It was a pleasant enough social gathering with a diverse mix of guests engaged in light, casual conversation. A young man began to describe how his life would be transformed, fixed, and truly perfect, if only…. He would be happy if only he landed his dream job with an annual salary of $130,000. He presently earns $95,000. He is probably caught in the more money trap!
I feel concern when people earn a salary well above the poverty level and yet believe they do not have enough. They speak with a longing, of hanging their happiness on having more money, and even more money!
Having more than enough money and living the high life have become the symbols of success in today’s world. The internet is filled with stories and tools about how to easily and quickly get rich.
Growing up in a rural community, I learned differently. The benchmarks of success were doing an honest day’s work, having enough to eat, and being loved. Other qualities I was taught to strive for were acting with honesty, kindness, and helpful purpose. But I also learned about the distress of not being able to pay for basic necessities.
The neighbors called us poor. Mother used to reconstruct our coats from the church rummage sales. As a teenager, I saved enough money to buy my first store-bought coat. When I walked into the house proudly wearing it, my mother burst into tears and cried out, “It will need to be dry cleaned! Didn’t you know we can’t afford that?”
Money and Happiness Research
So, yes, in some instances money can buy happiness, even if it’s for a brief, fleeting moment. And, yes, it can move those who are disadvantaged to a situation of stability. But the idea that more money equals more happiness is questionable. Here are summaries of research findings:
- Those who have little money feel happy when they access extra money. They then have the choice to purchase desired items besides paying for their basic needs. The wealthier someone becomes the more difficult it is to experience the thrill of the next and then the next purchase.
Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, Princeton University
- The picture changes once our basic needs are met:
– Spending money on others brings more happiness than spending it on ourselves.
Elizabeth Dunn, University of British Columbia
- – Spending money on experiences such as travel creates more lasting happiness. Experiences stick more with us than the latest items we have bought. Possessions become out-of-date and forgotten, just like your cassette player.
Ryan Howell, San Francisco State University
- But the last two points do not work if an individual is burdened with debt. Living expenses need to be covered, an emergency fund saved for, and a retirement plan put in place. Without these conditions, giving away money and financing adventures are problematic. They will only add to financial stress and put happiness down the toilet.
Ryan Howell, San Francisco State University
Personal financial management is thus crucial to your life happiness and resilience. If you struggle with how to manage money, consider these perspectives:
Three Perspectives for Your Financial Resilience
- What the banking industry tells us is that the number of North Americans who have little financial savvy is staggering. It is estimated by the Bank of Canada that the average Canadian has a debt of over $20,000 (excluding mortgages). If you earn money and spend money, learn how to handle it! Read MoneySense online articles and books such as Moolala: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things with Their Money – and What You Can Do About It written by Bruce Sellery, Canadian business journalist and past co-host of the TV show, Million Dollar Neighbourhood.
- What my hubby has always practiced and preached is that being fiscally responsible is vital to financial success. He has repeatedly told our children, “It does not matter how much money comes into your hands. You will do financially well only if you spend less than you earn.” We all need to be prepared for a rainy day; the day the basement floods, the stock market crashes, or the children need braces.
- What my neighbor Izora Fraser has lived day in and day out for all of her 97 years is a life made meaningful by means other than money. Izora has been our neighbor for over 27 years. She is loved by all and lives in our community’s most modest home. Years ago, while catching a glimpse of her through our living room window, I was struck by her simple, yet joyful way of living. Here is my effort in capturing and describing my view of her life:
Izora Walks in Blessings
Rubber boots, curlers gripping whited hair,
Under a well-worn bandanna,
Trudging steadily behind
Her scrappy and feeble dog.
Freely, slowly, living
The moment with:
Open sky, horizon, poplars tall,
Crunch of snow, and a neighbor acknowledged.
As far as I know, Izora Frazer has never wanted more money. Rather, she has wanted more life in her day and she has succeeded year after year to become very rich in this respect.
What is your idea of enough money?