Money: Does it buy you happiness? The well-known answer to this question is often “No”. However, when we call into question this issue on a day-to-day basis, we frequently find that people do acknowledge that money does buy happiness to an extent. It buys you the privilege of comfort. Money, on its own, is not happiness though. Yet, we are frequently pursuing more money and materials in order to feel this deep sense of happiness.
I believe that money is the governor of our lives in North American culture. And no, I do not mean to say this in any sort of reassuring or pleasurable way whatsoever. Instead, there is what psychologists call the paradox of affluence. According to Diener and Seligman, the paradox describes how affluence in America has tripled over the past 50 years, while levels of life satisfaction and psychological well-being have remained virtually the same (Baumgardner & Crothers 100). That is, we are relatively richer but no more or less happy than we were 50 years ago. Has money bought us happiness? It would seem that it has not at all. So why, then, does money have that power over us to govern where we go and what we do with our lives? Why does money decide when it is time for us to sit back and relax? I believe our culture is too reliant on money for security and safety. I understand that having the basic necessities of healthcare, shelter, food and water does definitely make a difference in our daily stress levels. However, this level of greed we see in society is troublesome, to say the least.
To illustrate, I recently was involved in a collision with a 67-year old man (not retired surprisingly!) who appeared to be quite well-off. At least, to me, if you can afford a nice suit, an impressive car, and to travel the world frequently, you are quite affluent with your money. Having just suffered from an airbag deploying right in my face and swallowing what smelled like firecrackers, I was in a lot of shock. He appeared to be fine but in shock himself. While I had asked if he was okay, he did not acknowledge anything except the amount of money he was losing. He was about to go start a business up and the office was closing in an hour from the time of the accident. He passively illustrated to me how, “everyday that I am not working, I am losing money.” While what I described of his appearance is not necessarily a signifier of wealth, it is definitely something that signifies materialism. If you cannot afford these things, what are you doing investing in them? Quite frankly, it shocked me that this individuals concern did not go anywhere near the health and wellness of other members involved in the accident, but rather towards the size of his wallet. All he wanted was to build up his bank and he was inconvenienced at that. Do I blame him for that? No, because unfortunately this is the world we are brought up in. Money dominates almost every concern in life. Money has exceeded the concerns for our health and safety. Money has exceeded the concern for our fellow human beings. When we are losing money, we are put out. Nothing else matters, but our wallets. And honestly, if this is the state of the world we are in today, it is quite a sad state. When did concern for our fellow man fly out the window?
This is where the paradox of affluence come in. If money has not made a difference to us at all over the past 50 years, then why are we always aiming for more? In a Time magazine survey in the United States (2005), results showed that “happiness and income increased in tandem until people reached an annual income of about $50,000. After that, increased income had no appreciable effect on happiness” (Baumgardner & Crothers 103). I am sure that the number has increased as of today. However, the point remains that money is insignificant to your happiness. So long as you can afford to take care of yourself, that sports car you have your eye on is not going to make you any happier. If you want to live a life of fleeting, monetary happiness, then by all means do so, but if there is anything life has taught us, it is that money does not buy, nor sustain happiness in the long-run. In my opinion, true happiness comes from presence, experience and the ability to build and maintain solid relationships and security within your own tight circle of life.
You may think of me as naive, but I would really like to know: When did money become the heart of this world? Why is society devoid of human emotion when it comes to dealing with traumatic experiences? Instead, we focus on what money we will lose. I would like to know why.
Baumgardner, Steve R., and Marie K. Crothers. Positive Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.