Money can’t buy happiness – How many times have you heard this one right?
This proverb is probably one of the most oft-repeated quotes you may find yourself hearing.
We live in a capitalistic world, so this quote doesn’t make much sense. For the average working Joe, the ultimate goal of any job, skill, or task is to earn money.
Money is also the measure of an individual’s success. The value of a person’s degree is gauged by their starting salary and the bonuses and amenities they receive.
Thus, many students do not pursue the skills or degrees they want to because it is just not fiscally responsible. What will that art degree help you buy?
Burdened by peer pressure and the expectations of parents and partners, these young, capable individuals decide to put their interests on the back burner to develop a skill that earns money.
If you ask a five-year-old, or even a ten-year-old, what they want to be when they grow up, their eyes will grow wide as they yell “Firefighter!”, “Scientist!” “Astronaut!” and the adorable list goes on.
Why is it that when we ask the same child, a decade later, what they want as a career, they have changed it to “Accountant,” “IT Analyst,” or even simply an “Engineer”?
Could it be their original dreams are stupid or not worthy of being pursued?
Or did these kids decide somewhere along the way that their dreams were not “practical” and abandon them to embark on a professional journey that they are not passionate about but will help them put food on the table?
Nobody grows up dreaming of being a stockbroker.
This, of course, is not to say that professions like accounting or information technology are not worth exploring.
In this fast-paced world, everyone is striving to become richer and more successful.
Regardless of their strata and income bracket, everybody wants the newest phone, the most luxurious car, and the highest living standard. All these comforts are accessible only to people who can afford them.
The kind of car a person drives, the area of the city they live, and their residence mode all help us profile an individual.
These profiles help us paint a mental picture of the kind of person we are dealing with. More often than not, people with a better sense of style, a better car, and a phone are automatically viewed as more civil or successful.
As much as we try to ignore the apparent materialistic surface, the body pursues what the eyes like. We don’t judge books by their covers, but we judge people by theirs.
Most people contradicting the age-old proverb and breaking their backs, trying to earn money don’t want to become billionaires. They are just struggling to make a livable wage.
However, as important as money is, it cannot give us true happiness. Sure, it can help us buy better, but if you’ve had a terrible day at work, you’ll feel equally morose driving your own car or hailing an Uber.
Here are some concrete reasons why money cannot buy happiness. To put it simply: mo’ money, mo’ problems.
1. Bigger Bank Accounts, Bigger Worries
Earning more money can sometimes make you yearn for things you wouldn’t have wanted when financially unstable.
For example, suppose an expensive luxury handbag costs around $4,000, and your disposable income is around $400.
In that case, chances are no matter how classy you think the bag is, and you are not obsessing over buying one. Your fiscal prowess simply disallows you to do so.
However, suppose (and hope) you get a promotion, and your disposable income becomes somewhere around $1500.
Now, that bag is more attainable. The chances of you buying that bag are higher because the time it would take you to save up to purchase it has become shorter.
This asset that you previously did not even actively desire has now become a need.
The strangest thing about wanting things is that given the right amount of money, they become needs.
No, you don’t need the latest phone (just put your old one in rice), or a newer, fancier apartment that will cost an arm and leg and then some more vital organs.
Your old one is just fine. But the mere fact that you are now closer to affording or can afford it makes you yearn for bigger and better.
Imagine the mental turmoil is having plenty, but still not having enough.
2. More Assets, Added Costs
Have you ever heard someone say the installation cost is low, but the maintenance cost high? That’s typically what happens when you can afford to buy more.
You’ve made the down payment on the new house in the suburbs because you were attracted to its vintage, red-brick appeal.
Now you have two houses. You already have a brilliant laptop that had a four-digit cost, but now you think it’s time to invest in a PC. If you can, and you want to, go right ahead. Long live consumerism!
These purchases are not a one-time investment, though. You may have to hire help to clean and maintain your houses, renovate the architecture to customize it to your taste and be twice as worried about vandalism or break-ins.
Similarly, with that desktop computer, you may need to buy a desk to set it atop, with a special room, furniture, and lighting that goes along with it, and so much more.
Where does the spending end? The short answer is: It doesn’t.
3. People Might Be More Sincere to Your Money Than to You
This might be one of the saddest yet most valid reasons why money can’t buy happiness.
Surely you have heard the story: a young boy’s parents die and leave him with a treasure chest full of money (no, this is not the plot to Batman).
He decides to spend it all on his friends, drinking and partying and squandering to his heart’s content.
Like all material possessions, he opens the treasure chest one day to see that there is no money left.
He requests his friends to help him out during this trying time. None of them ever see him again and pretend to not be at home when he would visit.
We hope the boy grew up to go to college, but the point remains: sincerity cannot be bought.
A curious thing about having friends is that no matter how much you trust, you can never be sure of their intentions.
Are they with me for me? Or will they abandon ship at the first sign of trouble?
Money is as glorious and golden as it can be. But it cannot be a substitute for sincere, long-lasting friendships. Memories are made of laughter and love, not green paper bills.
4. How Much Money Is Too Much Money?
According to a survey done by Princeton University, while people do need money to feel happy, once the point of satiation is reached, the same money starts losing its value.
This survey split happiness into two: the first type of happiness is the day-to-day mood people are in.
These include the whole “some days are good, some are bad” type of aesthetically pleasing phrases.
Then comes the more innate kind of happiness and the positivity a person feels thinking about their future.
The magic number here is $75,000. People who earned this much annually were actually the happiest amongst all the subjects tested.
Subjects who earned less than this amount felt progressively less happy. However, people who earned more than $75,000 did not feel much happier on a day-to-day basis, either.
In fact, while they did feel hopeful that they could send all their kids to a good college or hop a plane to take a vacation, they did not feel euphoric. They felt normal.
What this proves is that yes, money does buy happiness – but till the $75,000 mark.
After that, when you’re no longer incredibly worried about your future, your day to day mood typically remains the same.
So, if you earn $75,000 annually, know that Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates might be having the same terrible day as you; they’re just sitting in a cooler car.
5. Money Can’t Buy Love
“Money Can’t Buy Love” read likes an indie song title.
Being in love is perhaps the most beautiful feeling in the world. When you are with them, you want time to hold still, so they never have to leave.
When you are not with them, you wait for them to come to you again. Overall, they become your Sun, your internal circadian cycle. All days are measured in their presence or absence.
Like anything too beautiful to be put into words, there’s a catch. Love makes the world go round, but only if it is reciprocated with the same off-the-charts intensity.
At the end of each good day, we want someone to listen to our achievements and breakthroughs.
At the end of each dreadful day, we want someone to hold us close and tell us it’s going to be okay. And even if it isn’t, they’re here to brave through it with us.
While you can shower loved ones with gifts, and vacations, and luxuries, you can’t know for sure if they’re in love with you like you’re in love with them.
Do they dedicate a song to you because they think of you every time they hear it, or because it’s the newest trend to follow?
The bottom line is that you may be able to earn respect through the money you spend on someone, maybe even admiration, but the two are no replacement for love.
If the romance you have isn’t earth-shatteringly beautiful, it just isn’t worth it.
6. Money can’t buy happiness and also Money Can’t Buy Health
Death is the most sobering of all realities. Knowing and loving someone with all your heart and then losing them to death makes a person realize their true ability to control things.
No matter how much money you spend on your brother’s rehab, if he isn’t ready to leave the toxic habits behind, no one can force him to do so.
If your mother falls ill with a disease that doesn’t have a cure, it doesn’t matter how expensive the treatment is; you can’t make her whole again.
How do you wrap your head around the gloomiest reality of life? That we, as human beings, are not invincible.
We really have no power at all. No amount of money can reverse a car accident or a criminal activity that results in losing a loved one’s life.
You can’t bring somebody back from the dead. You can’t cure a mental illness that you or your loved one might be facing.
The human spirit’s absolute ineptitude to turn back time and its immeasurable capacity to grieve make us who we are. It makes us mortal.
7. Happiness Is Not A Commodity
There are seven sins, seven degrees of Heaven and Hell, and seven reasons why money cannot buy happiness.
Happiness is an emotion. It is too wholly consuming, powerful, and beautiful to be reduced to a commodity with a price tag. No one can own happiness. No one can buy it.
The most wonderful thing about happiness is that, perhaps, the fact that it works its way from the inside.
It has nothing to do with material possessions, though buying a new lipstick just might be as close as we get to buying happiness.
Happiness is in doing and being and is more than just self-obsession. It lives in a hug from a friend, a toothless smile of a child, the purr of a cat as it rubs itself against your leg.
It comes from within; the feeling you get when you hear your favorite song, the way your heart feels a little too big for your body when someone remembers a tiny detail about you, the way your toes fill with salt water and sand as you stand near the seashore.
It’s in the seemingly meaningless things we do daily.
The happiness that needs to be bought is fleeting and artificial, curated to imitate the real thing. Simply put, happiness that needs to be bought isn’t happiness at all.