Money & Happiness

A popular conclusion that stems from the field of positive psychology is that money cannot truly buy happiness. However, research has shown that income has a positive relationship with life satisfaction. While true that its added contribution to life satisfaction becomes smaller as income increases, it doesn’t just stop mattering after one meets his or her basic needs. I’m not a proponent of a materialistic society, but it isn’t sensible to pretend as if money doesn’t affect our daily decisions. Money is likely an enormous stressor in everyone’s lives at some point or another. Although it’s meant to be used as a tool that enables someone to try new things and purchase commodities, when people don’t have what they deem a substantial amount, money can become a weapon that restricts and governs one’s life. It’s also important to note that people who have been both rich and poor have stated that being rich is definitively better.

Throughout my life, I’ve frequently heard the phrase “money can’t buy happiness.” I always believed it when I was younger because I didn’t see why someone would spread something around that wasn’t true. However, when I got to middle and high school, I would see some of my peers throw lavish parties every weekend or wear a different expensive outfit every day. I wasn’t impressed by these specific things because I didn’t particularly want to host a party, and I didn’t see the point in spending outrageous amounts of money to become a walking advertisement for Abercrombie & Fitch. Yet, there was something about their freedom to do seemingly anything and everything that I associated with happiness.

While it may have been more difficult for my impressionable middle-school self to grasp, I’ve realized more and more over the years that people who have money still have a lot of issues. It’s easy to blame unhappiness on a lack of money, but how does one explain people who appear to “have it all” and still end up feeling empty? Money is crucial in providing our basic needs like food and housing, but as we gain and spend more money, we adapt to a richer lifestyle that we view as the new normal. There is so much conflicting research out there that it’s difficult to know the extent to which money impacts life satisfaction. I would surely choose wealth over poverty. Though, looking at the many instances of miserable lottery winners, it’s clear that problems don’t just disappear with an influx of wealth. A shift in socioeconomic status would result in the same person as before only with a different set of issues to deal with.  

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