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Money Will Never Make You Happy

By on March 23, 2007 – 11:45 pm  15 Comments

A pervasive belief in American society is that money is the answer to all of our prayers.  Many Americans believe that if they only had money, they would be able to resolve all of their stress and worries. They believe the result of obtaining wealth is a life of pure and unending happiness and satisfaction. This belief, perpetuated by a never-ending stream of advertising reinforces the American consumer’s desire to buy his way to the happy life. The influence of consumerism on the American psyche shows itself everywhere we turn, from television, billboards, newspapers, marquee signs, and product packaging.

  However, there is a growing movement in the United States of people who are realizing that there has got to be something more than the rat race of working, paying bills, and being stressed out over money…and they are doing something about it! They are giving up the SUVs, the palm pilots, and the sixty-hour workweeks in exchange for simpler, happier, stress-free lives.  They refuse to make money their primary goal at the expense of their health, their relationships, their peace of mind, and their happiness. These people believe that they are free to live life on their own terms according to their own rules. They are not slaves to debt. They are not slaves to their jobs, and they are not slaves to their possessions.  They realize that happiness is not found in material things like big houses, fancy cars, clothes, or jewelry.

Live Under Your Means

  This movement, known as voluntary simplicity, has as many interpretations and definitions as the word happiness.  However, the basic idea is downsizing your finances and living your life slightly below your means. This does not mean a life of deprivation. This does not require you to cook road kill, nor does it require you to live in a tent in the desert. Voluntary simplicity requires you to take a good hard look at your finances and find creative ways to eliminate the waste, so that you may pursue more of what truly brings you enjoyment.  When you spend less, you require less to sustain your lifestyle. When you require less money to sustain your lifestyle, you need not work as many hours. When you work fewer hours, you have more time for yourself, your friends, loved ones, and meaningful pursuits.

  This approach to happiness takes exceptional discipline and a focused vision for what you value most in life. Voluntary simplicity takes as much hard work as does being happy. Yet, the rewards are great.  The purpose of the article was neither to provide you with the specific recipe for accomplishing this goal nor to provide you with financial tips to loosen the belt around your tight budget. There are more than enough websites, books, and articles you may find just a few key strokes away on your computer.  The idea being to expand your mind to a completely new avenue that perhaps you may not have given adequate consideration to in your quest for happiness.

Piggy bank courtesy of Alan Cleaver



  • Jeff Dustin says:

    The Safety Net versus the Wealthy Life.

    This is an important distinction. I think if own an SUV you are in a special category of Kid in the Candy Store. You just don’t know where to spend all your money with all the goodies around. That’s a paradox of choice. While uncomfortable there are more difficult situations to be in.

    For the majority of people, and increasingly of Americans, I would say that is not the biggest problem but still a very important one. To me, the problem is drawing the ever moving line of the safety net. How much is enough? It is too easy to believe you have enough when you don’t. Too easy to think you don’t have enough when you have too much.
    The shopaholic-Scrooge continuum, for example.

    The crazy consumerism is probably as much as symptom as a cause of discontent. My wife just got downsized from her job as a guidance counselor. I was downsized from a corporation and several other companies over the past 10 years and I’ll only be 30 in June. The steadiest job my family could obtain was in military. The point is that the term anxiously employed is a valid descriptor of the worker these days.

    Buying brings a little burst of pleasure at the cost of a more stable and flourishing long term future. Yet the rub is this: how do you eat a dirt sandwich? In other words, how do you develop discipline to persevere through the lean times and make a financial safety net if you don’t have the signature strength of self-regulation?

  • sushil_yadav says:

    In response to your post on consumerism, happiness and “simple living” I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of consumerism/ industrialization on our minds and environment. Please read.

    The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

    Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

    Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

    A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

    A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




  • Anthony,

    This seems like a perfect place to post one of my favorite bits of poetry — from Horace Ode 3.16:

    “True riches mean not revenues:
    Care clings to wealth: the thirst for more
    Grows as out fortunes grow. I stretch my store
    By narrowing my wants; …
    … Happiest to whom high Heaven
    Enough — no more — with sparing hand has given.”

    I really enjoyed your article. It reminds me of my husband’s advisor who told him if he ever wanted to come back to the university after working for industry, he should live on a professor’s salary and bank the rest. The point I take from this is that living up to or beyond our means narrows our options. Part of the happiness of living simply is keeping open the chance to find our own best ways to apply strengths in our daily occupations.

  • Christine Duvivier says:

    Anthony, Thank you for writing this– you make a great point– and beautifully said! Christine

  • I just wrote a huge piece in this very subject myself. You did a great job and I really enjoyed your take on the relationship between money and happiness!
    Very good!

  • […] It isn’t a stretch to know that Money Will Never Make You Happy. Many of us have come to learn that one the hard way. Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist (I love her writing), says it takes only $40,000 per year to make you happy. Only $40K? That’s right. Once you’ve met your basic needs – yes, needs (I know most of us aren’t accustomed to thinking this way) – incremental increases have little affect on your happiness. […]

  • Brett says:

    If you say money will never buy happiness, well money will buy you a wave runner and try frowning on a wave runner you can’t do it. so money does buy happiness

  • donna says:

    great article!

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