Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But It May Help You Earn It
“Money can’t buy happiness, but it will certainly get you a better class of memories.” – Ronald Reagan
I recall the words to the Beetles’ song from a few years back, “Can’t buy me love…”. The most important part (for me) of this song came a few lines later: “I don’t care too much for money, cause money can’t buy me love.” For many people, love means happiness. Being in love fosters strong emotions, including a powerful feeling of happiness that’s so intense, it almost takes your breath away. Yet, while money can’t buy happiness, in the strict sense of the word, having money to spend may help you earn happiness.
Confused? Here’s why I think so, backed up by some convincing research I’ve found on the subjects of happiness and money.
How to Experience Longer-Lasting Happiness from Purchases
In an interesting study, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University looked at whether how people frame their goals for an experience has any bearing on the long-term happiness they expect to glean from the experience. Note that this also applies to material purchases, such as a car, and experiential ones, such as a vacation. What’s surprising is that those who had specific goals for the experience – ones that were concrete and easy to measure – and those who had more general goals tended to report the same levels of happiness at the time of the initial purchase. However, those with broader goals experienced more happiness over time.
The researchers concluded that having broader goals for happiness can result in a longer-lasting emotional imprint.
My experience: I’ve bought and leased many vehicles over the past few decades, and I can’t say that any of them really brought me lasting happiness. Perhaps it was because they were purchased for a specific and time-limited goal, one that would only last 2-3 years. I will say, however, that one car I’ve owned the longest (since 2008) still makes me happy. For one thing, it remains in almost showroom-new condition. For another, it’s been paid off for years.
The best purchase that brought long-lasting happiness was a family vacation to Kauai several years ago. After enthusiastic planning the vacation, we rented a house and a car, and most of our children traveled to the island to visit with us during the Christmas-New Year’s holidays. It was expensive, yet worth every cent. We not only had a wonderful time while there, we did many things we’d never do – like snorkeling, climbing a remote jungle path, staying out all day on a charter that stopped at a deserted spot for a cookout lunch – we also wound up with cherished memories we talk about today.
How “Pro-Social” Spending Also Boosts Happiness