Does Money Buy Happiness?
Is there an answer to this, one of life’s great mysteries? Those of us who don’t have much
money will probably announce that happiness is not about money at all. That’s because
we don’t know any better, having never had the means to try to buy that elusive thing
called happiness. So we rely on simpler things to bring a smile to our face and in our
heart – a sunset, the laughter of a child, a hug, chocolate.
Those who have a lot of money may also vehemently deny that money has anything to do
with happiness; to say anything else will make them sound shallow and materialistic and
who wants to be saddled with that? It really isn’t politically correct to admit that money
can buy happiness, so we come up with glib alternatives depending on how much of the
green stuff we have.
But first, let’s try and understand the meaning of happiness. According to the dictionary
happiness is the state of being happy. That means we have to discover the meaning of
‘happy’, and decide what makes us that way. Depending on where you look for the
definition, to be happy is to show pleasure or joy or delight or contentment. You get the
So what makes a person happy? There are quite possibly as many answers to that as there
are people. Some of us find joy in simple things that cost nothing or next to nothing, at
least in terms of money. A song or a book, a lovingly cooked meal, a relationship that is
going well, perhaps the smell of the earth after the first rains. These things fill us with us
with an uplifting kind of emotion that we call happiness. There’s a feeling of contentment
and for many of us that is enough. Glad to be in the moment, we don’t need to be happier
But for all the people who simply accept happiness like that, there are others that question
it – or the lack of it. They want to qualify and quantify the concept; they want tangible
proof of the happiness quotient in their lives. And when they think it’s missing or
inadequate, they go about seeking it in ways ranging from meditation to past life
regression. Money may or may not be needed to buy happiness in this case. Some are
lucky to find that elusive something within themselves; others will keep paying through
their noses till they find the right guru or therapy to show them the way.
Then there are those who equate happiness with possessions. The more things they have,
the happier they think they will be. Another house, a few more cars, rooms full of
jewellery and clothes, a corporate takeover. That takes money…a lot of it, and they are
quite honest about it. Spending money in the unabashed pursuit of happiness makes
perfect sense to these people; after all why make money if it doesn’t make you happy?
This group of people is often subject to the scorn of cynics who refuse to accept that
something as crass as money can buy something as lofty as happiness. Money, they
intone sanctimoniously, buys only a lifestyle; it cannot buy peace of mind. “What does it
bring except ulcers and family feuds,” they sniff fastidiously. True happiness, according
to them, is something far removed from the satisfaction that comes from owning things.
They might even quote an obscure philosopher or two to make their point.
Sour grapes? It is quite likely that the outspoken cynic has a horrendous mortgage and a
high maintenance wife and that he hasn’t been happy in a very long time. But will he
admit it? No, because that would mean subscribing to the fact that money can in fact buy
Have I reached a sensible conclusion at the end of my rambling? Nowhere near it. I don’t
think anyone can presume to judge what makes another person happy and what it costs to
make him so. Each to his own transaction with happiness.