if you are interested in the relationship between finances and psychology in general.

4. Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile – Daniel Nettle

Happiness

If you are interested in happiness overall, then we recommend Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile by Daniel Nettle, a professor of behavioral science at Newcastle University.

In this book, he takes a scientific approach to explaining happiness, starting with an in-depth exploration of the definition of happiness and some of its challenges.

The research that he presents comes from various fields, including social sciences, medicine, neurobiology, and economics.

Because of its small size, this book is perfect for a weekend away or to read on a plane.

5 & 6. Prefer to listen rather than read?

One of our favorite podcasts is Intelligence2, where leading experts in a particular field gather to debate a particular topic.

Money Can't Buy Happiness

This show’s host, Dr. Laurie Santos, argues that we can increase our happiness by not hoarding our money for ourselves but by giving it to others instead. If you are interested in this episode , or any of the other episodes in the Happiness Lab podcast series, then head on over to their page.

There are several resources available at PositivePsychology.com for our readers to use in their professional and personal development.

In this section, you’ll find a few that should supplement any work on happiness and economics. Since the undercurrent of the topic is whether happiness can be improved through wealth, a few resources look at happiness overall.

Valued Living Masterclass

Although knowledge is power, knowing that money does not guarantee happiness does not mean that clients will suddenly feel fulfilled and satisfied with their lives.

For this reason, we recommend the Valued Living Masterclass , for professionals to help their clients find meaning in their lives. Rather than keeping up with the Joneses or chasing a high-paying job, professionals can help their clients connect with their inner meaning (i.e., their why ) as a way to find meaning and gain happiness.

Three free exercises

If you want to try it out before committing, look at the Meaning & Valued Living exercise pack , which includes three exercises for free.

Recommended reading

Read our post on Success Versus Happiness for further information on balancing happiness with success, in any domain . This topic is poignant for readers who conflate happiness and success, and will guide readers to better understand their relationship and how the two terms influence each other.

For readers who wonder about altruism , you would find it interesting that rather than hoarding, you can increase your happiness through volunteering and donating. In this post, the author, Dr. Jeremy Sutton, does a fabulous job of approaching altruism from various fields and provides excellent resources for further reading and real-life application.

Our last recommendation is for readers who want to know more about measuring subjective wellbeing and happiness . The post lists various tests and apps that can measure happiness and the overall history of how happiness was measured and defined. This is a good starting point for researchers or clinicians who want to explore happiness economics professionally.

17 Happines Exercises

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop strategies to boost their wellbeing, this collection contains 17 validated happiness and wellbeing exercises . Use them to help others pursue authentic happiness and work toward a  life filled with purpose and meaning

money can never buy happiness essay

17 Exercises To Increase Happiness and Wellbeing

Add these 17 Happiness & Subjective Well-Being Exercises [PDF] to your toolkit and help others experience greater purpose, meaning, and positive emotions.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

As you’ve seen in our article, the evidence overwhelmingly clarifies that money does not guarantee more happiness … well, long-term happiness.

Our happiness is relative since we compare ourselves to other people, and over time, as we become accustomed to our wealth, we lose all the happiness gains we made.

Money can ease financial and social difficulties; consequently, it can drastically improve people’s living conditions, life expectancy, and education.

Improvements in these outcomes have a knock-on effect on the overall experience of one’s life and the opportunities for one’s family and children. Nevertheless, better opportunities do not guarantee happiness.

Our intention with this post was to illustrate some complexities surrounding the relationship between money and happiness.

Knowing that money does not guarantee happiness, we recommend less expensive methods to improve one’s happiness:

  • Spend time with friends.
  • Cultivate hobbies and interests.
  • Stay active and eat healthy.
  • Try to live a meaningful life.
  • Give some love (go smooch your partner or tickle your dog’s belly).

Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but money is a fair weather one, at best.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Happiness Exercises for free .

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  • Csikszentmihalyi, M., Abuhamdeh, S., & Nakamura, J. (2005). Flow. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 598–608). Guilford Publications.
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  • Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (Eds.) (2012). World happiness report . The Earth Institute, Columbia University.
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  • Nettle, D. (2005). Happiness: The science behind your smile . Oxford University Press.
  • Sherman, A., Shavit, T., & Barokas, G. (2020). A dynamic model on happiness and exogenous wealth shock: The case of lottery winners. Journal of Happiness Studies , 21 , 117–137.
  • Steptoe, A. (2019). Happiness and health. Annual Review of Public Health , 40 , 339–359.
  • Veenhoven, R., & Ehrhardt, J. (1995). The cross-national pattern of happiness: Test of predictions implied in three theories of happiness. Social Indicators Research , 34 , 33–68.

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Does More Money Really Make Us More Happy?

  • Elizabeth Dunn
  • Chris Courtney

money can never buy happiness essay

A big paycheck won’t necessarily bring you joy

Although some studies show that wealthier people tend to be happier, prioritizing money over time can actually have the opposite effect.

  • But even having just a little bit of extra cash in your savings account ($500), can increase your life satisfaction. So how can you keep more cash on hand?
  • Ask yourself: What do I buy that isn’t essential for my survival? Is the expense genuinely contributing to my happiness? If the answer to the second question is no, try taking a break from those expenses.
  • Other research shows there are specific ways to spend your money to promote happiness, such as spending on experiences, buying time, and investing in others.
  • Spending choices that promote happiness are also dependent on individual personalities, and future research may provide more individualized advice to help you get the most happiness from your money.

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Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

How often have you willingly sacrificed your free time to make more money? You’re not alone. But new research suggests that prioritizing money over time may actually undermine our happiness.

  • ED Elizabeth Dunn is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and Chief Science Officer of Happy Money, a financial technology company with a mission to help borrowers become savers. She is also co-author of “ Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending ” with Dr. Michael Norton. Her TED2019 talk on money and happiness was selected as one of the top 10 talks of the year by TED.
  • CC Chris Courtney is the VP of Science at Happy Money. He utilizes his background in cognitive neuroscience, human-computer interaction, and machine learning to drive personalization and engagement in products designed to empower people to take control of their financial lives. His team is focused on creating innovative ways to provide more inclusionary financial services, while building tools to promote financial and psychological well-being and success.

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Money can't buy happiness, a neuroscientist explains why

We all need enough funds to cover our basic needs, but beyond that the connection between wealth and wellness is less clear.

Dean Burnett

"Money can’t buy you happiness" is either a widely accepted insight or a tired cliché. Is it right , though? Scientifically speaking, the answer is… mixed.

A recent study carried out at the University of Bath has once again looked at the relationship between income and happiness .

It seems that, up to a point and within a specific set of circumstances, money can buy happiness. But beyond that, the relationship between money and happiness becomes much looser and uncertain.

What makes us happy?

At the most immediate and fundamental levels, the things that make us happy, or at least the provoke a positive, reward response in our brains, are those that satisfy our basic biological needs. Put simply, we humans, living organisms, need many things to ensure our survival, such as food, water, air, sleep, and security. Our brain recognises these things as being ‘biologically significant’, so if we obtain them, we experience a sense of reward.

Because the human brain can make intuitive and abstract leaps, it can easily recognise that receiving money means we can now more easily obtain food/water/shelter etc. This, as a study carried out by the Wellcome Trust in 2007 found, can be both rewarding and motivational , two things that could fall under the umbrella of happiness.

However, this doesn’t mean ‘more money’ automatically means ‘more happiness’. Money may be recognised by our brains as biologically significant, but there’s an upper limit on how rewarding even biologically significant things can be. For example, eating food can often be pleasurable, but at some point you’ll be sated, after which point eating more causes actual discomfort. Same with drinking. Even things like shelter and security; build too many barriers around yourself and you can feel isolated and oppressed.

There’s also the phenomenon of habituation, where the fundamental parts of our brains learn to not react to things that occur predictably and reliably. As evidenced in a 2011 study carried out by Dr Ruth Krebbs at Ghent University, this is why things that are novel, as in surprising and unexpected, are often more rewarding than familiar things .

In many cases, the same thing happens with money. Receiving your regular pay is reassuring, but receiving unexpected money, even if it’s much less, often makes you much happier.

Also, when we actively and tangibly need it for our survival, obtaining money is very rewarding. But when we go beyond that point, when we’re ‘financially secure’ as they say, money can still be rewarding, but it’s power to make you happy is significantly reduced , a study carried out at San Francisco State University found. More psychological, experience-based stimuli (e.g. travelling, forging new relationships, helping others etc.) have a greater ability to make you happy.

Granted, in the modern world you usually need money to do all those things too, but this ultimately means money’s link to happiness is more indirect, as a means to an end, rather than directly rewarding in its own right.

Is there a threshold amount of money that can make us happy?

That there’s a certain cut-off amount of money where it stops making people has a lot of implications, particularly in the present day. With much talk of wage stagnation, rising prices, and trials of universal basic income becoming increasingly common, the question of how much money people need to be happy is an increasingly salient one.

Unfortunately, there can be no easy answer, at least not one that applies to all people equally, because the factors that determine how much money is ‘enough’ for security and happiness are highly subjective, and vary considerably from person to person.

Some people feel they’d be happy for life with surprisingly modest sums, others don’t think they’d ever feel they had ‘enough’ money. Studies carried out by researchers at the University of Bath have also found that these significant variations are even more apparent when you compare people from different cultures , suggesting the link between money and happiness is at least as much learned as it is ‘innate’.

But even within the same capitalist culture, people’s ideas about financial security can differ drastically, with people who have ample money sometimes being much less happy than those with far less money because they have more worries about.

Can too much money make us unhappy?

This introduces another factor; money can make you unhappy . Or reduce happiness in other ways. Studies have shown that being paid to do something you enjoy can make you less motivated to do it, suggesting it actively reduces potential happiness. This would explain why people are often reluctant to turn a hobby into a job, or actively regret doing so.

Also, in our modern world, money is not static. If we have more money than we strictly need, we don’t hoard a big pile of gold coins in our spare room like modern-day dragons. Money is fluid, often intangible, and typically ends up being tied up with things like investments, stocks, properties, savings accounts, and more.

All these things are subject to the whims of politico-economical factors and more, meaning the person whose money it is has less control over it and less certainty than if they’d gone for the ‘big pile of gold’ option. Loss of control and uncertainty are two reliable sources of stress and unhappiness for the human brain.

Ultimately, rather than “money can’t buy you happiness”, it might be better to say “money can buy you safety and security”, and these things make it easier for us to be happy. But there’s no direct one-to-one relation between money and happiness, and how it affects us ultimately depends on who we are and how we’ve been raised.

Read more about happiness:

  • Is waving back at a stranger on a bridge a sign of happiness?
  • National happiness mapped over the last 200 years
  • Why does chocolate make us happy?
  • Could being happier help you fight infectious disease?

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A business journal from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Does Money Buy Happiness? Here’s What the Research Says

March 28, 2023 • 5 min read.

Reconciling previously contradictory results, researchers from Wharton and Princeton find a steady association between larger incomes and greater happiness for most people but a rise and plateau for an unhappy minority.

Person running over stacks of money to illustrate whether money can buy happiness

  • Finance & Accounting

The following article was originally published on Penn Today .

Does money buy happiness? Though it seems like a straightforward question, research had previously returned contradictory findings, leaving uncertainty about its answer.

Foundational work published in 2010 from Princeton University’s  Daniel Kahneman  and Angus Deaton had found that day-to-day happiness rose as annual income increased, but above $75,000 it leveled off and happiness plateaued. In contrast, work published in 2021 from the University of Pennsylvania’s  Matthew Killingsworth  found that happiness rose steadily with income well beyond $75,000, without evidence of a plateau.

To reconcile the differences, Kahneman and Killingsworth paired up in what’s known as an adversarial collaboration, joining forces with Penn Integrates Knowledge  University Professor  Barbara Mellers  as arbiter. In a new  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  paper , the trio shows that, on average, larger incomes are associated with ever-increasing levels of happiness. Zoom in, however, and the relationship becomes more complex, revealing that within that overall trend, an unhappy cohort in each income group shows a sharp rise in happiness up to $100,000 annually and then plateaus.

“In the simplest terms, this suggests that for most people larger incomes are associated with greater happiness,” says Killingsworth, a senior fellow at Wharton and lead paper author. “The exception is people who are financially well-off but unhappy. For instance, if you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help. For everyone else, more money was associated with higher happiness to somewhat varying degrees.”

Mellers digs into this last notion, noting that emotional well-being and income aren’t connected by a single relationship. “The function differs for people with different levels of emotional well-being,” she says. Specifically, for the least happy group, happiness rises with income until $100,000, then shows no further increase as income grows. For those in the middle range of emotional well-being, happiness increases linearly with income, and for the happiest group the association actually accelerates above $100,000.

Joining Forces to Ask: “Does Money Buy Happiness?”

The researchers began this combined effort recognizing that their previous work had drawn different conclusions. Kahneman’s 2010 study showed a flattening pattern where Killingsworth’s 2021 study did not. As its name suggests, an adversarial collaboration of this type — a notion originated by Kahneman — aims to solve scientific disputes or disagreements by bringing together the differing parties, along with a third-party mediator.

Killingsworth, Kahneman, and Mellers focused on a new hypothesis that both a happy majority and an unhappy minority exist. For the former, they surmised, happiness keeps rising as more money comes in; the latter’s happiness improves as income rises but only up to a certain income threshold, after which it progresses no further.

To test this new hypothesis, they looked for the flattening pattern in data from Killingworth’s study, which he had collected through an app he created called Track Your Happiness. Several times a day, the app pings participants at random moments, asking a variety of questions including how they feel on a scale from “very good” to “very bad.” Taking an average of the person’s happiness and income, Killingsworth draws conclusions about how the two variables are linked.

A breakthrough in the new partnership came early on when the researchers realized that the 2010 data, which had revealed the happiness plateau, had actually been measuring unhappiness in particular rather than happiness in general.

“It’s easiest to understand with an example,” Killingsworth says. Imagine a cognitive test for dementia that most healthy people pass easily. While such a test could detect the presence and severity of cognitive dysfunction, it wouldn’t reveal much about general intelligence since most healthy people would receive the same perfect score.

“In the same way, the 2010 data showing a plateau in happiness had mostly perfect scores, so it tells us about the trend in the unhappy end of the happiness distribution, rather than the trend of happiness in general. Once you recognize that, the two seemingly contradictory findings aren’t necessarily incompatible,” Killingsworth says. “And what we found bore out that possibility in an incredibly beautiful way. When we looked at the happiness trend for unhappy people in the 2021 data, we found exactly the same pattern as was found in 2010; happiness rises relatively steeply with income and then plateaus.”

“The two findings that seemed utterly contradictory actually result from data that are amazingly consistent,” he says.

Does It Matter Whether Money Can Buy Happiness?

Drawing these conclusions would have been challenging had the two research teams not come together, says Mellers, who suggests there’s no better way than adversarial collaborations to resolve scientific conflict.

“This kind of collaboration requires far greater self-discipline and precision in thought than the standard procedure,” she says. “Collaborating with an adversary — or even a non-adversary — is not easy, but both parties are likelier to recognize the limits of their claims.” Indeed, that’s what happened, leading to a better understanding of the relationship between money and happiness.

And these findings have real-world implications, according to Killingsworth. For one, they could inform thinking about tax rates or how to compensate employees. And, of course, they matter to individuals as they navigate career choices or weigh a larger income against other priorities in life, Killingsworth says.

However, he adds that for emotional well-being money isn’t the be all end all. “Money is just one of the many determinants of happiness,” he says. “Money is not the secret to happiness, but it can probably help a bit.”

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Here’s How Money Really Can Buy You Happiness

The following story is excerpted from TIME’s special edition, The Science of Happiness , which is available at Amazon .

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right.” You may remember those Lexus ads from years back, which hijacked this bumper-sticker-ready twist on the conventional wisdom to sell a car so fancy that no one would ever dream of affixing a bumper sticker to it.

What made the ads so intriguing, but also so infuriating, was that they seemed to offer a simple—if rather expensive—solution to a common question: How can you transform the money you work so hard to earn into something approaching the good life? You know that there must be some connection between money and happiness. If there weren’t, you’d be less likely to stay late at work (or even go in at all) or struggle to save money and invest it profitably. But then, why aren’t your lucrative promotion, five-bedroom house and fat 401(k) cheering you up? The relationship between money and happiness, it would appear, is more complicated than you can possibly imagine.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do the untangling yourself. Over the past quarter-century, economists and psychologists have banded together to sort out the hows, whys and why-nots of money and mood. Especially the why-nots. Why is it that the more money you have, the more you want? Why doesn’t buying the car, condo or cellphone of your dreams bring you more than momentary joy?

In attempting to answer these seemingly depressing questions, the new scholars of happiness have arrived at some insights that are, well, downright cheery. Money can help you find more happiness, so long as you know just what you can and can’t expect from it. And no, you don’t have to buy a Lexus to be happy. Much of the research suggests that seeking the good life at a store is an expensive exercise in futility. Before you can pursue happiness the right way, you need to recognize what you’ve been doing wrong.

Money misery

The new science of happiness starts with a simple insight: we’re never satisfied. “We always think if we just had a little bit more money, we’d be happier,” says Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College, “but when we get there, we’re not.” Indeed, the more you make, the more you want. The more you have, the less effective it is at bringing you joy, and that seeming paradox has long bedeviled economists. “Once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness,” notes Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness . Some research shows that going from earning less than $20,000 a year to making more than $50,000 makes you twice as likely to be happy, yet the payoff for then surpassing $90,000 is slight. And while the rich are happier than the poor, the enormous rise in living standards over the past 50 years hasn’t made Americans happier. Why? Three reasons:

You overestimate how much pleasure you’ll get from having more. Humans are adaptable creatures, which has been a plus during assorted ice ages, plagues and wars. But that’s also why you’re never all that satisfied for long when good fortune comes your way. While earning more makes you happy in the short term, you quickly adjust to your new wealth—and everything it buys you. Yes, you get a thrill at first from shiny new cars and TV screens the size of Picasso’s Guernica . But you soon get used to them, a state of running in place that economists call the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.”

1_TimeHappiness-Amazon-cover_nobarcode

Even though stuff seldom brings you the satisfaction you expect, you keep returning to the mall and the car dealership in search of more. “When you imagine how much you’re going to enjoy a Porsche, what you’re imagining is the day you get it,” says Gilbert. When your new car loses its ability to make your heart go pitter-patter, he says, you tend to draw the wrong conclusions. Instead of questioning the notion that you can buy happiness on the car lot, you begin to question your choice of car. So you pin your hopes on a new BMW, only to be disappointed again.

More money can also lead to more stress. The big salary you pull in from your high-paying job may not buy you much in the way of happiness. But it can buy you a spacious house in the suburbs. Trouble is, that also means a long trip to and from work, and study after study confirms what you sense daily: even if you love your job, the little slice of everyday hell you call the commute can wear you down. You can adjust to most anything, but a stop-and-go drive or an overstuffed subway car will make you unhappy whether it’s your first day on the job or your last.

You endlessly compare yourself with the family next door. H.L. Mencken once quipped that the happy man is one who earns $100 more than his wife’s sister’s husband. He was right. Happiness scholars have found that how you stand relative to others makes a much bigger difference in your sense of well-being than how much you make in an absolute sense.

You may feel a touch of envy when you read about the glamorous lives of the absurdly wealthy, but the group you likely compare yourself with are folks Dartmouth economist Erzo Luttmer calls “similar others”—the people you work with, people you grew up with, old friends and old classmates. “You have to think, ‘I could have been that person,’ ” Luttmer says.

Matching census data on earnings with data on self-reported happiness from a national survey, Luttmer found that, sure enough, your happiness can depend a great deal on your neighbors’ paychecks. “If you compare two people with the same income, with one living in a richer area than the other,” Luttmer says, “the person in the richer area reports being less happy.”

Your penchant for comparing yourself with the guy next door, like your tendency to grow bored with the things that you acquire, seems to be a deeply rooted human trait. An inability to stay satisfied is arguably one of the key reasons prehistoric man moved out of his drafty cave and began building the civilization you now inhabit. But you’re not living in a cave, and you likely don’t have to worry about mere survival. You can afford to step off the hedonic treadmill. The question is, how do you do it?

Money bliss

If you want to know how to use the money you have to become happier, you need to understand just what it is that brings you happiness in the first place. And that’s where the newest happiness research comes in.

Friends and family are a mighty elixir. One secret of happiness? People. Innumerable studies suggest that having friends matters a great deal. Large-scale surveys by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC), for example, have found that those with five or more close friends are 50% more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those with smaller social circles. Compared with the happiness-increasing powers of human connection, the power of money looks feeble indeed. So throw a party, set up regular lunch dates—whatever it takes to invest in your friendships.

Even more important to your happiness is your relationship with your aptly named “significant other.” People in happy, stable, committed relationships tend to be far happier than those who aren’t. Among those surveyed by NORC from the 1970s through the 1990s, some 40% of married couples said they were “very happy”; among the never-married, only about a quarter were quite so exuberant. But there is good reason to choose wisely. Divorce brings misery to everyone involved, though those who stick it out in a terrible marriage are the unhappiest of all.

While a healthy marriage is a clear happiness booster, the kids who tend to follow are more of a mixed blessing. Studies of kids and happiness have come up with little more than a mess of conflicting data. “When you take moment-by-moment readouts of how people feel when they’re taking care of the kids, they actually aren’t very happy,” notes Cornell University psychologist Tom Gilovich. “But if you ask them, they say that having kids is one of the most enjoyable things they do with their lives.”

Doing things can bring us more joy than having things. Our preoccupation with stuff obscures an important truth: the things that don’t last create the most lasting happiness. That’s what Gilovich and Leaf Van Boven of the University of Colorado found when they asked students to compare the pleasure they got from the most recent things they bought with the experiences (a night out, a vacation) they spent money on.

One reason may be that experiences tend to blossom as you recall them, not diminish. “In your memory, you’re free to embellish and elaborate,” says Gilovich. Your trip to Mexico may have been an endless parade of hassles punctuated by a few exquisite moments. But looking back on it, your brain can edit out the surly cabdrivers, remembering only the glorious sunsets. So next time you think that arranging a vacation is more trouble than it’s worth—or a cost you’d rather not shoulder—factor in the delayed impact.

Of course, a lot of what you spend money on could be considered a thing, an experience or a bit of both. A book that sits unread on a bookshelf is a thing; a book you plunge into with gusto, savoring every plot twist, is an experience. Gilovich says that people define what is and isn’t an experience differently. Maybe that’s the key. He suspects that the people who are happiest are those who are best at wringing experiences out of everything they spend money on, whether it’s dancing lessons or hiking boots.

Applying yourself to something hard makes you happy. We’re addicted to challenges, and we’re often far happier while working toward a goal than after we reach it. Challenges help you attain what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of “flow”: total absorption in something that stretches you to the limits of your abilities, mental or physical. Buy the $1,000 golf clubs; pay for the $50-an-hour music lessons.

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Flow takes work.

After all, you have to learn to play scales on a guitar before you can lose yourself in a Van Halen–esque solo—but the satisfaction you get in the end is greater than what you can get out of more passive pursuits. When people are asked what makes them happy on a moment-to-moment basis, watching TV ranks pretty high. But people who watch a lot of TV tend to be less happy than those who don’t. Settling down on the couch with the remote can help you recharge, but to be truly happy, you need more in your life than passive pleasures.

You need to find activities that help you get into the state of flow. You can find flow at work if you have a job that interests and challenges you and that gives you ample control over your daily assignments. Indeed, one study by two University of British Columbia researchers suggests that workers would be happy to forgo as much as a 20% raise if it meant having a job with more variety.

Not long ago, most researchers thought you had a happiness set point that you were largely stuck with for life. One famous paper said that “trying to be happier” may be “as futile as trying to be taller.” The author of those words has since recanted, and experts are increasingly coming to view happiness as a talent, not an inborn trait. Exceptionally happy people seem to have a set of skills—ones that you too can learn.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, has found that happy people don’t waste time dwelling on unpleasant things. They tend to interpret ambiguous events in positive ways. And perhaps most tellingly, they aren’t bothered by the successes of others. Lyubomirsky says that when she asked less-happy people whom they compared themselves with, “they went on and on.” She adds, “The happy people didn’t know what we were talking about.” They dare not to compare, thus short-circuiting invidious social comparisons.

That’s not the only way to get yourself to spend less and appreciate what you have more. Try counting your blessings. Literally. In a series of studies, psychologists Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami found that those who did exercises to cultivate feelings of gratitude, such as keeping weekly journals, ended up feeling happier, healthier, more energetic and more optimistic than those who didn’t.

And if you can’t change how you think, you can at least learn to resist. The act of shopping unleashes primal hunter-gatherer urges. When you’re in that hot state, you tend to be an extremely poor judge of what you’ll think of a product when you cool down later. Before giving in to your lust, give yourself a time-out. Over the next month, keep track of how many times you tell yourself: I wish I had a camera! If in the course of your life you almost never find yourself wanting a camera, forget about it and move on, happily.

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More Proof That Money Can Buy Happiness (or a Life with Less Stress)

When we wonder whether money can buy happiness, we may consider the luxuries it provides, like expensive dinners and lavish vacations. But cash is key in another important way: It helps people avoid many of the day-to-day hassles that cause stress, new research shows.

Money can provide calm and control, allowing us to buy our way out of unforeseen bumps in the road, whether it’s a small nuisance, like dodging a rainstorm by ordering up an Uber, or a bigger worry, like handling an unexpected hospital bill, says Harvard Business School professor Jon Jachimowicz.

“If we only focus on the happiness that money can bring, I think we are missing something,” says Jachimowicz, an assistant professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at HBS. “We also need to think about all of the worries that it can free us from.”

The idea that money can reduce stress in everyday life and make people happier impacts not only the poor, but also more affluent Americans living at the edge of their means in a bumpy economy. Indeed, in 2019, one in every four Americans faced financial scarcity, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The findings are particularly important now, as inflation eats into the ability of many Americans to afford basic necessities like food and gas, and COVID-19 continues to disrupt the job market.

Buying less stress

The inspiration for researching how money alleviates hardships came from advice that Jachimowicz’s father gave him. After years of living as a struggling graduate student, Jachimowicz received his appointment at HBS and the financial stability that came with it.

“My father said to me, ‘You are going to have to learn how to spend money to fix problems.’” The idea stuck with Jachimowicz, causing him to think differently about even the everyday misfortunes that we all face.

To test the relationship between cash and life satisfaction, Jachimowicz and his colleagues from the University of Southern California, Groningen University, and Columbia Business School conducted a series of experiments, which are outlined in a forthcoming paper in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science , The Sharp Spikes of Poverty: Financial Scarcity Is Related to Higher Levels of Distress Intensity in Daily Life .

Higher income amounts to lower stress

In one study, 522 participants kept a diary for 30 days, tracking daily events and their emotional responses to them. Participants’ incomes in the previous year ranged from less than $10,000 to $150,000 or more. They found:

  • Money reduces intense stress: There was no significant difference in how often the participants experienced distressing events—no matter their income, they recorded a similar number of daily frustrations. But those with higher incomes experienced less negative intensity from those events.
  • More money brings greater control : Those with higher incomes felt they had more control over negative events and that control reduced their stress. People with ample incomes felt more agency to deal with whatever hassles may arise.
  • Higher incomes lead to higher life satisfaction: People with higher incomes were generally more satisfied with their lives.

“It’s not that rich people don’t have problems,” Jachimowicz says, “but having money allows you to fix problems and resolve them more quickly.”

Why cash matters

In another study, researchers presented about 400 participants with daily dilemmas, like finding time to cook meals, getting around in an area with poor public transportation, or working from home among children in tight spaces. They then asked how participants would solve the problem, either using cash to resolve it, or asking friends and family for assistance. The results showed:

  • People lean on family and friends regardless of income: Jachimowicz and his colleagues found that there was no difference in how often people suggested turning to friends and family for help—for example, by asking a friend for a ride or asking a family member to help with childcare or dinner.
  • Cash is the answer for people with money: The higher a person’s income, however, the more likely they were to suggest money as a solution to a hassle, for example, by calling an Uber or ordering takeout.

While such results might be expected, Jachimowicz says, people may not consider the extent to which the daily hassles we all face create more stress for cash-strapped individuals—or the way a lack of cash may tax social relationships if people are always asking family and friends for help, rather than using their own money to solve a problem.

“The question is, when problems come your way, to what extent do you feel like you can deal with them, that you can walk through life and know everything is going to be OK,” Jachimowicz says.

Breaking the ‘shame spiral’

In another recent paper , Jachimowicz and colleagues found that people experiencing financial difficulties experience shame, which leads them to avoid dealing with their problems and often makes them worse. Such “shame spirals” stem from a perception that people are to blame for their own lack of money, rather than external environmental and societal factors, the research team says.

“We have normalized this idea that when you are poor, it’s your fault and so you should be ashamed of it,” Jachimowicz says. “At the same time, we’ve structured society in a way that makes it really hard on people who are poor.”

For example, Jachimowicz says, public transportation is often inaccessible and expensive, which affects people who can’t afford cars, and tardy policies at work often penalize people on the lowest end of the pay scale. Changing those deeply-engrained structures—and the way many of us think about financial difficulties—is crucial.

After all, society as a whole may feel the ripple effects of the financial hardships some people face, since financial strain is linked with lower job performance, problems with long-term decision-making, and difficulty with meaningful relationships, the research says. Ultimately, Jachimowicz hopes his work can prompt thinking about systemic change.

“People who are poor should feel like they have some control over their lives, too. Why is that a luxury we only afford to rich people?” Jachimowicz says. “We have to structure organizations and institutions to empower everyone.”

[Image: iStockphoto/mihtiander]

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What's Enough to Make Us Happy?

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Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

Happiness Articles & More

Can money buy happiness it depends on why you’re spending it, according to new research, our purchases may make us happier when they're motivated by goals we care about..

Imagine that someone gives you a cash gift and tells you that, instead of saving or investing it, you need to spend it right now. What should you put your money toward if you want to make yourself happiest?

According to past research , we’ll be happier if we spend money on an experience than if we buy a material object—like traveling or going out for a meal instead of buying the latest product we see on social media. For example, people report more gratitude when they spend on experiences rather than possessions.

On the other hand, we can all probably think of times when we’ve spent money on an experience that ended up not being worth it. Maybe you bought pricey event tickets to avoid missing out, only to realize on the day of the event that you’d much prefer a cozy night at home. Or perhaps you went out to dinner with a friend at a fancy restaurant, only to find that your friend was more focused on posting the meal to Instagram than having a deep conversation.

money can never buy happiness essay

It turns out that there might be another factor at play beyond whether we spend money on an experience or a material item: According to a new study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology , it may also matter how our purchases align with our goals.

In the study, researchers asked 452 participants in an online survey to describe a recent purchase. They were asked to write about something they had spent money on in the last three months (ranging from about $60 to $1,200), excluding everyday expenses such as bills and groceries. After describing it, people were asked to indicate the extent to which the purchase helped to fulfill different goals. They also noted how much they felt the purchase contributed to their happiness and life satisfaction.

According to self-determination theory , goals reflect our intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Extrinsic goals are things that other people expect for us: for example, working hard at a job not because you’re passionate about the work, but because you need the money or want a high-status job to impress others. Intrinsic goals, on the other hand, are ones that we have a strong internal motivation to pursue. In the survey, extrinsic goals included gaining wealth or social status, whereas intrinsic ones included cultivating relationships, helping other people, and contributing to growth, learning, and development.

The researchers found that, the more a purchase reflected people’s intrinsic goals, the more they thought it improved their well-being. In other words, the greatest well-being occurred when people spent money on something that was personally important to them.

To compare this finding with past research, the current study also asked participants to indicate to what extent their purchase was an experience or a material item. As in past research, participants did report higher well-being from experiences. However, when the researchers looked at both factors together, they found that how much a purchase reflected intrinsic goals explained more of the differences in well-being than whether something was material or experiential.

So, what does this research mean for our spending habits? Olaya Moldes Andrés, lecturer at Cardiff University and the study’s author, points out that we’re under a lot of pressure to spend money these days; just think about the number of targeted ads you see each time you open social media. However, this pressure to spend has a downside: In past research , Moldes Andrés has found that people who are exposed to more materialistic messages have lower well-being.

Before purchasing something, she recommends pausing to think about the reason for our purchase, and what use we will get out of it. If we’re spending money on trying to impress people or project a certain image (in other words, extrinsic goals), the purchase may not actually be worth it.

So, next time you’re planning to buy something, take a moment to think about whether it’s something you’re buying because you feel it’s what’s expected of you—or whether it’s truly something that you want.

About the Author

Elizabeth Hopper

Elizabeth Hopper

Elizabeth Hopper, Ph.D. , received her Ph.D. in psychology from UC Santa Barbara and currently works as a freelance science writer specializing in psychology and mental health.

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Research: Can Money Buy Happiness?

In his quarterly column, Francis J. Flynn looks at research that examines how to spend your way to a more satisfying life.

September 25, 2013

A boy holding a toy train

A boy looks at a toy train he received during an annual gift-giving event on Christmas Eve 2011. | Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

What inspires people to act selflessly, help others, and make personal sacrifices? Each quarter, this column features one piece of scholarly research that provides insight on what motivates people to engage in what psychologists call “prosocial behavior” — things like making charitable contributions, buying gifts, volunteering one‘s time, and so forth. In short, it looks at the work of some of our finest researchers on what spurs people to do something on behalf of someone else.

In this column I explore the idea that many of the ways we spend money are prosocial acts — and prosocial expenditures may, in fact, make us happier than personal expenditures. Authors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton discuss evidence for this in their new book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending . These behavioral scientists show that you can get more out of your money by following several principles — like spending money on others rather than yourself. Moreover, they demonstrate that these principles can be used not only by individuals, but also by companies seeking to create happier employees and more satisfying products.

According to Dunn and Norton, recent research on happiness suggests that the most satisfying way of using money is to invest in others. This can take a seemingly limitless variety of forms, from donating to a charity that helps strangers in a faraway country to buying lunch for a friend.

Witness Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the wealthiest people in the world. On a March day in 2010, they sat in a diner in Carter Lake, Iowa, and hatched a scheme. They would ask America‘s billionaires to pledge the majority of their wealth to charity. Buffet decided to donate 99 percent of his, saying, “I couldn‘t be happier with that decision.”

And what about the rest of us? Dunn and Norton show how we all might learn from that example, regardless of the size of our bank accounts. Research demonstrating that people derive more satisfaction spending money on others than they do spending it on themselves spans poor and rich countries alike, as well as income levels. The authors show how this phenomenon extends over an extraordinary range of circumstances, from a Canadian college student purchasing a scarf for her mother to a Ugandan woman buying lifesaving malaria medication for a friend. Indeed, the benefits of giving emerge among children before the age of two.

Investing in others can make individuals feel healthier and wealthier, even if it means making yourself a little poorer to reap these benefits. One study shows that giving as little as $1 away can cause you to feel more flush.

Quote Investing in others can make you feel healthier and wealthier, even if it means making yourself a little poorer.

Dunn and Norton further discuss how businesses such as PepsiCo and Google and nonprofits such as DonorsChoose.org are harnessing these benefits by encouraging donors, customers, and employees to invest in others. When Pepsi punted advertising at the 2010 Superbowl and diverted funds to supporting grants that would allow people to “refresh” their communities, for example, more public votes were cast for projects than had been cast in the 2008 election. Pepsi got buzz, and the company‘s in-house competition also offering a seed grant boosted employee morale.

Could this altruistic happiness principle be applied to one of our most disputed spheres — paying taxes? As it turns out, countries with more equal distributions of income also tend to be happier. And people in countries with more progressive taxation (such as Sweden and Japan) are more content than those in countries where taxes are less progressive (such as Italy and Singapore). One study indicated that people would be happier about paying taxes if they had more choice as to where their money went. Dunn and Norton thus suggest that if taxes were made to feel more like charitable contributions, people might be less resentful having to pay them.

The researchers persuasively suggest that the proclivity to derive joy from investing in others may well be just a fundamental component of human nature. Thus the typical ratio we all tend to fall into of spending on self versus others — ten to one — may need a shift. Giving generously to charities, friends, and coworkers — and even your country — may well be a productive means of increasing well-being and improving our lives.

Research selected by Francis Flynn, Paul E. Holden Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom .

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money can never buy happiness essay

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When Money Can — and Can’t — Buy Happiness, According to Research

Money does make us happier — at least to an extent.

does money buy happiness

Let’s talk about money and joy. Some years back, a Lexus ad boldly claimed: “Whoever said  money  can’t buy  happiness  isn’t spending it right.” The message seemed to hint at the possibility of a good life, the road to which has money growing on trees along the way. The currency to a happy life required tangible, monetary currency. Then there is the more abstract, philosophical argument about chasing happiness through other immaterial means; the quixotic notion of finding the happiness within you sounds quite blasé and tiresome by now.

It is a question most enduring in the science of human wellbeing: Can money ever buy happiness? Surely, it can — money can solve tangible problems that come with the ordeal of survival. Money pays rent, buys food, and puts a roof over our heads, among other things. But if it could indeed buy happiness,why would billionaires, with their fat bank accounts, ivory towers, and space vacations, feel lonely and/or try to fill their lack of contentment at the expense of people, environment, and ideas that build a civilization?

The marriage of money and happiness has intrigued psychologists and economists alike. There is a canon of research dedicated solely to answering how financial security impacts our mood, and if it indeed, makes us happier. The long and short of it is money does make us happy — to an extent — and that extent is never a well-defined threshold.

Money guarantees bliss especially for people impacted by poverty or economic turmoil. We go back to 2010, when an important study based in the U.S. anchored much of the debate, arguing that money can make you happier but not beyond an annual income of $75,000 (north of Rs. 58 lakhs after inflation adjustment). The exact limits of money aside, other research to come after, concurs with this largely: in 2017, a  Gallup poll surveyed people from around the world, and found a sweet spot: people found emotional wellbeing when they earned something between $60,000 and $75,000 (Rs. 46 lakhs and 58 lakhs). People also attested to feeling a sense of satiation — the peak of happiness, if you will — if they earned somewhere around $95,000 (Rs. 75 lakhs).

In 2018, a study looked at the emotional benefits of regular cash transfers to women in poverty-stricken households in Zambia. Over the next two years, the women reported greater satisfaction in life, both their own and their children. Money meant access to nutritious food, homes, healthcare, and dignity of life that could improve physical and mental health — simplifying the pursuit ofhappiness. We know poverty is both a cause and consequence of poor mental health, but the true extent of mental health conditions in marginalized communities remains underresearched.

Related on The Swaddle:

Why Are Indians So Unhappy?

According to Jayshree Sengupta, economist and author, India’s chronic unhappiness is a result of congestion in cities, concerns about  food security  and  water safety , rising  costs of healthcare ,  women’s safety , and environmental degradation which itself is linked to poor mental wellbeing. Thisexplains why India remains at the bottom of the happiness index rankings.

A consensus thus arises: income matters. If one has money, they have the luxury and logistical wherewithal to pursue things they desire, or just meet basic survival needs. But the exact degree depends on this distinction between “day-to-day” happiness (experienced wellbeing) and overall life satisfaction (evaluative well-being). A sizeable literature shows that people with larger incomes tend to report greater evaluative well-being. One limitation of this canon of research is just how much can you truly measure someone’s experienced well-being, from a daily lens?

In 2021, Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, provided a more comprehensive and slightly contrarian outlook onthis relationship. “…researchers have used surveys to ask people how they remember feeling during some period in the past, such as the last day, week, or month. This requires people to accurately remember how they felt across the various moments of the past and then accurately integrate those memories into a single estimate, an approach that is vulnerable to memory errors and biases in judgment,” the study noted.

Published in PNAS , the research showed that money correlated with happiness, irrespective of what the income levels looked like. The conclusion was based on data gathered in real-time over the course of seven years; looking at 33,391 employed adults in the U.S. earning as little as meeting the minimum wage to making more than $500,000 a year. Happiness never plateaued for people who were earning more than $75,000; “higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall,” he wrote.

Then one may wonder, why exactly is money even linked to misery? Psychology and behavioraleconomics come under the spotlight here. “We always think if we just had a little bit more money, we’d be happier, but when we get there, we’re not,” Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College, told TIME. This paradox of joy is familiar: the more we earn, the more we want, and the less satisfied we feel overall. According to one research, a person is twice as likely to be happy if they go from earning $20,000 a year to more than $50,000; but the levels of happiness kind of flatline after the $90,000 mark. So incomes over $75,000 bought life satisfaction, but happiness not so much.

How Languages Reflect a Culture’s Idea of Happiness

Perhaps, because people always overestimate how much joy can be found by having more money, we forget that as adaptable creatures, people adjust to variations in wealth. A new house, a YSL bag, a shiny new car are all great, but we are bound to get used to them — a phenomenon that economists call the “ hedonistic treadmill .” Money is also linked to greater stress and even conflicts in relationships. “Materialism is not an isolated life priority; as the pursuit of money and possessions are prioritized, it appears that other dimensions of life, such as relationships, are deemphasized,” as the researcher of one such study noted . The pursuit of money creates a scarcity of time for more emotionally rewarding things in life, thus impacting satisfaction in relationships.

Beyond income levels, money correlates with happiness in other aspects too. According to one s urvey from 2011, when people spent money on “experiences” — such as a visit to an adventure park, a vacation, or buying a gift for someone you love — over tangible goods (the pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing), they reported feeling greater feelings of happiness.

This is also linked to something called the “appraisal-tendency framework.” A review of literature about emotions and decision-making found how we value something based on the outcome we expect to come out of a said thing. “For example, if you’re afraid of your house being broken into, buying a state-of-the-art home security system may reduce your level of fear, which can then improve your happiness or emotional wellbeing,” as Healthline explained . Wealth earmarks not all kinds of possibilities, only some.

Then there is a theory to happiness oft-ignored. People may find joy when they turn objects of their purchase into experiences. “A book that sits unread on a bookshelf is a thing; a book you plunge into with gusto, savoring every plot twist, is an experience,” David Futrelle wrote in TIME. Futrelle spoke to psychologist Tom Gilovich, who further argued that “people who are happiest are those who are best at wringing experiences out of everything they spend money on, whether it’s dancing lessons or hiking boots.”

A more sustainable way of finding money and bliss, then, seems to be by way of investing in relationships and people. Any human connection is linked to unquantifiable benefits on moods and happiness. So, spending on dinners and dates is quite literally an investment in this pursuit of happiness.

I think of bell hooks, and her treatise on joy: “Loving friendships provide us with a space to experience the joy of community in a relationship where we learn to process all our issues, to cope with differences and conflict while staying connected.”

Saumya Kalia is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. Her journalism and writing explore issues of social justice, digital sub-cultures, media ecosystem, literature, and memory as they cut across socio-cultural periods. You can reach her at @Saumya_Kalia.

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Love — Money Can’t Buy Love or Happiness

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Money Can't Buy Love Or Happiness

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The Nobel Winner Who Liked to Collaborate With His Adversaries

A colorful illustration of two identical-looking youths in a bucolic setting. One is in red overalls and is before a red lawnmower, and the other is in blue overalls and is before a blue lawnmower. They are glaring at each other, and each has a foot pressed against the other’s. The two lawnmowers have carved a circle in the grass.

By Cass R. Sunstein

Mr. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard and an author of “Noise,” with Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony.

Our all-American belief that money really does buy happiness is roughly correct for about 85 percent of us. We know this thanks to the latest and perhaps final work of Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winner who insisted on the value of working with those with whom we disagree.

Professor Kahneman, who died last week at the age of 90, is best known for his pathbreaking explorations of human judgment and decision making and of how people deviate from perfect rationality. He should also be remembered for a living and working philosophy that has never been more relevant: his enthusiasm for collaborating with his intellectual adversaries. This enthusiasm was deeply personal. He experienced real joy working with others to discover the truth, even if he learned that he was wrong (something that often delighted him).

Back to that finding, published last year , that for a strong majority of us, more is better when it comes to money. In 2010, Professor Kahneman and the Princeton economist Angus Deaton (also a Nobel Prize winner) published a highly influential essay that found that, on average, higher-income groups show higher levels of happiness — but only to a point. Beyond a threshold at or below $90,000, Professor Kahneman and Professor Deaton found, there is no further progress in average happiness as income increases.

Eleven years later, Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, found exactly the opposite : People with higher income reported higher levels of average happiness. Period. The more money people have, the happier they are likely to be.

What gives? You could imagine some furious exchange in which Professor Kahneman and Professor Deaton made sharp objections to Dr. Killingsworth’s paper, to which Dr. Killingsworth answered equally sharply, leaving readers confused and exhausted.

Professor Kahneman saw such a dynamic as “angry science,” which he described as a “nasty world of critiques, replies and rejoinders” and “as a contest, where the aim is to embarrass.” As Professor Kahneman put it, those who live in that nasty world offer “a summary caricature of the target position, refute the weakest argument in that caricature and declare the total destruction of the adversary’s position.” In his account, angry science is “a demeaning experience.” That dynamic might sound familiar, particularly in our politics.

Instead, Professor Kahneman favored an alternative that he termed “adversarial collaboration.” When people who disagree work together to test a hypothesis, they are involved in a common endeavor. They are trying not to win but to figure out what’s true. They might even become friends.

In that spirit, Professor Kahneman, well into his 80s, asked Dr. Killingsworth to collaborate, with the help of a friendly arbiter, Prof. Barbara Mellers, an influential and widely admired psychologist. Their task was to look closely at Dr. Killingsworth’s data to see whether he had analyzed it properly and to understand what, if anything, had been missed by Professor Kahneman and Professor Deaton.

Their central conclusion was simple. Dr. Killingsworth missed a threshold effect in his data that affected only one group: the least happy 15 percent. For these largely unhappy people, average happiness does grow with rising income, up to a level of around $100,000, but it stops growing after that. For a majority of us, by contrast, average happiness keeps growing with increases in income.

Both sides were partly right and partly wrong. Their adversarial collaboration showed that the real story is more interesting and more complicated than anyone saw individually.

Professor Kahneman engaged in a number of adversarial collaborations, with varying degrees of success. His first (and funniest) try was with his wife, the distinguished psychologist Anne Treisman. Their disagreement never did get resolved. (Dr. Treisman died in 2018.) Both of them were able to explain away the results of their experiments — a tribute to what he called “the stubborn persistence of challenged beliefs.” Still, adversarial collaborations sometimes produce both agreement and truth, and he said that “a common feature of all my experiences has been that the adversaries ended up on friendlier terms than they started.”

Professor Kahneman meant both to encourage better science and to strengthen the better angels of our nature. In academic life, adversarial collaborations hold great value . We could easily imagine a situation in which adversaries routinely collaborated to see if they could resolve disputes about the health effects of air pollutants, the consequences of increases in the minimum wage, the harms of climate change or the deterrent effects of the death penalty.

And the idea can be understood more broadly. In fact, the U.S. Constitution should be seen as an effort to create the conditions for adversarial collaboration. Before the founding, it was often thought that republics could work only if people were relatively homogeneous — if they were broadly in agreement with one another. Objecting to the proposed Constitution, the pseudonymous antifederalist Brutus emphasized this point: “In a republic, the manners, sentiments and interests of the people should be similar. If this be not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions, and the representatives of one part will be continually striving against those of the other.”

Those who favored the Constitution thought that Brutus had it exactly backward. In their view, the constant clashing of opinions was something not to fear but to welcome, at least if people collaborate — if they act as if they are engaged in a common endeavor. Sounding a lot like Professor Kahneman, Alexander Hamilton put it this way : “The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties” in the legislative department of the government “often promote deliberation and circumspection and serve to check excesses in the majority.”

Angry science is paralleled by angry democracy, a “nasty world of critiques, replies and rejoinders,” whose “aim is to embarrass,” Professor Kahneman said. That’s especially true, of course, in the midst of political campaigns, when the whole point is to win.

Still, the idea of adversarial collaboration has never been more important. Within organizations of all kinds — including corporations, nonprofits, think tanks and government agencies — sustained efforts should be made to lower the volume by isolating the points of disagreement and specifying tests to establish what’s right. Asking how a disagreement might actually be resolved tends to turn enemies, focused on winning and losing, into teammates, focused on truth.

As usual, Professor Kahneman was right. We could use a lot more of that.

Cass R. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard and an author of “Noise,” with Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Essay on Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Students are often asked to write an essay on Money Can’t Buy Happiness in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Money Can’t Buy Happiness

The meaning of happiness.

Happiness is a feeling of joy that comes from within. It’s when we feel good about our lives and the people around us. It’s not something you can go to a store and buy like a toy or a candy bar.

Money’s Role

Money is useful. It helps us buy things we need like food and a home. It can also help us have fun, like when we buy a game or go on a trip. But these things only make us happy for a short time.

Riches and Smiles

Some rich people have lots of money but are not happy. They may feel lonely or worried. This shows us that even with all the money in the world, you can’t buy a happy heart.

Lasting Joy

True happiness comes from love, friendship, and good memories. These are things that money can’t buy. Doing kind things for others or spending time with family and friends makes us truly happy.

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250 Words Essay on Money Can’t Buy Happiness

What is true happiness.

True happiness is a feeling of joy, contentment, and well-being that comes from within. It’s not something you can pick up from a store or order online. Happiness is about feeling good inside your heart and mind, not about how much stuff you have.

Money and Things

Money can buy a lot of things like toys, games, and candy. But these things only make us happy for a little while. After some time, new toys become old, and the excitement fades. The joy that comes from things you can touch and buy does not last forever.

Love and Friendship

Think about the times you laugh with your friends or get a hug from your family. These moments give you a warm feeling that stays with you much longer than the happiness you get from a new toy. Love and friendship are priceless, and you cannot buy them with money.

Helping Others

Have you ever helped someone and seen them smile because of what you did? This kind of joy comes from giving, not getting. When you help others, you feel good on the inside. You can’t put a price tag on the happiness that comes from being kind.

The Simple Things

Often, the best things in life are free. Playing outside, talking with friends, or reading a good story can make you very happy. These simple pleasures do not cost anything, yet they fill us with happiness.

In conclusion, money is useful for buying things we need, but it cannot buy true happiness. Happiness is about love, friendship, kindness, and enjoying the simple things in life. These are treasures that money can never buy.

500 Words Essay on Money Can’t Buy Happiness

The meaning of true happiness.

Many people think that having a lot of money means you will be happy. They believe that when you are rich, you can buy anything you want, and that will make you happy. But true happiness is not something you can buy with money. True happiness comes from love, good health, and being content with what you have.

Love and Relationships

Think about the times you feel the happiest. Is it when you get a new toy, or is it when you are playing with your friends? For most of us, being with our family and friends makes us feel good. Laughing, playing games, and sharing stories are moments that make us happy. These moments do not cost anything. Money cannot buy the love of your family or the fun times with your friends.

Health is Wealth

Being healthy is very important for happiness. Sometimes, rich people are not healthy. They may have money to go to the best doctors, but they cannot buy good health. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and playing outside can keep you healthy. These things are better than any medicine and they do not need a lot of money.

Contentment is Key

Contentment means being happy with what you have. It does not matter if you do not have the newest video game or the latest sneakers. Being thankful for what you have is a big part of being happy. If you always want more, you will never be happy. Even if you have a lot of money, you will always be looking for the next thing to buy. But if you are content, you can find joy in the simple things in life.

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Some of the best things in life do not cost any money at all. Watching the sunset, playing in the park, and reading a good book are things that can make you very happy. You do not need to spend money to enjoy these things. Nature, art, and imagination are always there for you to enjoy.

Money and Happiness

Money can help you live comfortably. It can buy you a home, food, and clothes. But after your basic needs are met, more money does not mean more happiness. People with less money can be just as happy, or even happier, than rich people. When you have a lot of money, you might worry about it too much. You might be afraid of losing it or think about how to make more. This can make you feel stressed and not happy.

In conclusion, happiness is not something you can buy at a store. It comes from love, health, being content, and enjoying the simple things. Remember, the most precious moments in life are often the ones that money cannot buy. So, smile, play, and enjoy every day, and you will find that happiness is all around you.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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Psychological Research: Money Can Buy Happiness Essay (Critical Writing)

Introduction, critique of the article money can buy happiness.

Time and again, it has been said that money cannot buy happiness. This notwithstanding, a critical analysis of the article “money-can-buy-happiness”, clearly shows that when used wisely, money can actually buy happiness (White, 2014). The following is a critique of the article.

In the article, the author has given enough evidence to prove that money can be used to buy happiness. To support her claims, the author makes reference to research findings, some undertaken by very experienced research professionals in the field of psychological science.

The credibility of the evidence given by the author comes from the fact that she has quoted reliable findings by researchers from distinguished universities such as Harvard University and San Francisco State University. The quality of the article is further guaranteed by the fact that the findings of some of the studies used are based on practical experiments.

In a convincing way, the author has managed to bring out a number of arguments that show how money can be used beneficially. Go start with, the author feels that money should be used to buy moments rather than material possessions (White, 2014). Arguably, the use of money in this way can result in greater happiness. Although some people have doubts about this, spending money to please other people creates happiness.

As explained in the article, this is a fact that was established by Harvard University researchers through scientific experiments. This claim may also be supported by quotes from the bible which point us to the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive. As pointed out by the author, it is also advisable to spend small amounts of money to generate happiness at different times. This is contrasted to spending heavily on one single item that only creates happiness for a brief moment.

Apparently, the happiness created soon disappears making an individual feel that the expense was not worthwhile. In the article, the author also quotes Ryan Howell, a renowned psychology professor whose research findings indicated that spending on what one likes causes greater happiness to an individual.

Evidence presented by the author of the article further indicates that it is more beneficial for one to spend his or her money with others rather than alone. While it is possible for a person to draw some happiness in what he or she likes to do, the greatest happiness comes from shared moments (White, 2014). In making this claim, the author makes reference to a finding by Gus Cooney, another experienced research professional.

Despite the allegation that money can not buy happiness, the article provides enough evidence to prove otherwise. It is actually possible for an individual to find happiness using his or her money.

To support her claims, the author of the article has provided convincing evidence based on solid and reliable research findings by different scholars. While it is practically impossible to get things done without money in the contemporary world, it is imperative to ensure that money is used to positively influence how we live and interrelate with one another.

It is, however, important to be cautious in the way that we use money to get things done. To a large extent, money must be used wisely if happiness is to be realized. Based on the evidence presented in the article, it is obvious that proper utilization of money can buy happiness. Consequently, people should be advised on how best to use money to gain happiness while benefitting others.

White, M. C. (2014). 5 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness, Backed by Science . Web.

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Question and Answer forum for K12 Students

Money Can’t Buy Happiness Essay

Money Can’t Buy Happiness Essay for Students and Children in English

Money Can’t Buy Happiness Essay: The proverb “Money Can’t Buy Happiness” states that money can buy all the materialistic things like cars, houses, and also you can live a luxurious life too but having all the materialistic things surely will not give happiness. Money can be used to buy anything in the world but there is no shop where you can walk and buy happiness and so they say money can’t buy happiness.

When it comes to the question of whether money can buy happiness or not the answer here is that money is just a tool to buy things that give us luxury which in turn will give us happiness. But it doesn’t necessarily increase our happiness. Buying more and more luxurious things won’t really bring you more joy. More money isn’t going to improve your mindset, nor will it bring peace to mind. In other words, you can say that more money can’t buy happiness. There are many aspects which money can’t give.

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Suppose you think a new 24” LED TV will bring you happiness but after having the same 24” LED you see a better option and it makes you feel sad. You want to have better than this. It is not actually the tv that gives you happiness, it is the human nature of having more. A human being is one who is never satisfied. Happiness is actually the state of mind which cannot be achieved by materialistic things. There are many reasons which prove that money can’t buy happiness.

Buying stuff won’t make us happy, because we tend to compare it with others. Comparisons are ridiculous and quite often harmful to us.

What is Happiness?

Is it a big car, a luxurious house, or a big-screen LED TV?  Buying any new stuff feels great at first.  But gradually months and years later, the excitement decreases. The bright, shiny, newness will eventually go down and you’ll want a new one or more.

Happiness is a feeling. Feeling that money can’t buy. If someone asks are you happy, what will you answer?.

Happiness means satisfaction. Be satisfied with what you have in your life.  Not to crave on the things that you don’t have.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness Essay

Reasons Why Money Can’t Buy Happiness

There are some very good reasons why having more money doesn’t necessarily make a person happier. It can actually turn the opposite. Many wealthy people, for example, are actually under stress.

Here we mention few reasons why money can’t buy happiness

Money Can’t Buy Happiness Essay for Students

More Stuff More Work

Many think that if you get more luxurious stuff our life would be happier but that isn’t true. The more the stuff, the more work it takes to take care of it. Day by day everything has become larger. Today people want larger houses to live in but keeping it clean and maintained is again a challenge. It takes more time and effort to keep your mansions neat and tidy.

More Stuff Less Free Time

As you own more stuff, you will get less free time because you’ll be spending time in the maintenance of the things you bought. Time is very important for everyone, but much of our free time is spent doing house chores and taking care of our stuff. You can use the money to hire maids but that is not possible in every situation.

More Stuff More Expenses

The more stuff you own, the more money you will have to spend to maintain it.

For example, bigger houses need more repairs than smaller ones. Unfortunately, repairs are a necessary part and can be expensive.

The more stuff you own, the more work and money is spent to maintain it. Having less stuff can free up some of your time to do things you enjoy. So money cannot always bring you happiness.

Materialistic things give Temporary Satisfaction

Money can buy temporary happiness. Everyone experiences themselves on cloud nine when they’ve bought something they’ve been desiring. These feelings of happiness are usually temporary. This happiness soon fades away and that new thing is no longer interesting.

Scientists have proved that we get more happiness from our experiences but not from materialistic things. And also they don’t cost much.

Time spent with your loved ones will give you more happiness than buying a costly item that you were eyeing for a long time.

Money Can’t Buy Family, Friends and Love

Family, friends and your loved ones are the people who will make you special. They are the people whose surroundings will make you happy. And definitely, money cannot buy these relationships.

When people are dying and taking their last breath they don’t want to see the things they own or the achievements of their life. All they want to see are their loved ones.

It’s their relationships that really matter but not stuff.

True love doesn’t care whether your loved one is rich or poor. That person will value you for who you are and not money.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Money Can’t Give You Peace of Mind

A person can live without a big house, he can survive without driving a car but cannot live with a stressful mind. True happiness has nothing to do with the bank balance. More money also sometimes steals away the peace of mind because of insecurity.

Changing our outlook for money is the first step in achieving true happiness, the kind of happiness that comes from being satisfied with what you have.

In conclusion, once you have your basic needs like food, water, shelter, clothing and the feeling of safety, then money can’t buy happiness.

It’s up to you to build meaningful relationships, enjoy the little things in life, and start spending your money on experiences and other people rather than materialistic things.

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COMMENTS

  1. Can Money Really Buy Happiness?

    Money, in and of itself, cannot buy happiness, but it can provide a means to the things we value in life. Money is a big part of our lives, our identities, and perhaps our well-being.

  2. Happiness Economics: Can Money Buy Happiness?

    Including happiness in economics has opened up an entirely new avenue of research to explore the relationship between happiness and money. Andrew Clark (2018) illustrates the variability in the term happiness economics with the following examples: Happiness can be a predictor variable, influencing our decisions and behaviors.

  3. Does More Money Really Make Us More Happy?

    ProStock-Studio/Getty Images. Summary. Although some studies show that wealthier people tend to be happier, prioritizing money over time can actually have the opposite effect. But even having just ...

  4. PDF If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right

    The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material

  5. Money can't buy happiness, a neuroscientist explains why

    Money can't buy happiness, a neuroscientist explains why - BBC Science Focus Magazine.

  6. Does Money Buy Happiness? Here's What the Research Says

    However, he adds that for emotional well-being money isn't the be all end all. "Money is just one of the many determinants of happiness," he says. "Money is not the secret to happiness ...

  7. Here's How Money Really Can Buy You Happiness

    Some research shows that going from earning less than $20,000 a year to making more than $50,000 makes you twice as likely to be happy, yet the payoff for then surpassing $90,000 is slight. And ...

  8. More Proof That Money Can Buy Happiness (or a Life with Less Stress)

    Money can provide calm and control, allowing us to buy our way out of unforeseen bumps in the road, whether it's a small nuisance, like dodging a rainstorm by ordering up an Uber, or a bigger worry, like handling an unexpected hospital bill, says Harvard Business School professor Jon Jachimowicz. "If we only focus on the happiness that ...

  9. Can Money Buy Happiness? It Depends on Why You're…

    According to past research, we'll be happier if we spend money on an experience than if we buy a material object—like traveling or going out for a meal instead of buying the latest product we see on social media.For example, people report more gratitude when they spend on experiences rather than possessions.. On the other hand, we can all probably think of times when we've spent money on ...

  10. Research: Can Money Buy Happiness?

    According to Dunn and Norton, recent research on happiness suggests that the most satisfying way of using money is to invest in others. This can take a seemingly limitless variety of forms, from donating to a charity that helps strangers in a faraway country to buying lunch for a friend. Witness Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the ...

  11. When Money Can

    This paradox of joy is familiar: the more we earn, the more we want, and the less satisfied we feel overall. According to one research, a person is twice as likely to be happy if they go from earning $20,000 a year to more than $50,000; but the levels of happiness kind of flatline after the $90,000 mark. So incomes over $75,000 bought life ...

  12. Does Money Buy Happiness?

    Essay. Whether or not money can buy happiness is a continued debate. Billions of people in all parts of the world sacrifice their ambitions and subconscious tensions on the altar of profitability and higher incomes. Millions of people dream to achieve the level of wellbeing, when earning money will no longer be a problem to them.

  13. Money Can't Buy Love Or Happiness

    Money can't buy love or happiness. This assertion challenges us to rethink our priorities and to cherish the aspects of life that are inherently priceless, reminding us that the pursuit of wealth should always be in service of enhancing our well-being and the well-being of those around us. This essay was reviewed by. Dr. Oliver Johnson.

  14. Opinion

    Our all-American belief that money really does buy happiness is roughly correct for about 85 percent of us. ... influential essay that found that, on average, higher-income groups show higher ...

  15. Can Money Buy You Happiness?

    Essay. I believe that money can buy a person happiness due to several reasons related to the costs of comfortable and healthy living. These costs include housing, medicine, and meaningful experience, which improve the quality of life. Despite the fact that luxury is often seen as an attractive point in favor of happiness via increased budget or ...

  16. I Don't Believe Money Can Buy Happiness Essay

    Money is also a contributing factor but only when combined with other aspects like mentioned above. This paper gives an insight on why I don't believe that money can buy happiness. I don't believe that money can buy happiness since some aspects that leads to happiness for example respect, power love and a feeling of appreciation and ...

  17. Money Can't Buy Happiness Essay

    Addiction to earning money can cause severe mental stress. Money can seem to be "never enough." Materialism can become an unhealthy obsession. Money alone cannot buy peace of mind. FAQ's Money Can't Buy Happiness Essay. Question 1. Can money buy happiness? Answer: Whether or not money buys you, happiness depends on how you chose to ...

  18. Essay on Can Money Buy Happiness

    Conclusion. In conclusion, money can buy temporary happiness by providing comfort, security, and experiences. However, it falls short in procuring lasting happiness that is often found in intangible aspects of life. Thus, the pursuit of wealth should be balanced with the pursuit of intangible aspects to achieve holistic happiness.

  19. Essay on Money Can't Buy Happiness

    Students are often asked to write an essay on Money Can't Buy Happiness in their schools and colleges. And if you're also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic. ... These are treasures that money can never buy. 500 Words Essay on Money Can't Buy Happiness The Meaning of True Happiness ...

  20. Psychological Research: Money Can Buy Happiness Essay (Critical Writing)

    Introduction. Time and again, it has been said that money cannot buy happiness. This notwithstanding, a critical analysis of the article "money-can-buy-happiness", clearly shows that when used wisely, money can actually buy happiness (White, 2014). The following is a critique of the article. We will write a custom essay on your topic.

  21. Money Can't Buy Happiness Essay for Students and Children in English

    June 19, 2023 by Laxmi. Money Can't Buy Happiness Essay: The proverb "Money Can't Buy Happiness" states that money can buy all the materialistic things like cars, houses, and also you can live a luxurious life too but having all the materialistic things surely will not give happiness. Money can be used to buy anything in the world but ...