People like to say that money can’t buy happiness, but is that true? I have always thought that being able to buy whatever I wanted would make me happy; however, there is a lot of debate around this subject.
In The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, he says, “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.” He goes on to add that the key to happiness is in our own hands and is shaped by our attitudes, outlook, and approach to living.
With that perspective, money may not buy happiness, but it is still needed to at least fulfill our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing). Beyond those requirements being met, one’s state of mind is all that is needed to achieve lasting and stable happiness.
What are some reasons why money can’t buy happiness?
First of all, money is defined as something generally accepted as a medium of exchange for goods and services.
Since happiness is an emotional state and not a material good, it cannot be bought.
However, many factors contribute to happiness, and having money IS one of them. But that is only up to a certain point. Other factors include family and friends, freedom, health, life satisfaction, and one’s mindset.
Money alone will not make you happy. In fact, there are many notable people that struggle with depression despite their wealth and success.
Another interesting statistic claims that about 70% of the people who win the lottery end up broke within 7 years.
Abraham Shakespeare won 30 million from the Florida lottery in 2009. Before he ended up tragically murdered for his money, he told his bother that, “I’d have been better off broke.” He also said to a childhood friend: “I thought all these people were my friends, but then I realized all they want is just money.”
I’m not rich, but I have also experienced unhappiness despite having financial security. In other posts, I’ve written about how my husband and I were able to live on one income by living frugally with a $2500 per month budget.
While I didn’t have to work for money, I still wasn’t happy! Yes, we were financially stable, but that itself didn’t bring me joy. I wasn’t happy until I went out into my new environment and made lasting friendships.
Who says money can’t buy happiness?
From historical figures to religious texts and scientific studies, many agree that money can’t be used to purchase happiness. These are some great beliefs and quotes:
In Buddhism, happiness is achieved by obtaining a peace of mind and overcoming cravings of all forms.
The Bible says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, stated that “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.”
There is also a Chinese proverb that says, “If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a month – get married. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.”
In this TED talk by the psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, he speaks about a 75-year research study on happiness, The Harvard Study On Adult Development. For 75 years, they tracked the lives of 724 men as they went from teenagers into old age, this is what they found:
What money cannot buy:
Money can’t buy the most important things in life, the things that would contribute to your overall satisfaction.
1. Money Can’t Buy Contentment
Buying things can make you very happy, but that happiness is usually temporary. The high of buying something new eventually fades and leaves you desiring more.
Likewise, if you’re always trying to Keep Up With the Joneses by comparing yourself to others, you will never have enough.
These feelings of greed and jealousy keep you from being happy. When you are content, you will appreciate the things that you have rather than what you don’t.
“Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.” – Bob Marley
2. Money Can’t Buy Knowledge
With money, you can buy books, you can buy your way into college, and you can even get a private tutor. But, all of that money won’t guarantee the mental ability to grasp the subject you’re studying.
Wealthy people have access to an excess of educational resources, but that doesn’t make them… smart.
You can’t buy intellect or knowledge, and money can’t buy wisdom.
“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold” – Bob Marley
3. Money Can’t Buy Time
Solely focusing on making money will cause you to miss out on time with loved ones.
Time is something that you can never get back once it is gone. No matter how much money you have, money can’t buy life and more time to live it.
In a way, money can also ROB you of your time. The more things that you accumulate, the more you’ll have to work to have enough money to maintain them and their expenses.
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus
4. Money Can’t Buy Friendship
It can make more people want to hang around you, but true friendship cannot be gained with money. Money and possessions don’t matter to true friends.
Genuine friendships are formed by the connections and soul ties that we build with others. These are the people that you are able to trust and count on to be there for you through the bad times.
Instead of focusing on material goods, spend your time and energy on the people that you want to keep in your life.
“True friends are like stars; you can only recognize them when it’s dark around you.” – Bob Marley
5. Money Can’t Buy Integrity
Having money will not make you a person who is honest, trustworthy, and has strong moral values.
Integrity, and showing virtue, is a character trait that has to be practiced and developed.
If you were able to make more money in your business through deception, would you do it? The money you earn doesn’t make you a better person, your decisions do.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley
6. Money Can’t Buy Respect
Just take a look at the presidents that we have had in the U.S. They have success, wealth, and power yet with all of that they still do not have the respect of some people, it’s just one of the things money can’t buy.
Whether you are rich or poor, respect is something that has to be earned through your actions.
I should add that, in a way, you can add to the respect that others show you with money. When you selflessly give and donate to others, that is something to be admired. However, it’s just one factor in your overall character.
“Live for yourself and you will live in vain; Live for others, and you will live again.” – Bob Marley
7. Money Can’t Buy Peace
At the end of the day, money can’t buy you peace.
Some people assume that once they have money, they’ll be able to live a peaceful life. But that’s not true!
There will always be external forces in life that affect you and try to steal your joy. The way that you react to circumstances in life will determine your happiness. Having inner peace will change your perspective on situations instead of holding on to negative emotions like anger, grudges, and grief.
8. Money Can’t Buy Happiness
You can probably tell I like Bob Marley quotes by now! But here is the last bit of wisdom.
“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” ― Bob Marley
Money can help you be happier, but it alone won’t give you true happiness. It’s only part of many factors that influence our emotions.
At the end of the day, being happy is a choice. It’s a mindset that you have to practice and try to maintain despite external influences. Seek to achieve happiness by:
- Developing a positive mindset
- Creating memories
- Building meaningful connections with people
- Practicing gratitude
- Exercising empathy, compassion, and forgiveness
- Practice acts of kindness
- Find what you truly value and gives meaning to your life