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Does Money Control Your Happiness?

Does Money Control Your Happiness?

| August 15, 2016

It’s beautiful. When it’s around it keeps me calm. When it’s not there, I panic. I need it to survive; to live. I want to surround myself with it. It supports me and I work for it.


I could be describing a relationship with a significant other. But I could also be talking about money. Does money make you happy? Will more money make you even happier? Studies show that having wealth or money alone cannot bring happiness. Happiness comes from how you make your money work for you and how satisfied you are with your life.


Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is the experience of pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. You want something now and you’ll be happy the moment you get it. But does the happiness last? Studies suggest no. You are unlikely to sustain appreciation and happiness for a spur of the moment purchase. There is no buildup of emotions or excitement before the purchase is made. It is better to plan out purchases, in advance by setting a date and waiting a week or longer before you actually buy it. Now in a sense you are delaying gratification by having something to look forward to. Your appreciation of the purchase will last longer. Because gratification from impulse purchases comes and goes quickly, you end up yearning for the next purchase to get back that same feeling, which can lead to spending more on unnecessary items or even going into debt.


Material Possessions vs. Experiences

Material possessions are often accumulated by instant gratification. Experiences on the other hand are not physically accumulated, but are captured by memories, stories, and pictures. Perhaps you’ve been planning a vacation for months, including the sights you’ll see, the places you’ll stay, the food you will eat, etc. Before you even arrive at your destination you have been savoring the thought of the experience the trip might bring. When you pack your bags to return home, you’ll be bringing the memories of the experience home with you; stories of a foreign land where no one speaks your language, the most amazing food you have ever eaten, or the prettiest sights you have ever seen are sure to entertain your friends. You are more likely to remember these moments for a long time and bring back happy memories–and end up happier than buying a new TV during a black Friday shopping spree.

You don’t have to spend money on a weeklong trip just to feel happier longer. Try saving money by cooking more meals at home and then splurging (a little) on dinner at an amazing restaurant that makes your taste buds happy, but also brings an experience that is unforgettable. In the end, delaying gratification will help you  receive a greater reward.


Satisfaction and Money

There was a study done in 1978 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” It studied the happiness levels of lottery winners as well as victims of accidents that resulted in either becoming a paraplegic or quadriplegic. The study shows that right after a person wins the lottery their happiness increases tremendously and they are much more satisfied with their lives due to less stress with their finances. The accident victim of course had the opposite effect after their life altering accident. Over time, both groups were asked the same set of questions of how much pleasure they get from everyday activities such as talking to a friend or watching TV. The results showed that both reverted to almost the same happiness levels they had before their lives were dramatically changed.

What we can take from this is that your happiness level with life is almost pre programmed, set to be a certain level and it is difficult to increase permanently. Yes, winning the lottery can make your life easier by having the ability to live more comfortably, but it does not make the everyday activities more satisfactory.


Can You Have it All?

As much as one tries not to let money affect their happiness, it’s a difficult battle to win. This I can tell you: I do not have memories from purchasing the clothes I am currently wearing, but I can still remember the day and how I felt when I took my first trip to Disneyland at 6 years old. I remember meeting my favorite Disney characters, riding my first rollercoaster. I also remember my cousin’s cries and shrills on the way home because we did not get to ride the “tea cups.” These lifetime memories are better than any moment of instant gratification.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.