Can money buy happiness?

Photo: Dreamstime Images

Recently, I was talking about money with the dearest adult in my life. He said money can’t buy happiness. In response, I quoted the great philosopher, Jelleestone.

“Money can’t buy me happiness,
But I’m happiest
when I can buy what I want
anytime that I want…” 

We both laughed. But I’ve had to address this belief within the last few days – especially since my financial life right now is better than it’s been in years. I just filed my taxes for 2011 (as you all did, correct?!) and my income was higher than ever. I work freelance and contracts on top of my day job, so I had no idea what my income was until I looked at the paperwork that my accountant filed. I was shocked. The total actually exceeds the ultimate number that I once believed to be the top of my earning potential (by quite a significant margin, in fact).

Yet, I’m not happy. My emotional and mental health are both limping along right now as though they are two wounded soldiers leaning on each other in the midst of a immense, smoking battlefield.

A recent UN report on worldwide happiness backs up the idea that economic wealth is not the major indicator of happiness. I found this particular part intriguing:

Affluence has created its own set of afflictions and addictions. Obesity, adult-onset diabetes, tobacco-related illnesses, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, psychosocial disorders, and addictions to shopping, TV, and gambling, are all examples of disorders of development. So too is the loss of community, the decline of social trust, and the rising anxiety levels associated with the vagaries of the modern globalized economy…

Having money or financial success isn’t inherently bad, but notice the part about “a loss of community”. If you have money, you don’t need as much help and support from the people you love. Who needs family and friends when you can pay people for everything those people are supposed to do for you. You don’t need your family to help you with your kids, because you have a nanny. And you don’t need to talk out anything real with your loved ones, because your therapist makes $120+/an hour for that very purpose.

In my case, all that earning potential I’m so proud of is actually part of the problem. I work all the time. All. The. Time. I use work as a barrier between me and other people, and I use it to quell the resulting loneliness. So, I guess the answer to the question in this blog’s headline is:

No.

Money cannot buy happiness. At least not for me – no matter what I might say or how many rappers I might quote.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have two soldiers to go rescue. They’re in need of some healing and a long stretch of r ‘n’ r.

~HS

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