money can't buy happiness

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

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Bigger, faster, stronger.

Newer, nicer, better.

We’ve all been conditioned from an early age to seek more. More things. More respect and prestige. And a lot more money.

But, what if I told you that money can’t buy happiness?

Research shows that after you have enough to cover the basic necessities in life, all of those extra things won’t bring you any extra long-term happiness. But we don’t even need the research to know that, because we have lived it ourselves.

Money Didn’t Buy Us Happiness

You might be thinking that it’s easy for us to say that money can’t buy happiness because one of us is a doctor and the other has an M.B.A. from Harvard — both accolades with high expected salaries.

But we didn’t come from the typical background you’d expect — we grew up in poverty, raised by a widowed mom who struggled financially.

Growing up poor, we were fixated on eventually making a lot of money. Our childhood room had posters of Ferraris and Porsches plastered on the walls. We were convinced having money was the key to happiness.

We were embarrassed that we were poor and were determined to never feel that way again.

But when we stop and reflect on those early childhood years, we realize that while we barely had more than the clothes on our backs, we had an extremely happy childhood. Love, support, friends, we had it all.

This feeling of already having everything we needed was further confirmed when one of us had the chance to drive a friend’s Ferrari. A dream come true. Getting to fly on another friend’s private jet only further reinforced the fact that money can’t buy happiness. Getting an extremely high paying job on Wall Street wasn’t as fulfilling as we had hoped it’d be.

Were those experiences fun in the moment? Yes, they were incredible! They were what we had dreamt of as children. But that happiness always wore off. It was fleeting.

In fact, the memories of those experiences never bring us as much happiness as being reunited with our family and getting to share a meal together.

That 4-hour private jet ride was fun but by the end of the flight, I just wanted to land and get home.

We Aren’t The Only Ones That Know That Money Can't Buy Happiness

As we prepared this article, we reflected on the most impactful things we’ve seen or read in order to help convey our message to you, and we kept coming back to the same two things.

The first was the famous Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

A professor of computer science, he gave a lecture after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only 3-6 months to live about achieving your childhood dreams. His lecture focused on important lessons like showing gratitude and never giving up.

Do you know what he doesn’t talk about? Money, being rich or wishing he could buy more things. Although he does mention the importance of emotionally rich experiences. All he really wished for was more time with his family.

The video is long, but it’s one of the most powerful lectures you will ever listen to. Actually. And it will be the most important thing you do this week. If it doesn’t change the way you view your life and the world, then honestly, we don’t know what will:

“So today’s talk was about my childhood dreams, enabling the dreams of others, and some lessons learned. But did you figure out the head fake? It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

Lessons Learned From Someone Who Knows Their End Is Near

The 2nd thing that has left its mark on us is the book Tuesdays With Morrie. It’s a memoir written by Mitch Albom in which he recounts his time spent with a former professor who is dying from ALS.

What started as a weekly chat to keep Morrie company, ended up being the most profound series of life lessons that changed his life (and ours) forever.

The book is filled with countless golden pieces of advice, but here are two of our favorites.

1. “Without love and family, we are like birds without wings.”

2. “Money will never bring you comfort like the people you love and their tenderness.”

Both are so true. Without finding love and meaning, you’ll have a void that money can’t possibly fill. It’s just a shame that sometimes, it takes a tragedy for those lessons to be learned.

What Dying Patients Say

One of us (Francisco) is a doctor, and through the years in medical school and residency, Francisco has talked with many dying patients, both young and old.

In his experience, it’s not the patient’s age that differentiates those who are at peace with their certain fate and those who would do anything for an extra day.

You see, regardless of their age, those that want more time, want and need it to repair broken relationships. Relationships with friends, siblings, children, and parents.

A common regret he has heard is not apologizing sooner and letting small disagreements tarnish relationships.

Not a single dying patient has ever mentioned wishing they would have worked more or had more material things. The lesson to be learned from these individuals is to prioritize relationships. Always apologize first.

Don’t let your pride get in the way. Even if you are “right”, it’s not worth losing a relationship over it. And lastly, when it comes time to face your mortality know that money and objects won’t matter.

Even If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, Money Still Matters

So how do we reconcile this understanding that there are more important things than money, with the fact that our #1 goal with this site is to help you become wealthy and make smart money decisions?

Well, for one, life is expensive and not having enough to pay basic bills sucks.

Living paycheck to paycheck is miserable and exasperating.

Seeing our mom's debit card get declined at the grocery store felt humiliating. We still remember those times like they were yesterday.

So it’s important to set and reach financial goals, but NOT at all costs.

Don’t lose sight of what matters most. Don’t neglect your family for money. And don’t lose your marriage over it.

Use your money on experiences that will enrich your life instead of acquiring a ton of objects and possessions just for the sake of it.

In a couple of years, you won’t even remember the Yeezy shoes you spent $350 to buy. Or the ugly Gucci belt you thought was cool (‘money can't buy you class'!).

You only have one life and it’s a lot shorter than you realize. So go out and create the life you want. Take it one step at a time, and realize that while money is important, it’s not the most important thing.

Money Can't Buy Happiness

Money Can\'t Buy Happiness. We grew up in poverty but then found professional success. Here\'s what we learned. #happiness #money #debtfree #sidehustle #debtfreecommunity #budget #budgeting #finance #financialfreedom #frugal #invest #investing #makemoney #college #moremoney #residualincome #savemoney #savemore #savingmoney #wealth #retirement #earlyretirement #financialindependence #frugalliving #personalfinance #moneymatters #networth #debtfreejourney #studentloans #hustle #wealthy #motivation

Francisco Maldonado

Francisco Maldonado, MD is a personal finance expert who was raised in poverty by a single mother and had to learn everything about personal finance on his own. In addition to running his personal finance site, The Finance Twins, with his twin brother, his site has been featured on ForbesBusiness InsiderCNBCUS NewsThe Simple Dollar and other top publications. Francisco is a physician who borrowed over $200,000 to pay for his medical training and understands debt payoff strategies and frugal living. He received his M.D. from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, the most selective medical school in the country, and a Bachelors degree in physiology from the University of Minnesota. He is currently a radiology resident at Northwestern University. You can contact Francisco here or via Instagram @thefinancetwins.

18 thoughts to “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

  1. Wonderful post. Too many people realize that fact until it’s too late.

    Family, friends, and experiences make life worthwhile. Money is just a tool, nothing more. Materialistic things quickly fade away.

    1. Okay, this is where I’m going to cut in and say you people have no idea what you’re talking about. You felt that it didn’t give you pleasure because you didn’t suffer enough. I can guarantee that one. If you even lived one day in an actual struggle (being an adult with nothing), you would off yourself in a second. You cannot control your life. But you can control money. Ever think about that? Bob Dylan said it best. Its way better crying in a Mercedes than on a bicycle. Honestly, if you’re not happy with a large bank account and a family–youre an airhead.

      1. Sorry to hear about your struggles. We also struggled growing up and it wasn’t easy. But we still feel that past a certain income, extra money isn’t going to bring you sustained happiness. Those findings have also been found in studies. Obviously, having everything you want (including friends, family, money, etc.) is the best case scenario, but if I had to pick between my loved ones or an endless supply of money, I know what I would pick.

  2. This is all so very true, and far too many people chase money without working out that what they should really be chasing is happiness. Although I do subscribe to the philosophy that: ‘Money can’t buy you happiness, but it makes being miserable a whole lot easier’

    I also completely agree with the idea that a lot of happiness lies in other people, particularly family. I am acutely aware that I have a very short window with my kids before they grow up and leave home. I often have that old Harry Chaplin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” running through my head as an exemplar of where I don’t want to end up.

  3. Hi Finance Twins,

    This article is unfortunately, not in accordance with whats known about the impact on income on subjective well being.

    Here is the abstract of a great article on the economics of the question is below:

    There is a long tradition of psychologists finding small income effects on life satisfaction (or happiness). Yet the issue of income endogeneity in life satisfaction equations has rarely been addressed. The present paper is an attempt to estimate the causal effect of income on happiness. Instrumenting for income and allowing for unobserved heterogeneity result in an estimated income effect that is almost twice as large as the estimate in the basic specification. The results call for a reexamination on previous findings that suggest money buys little happiness, and a reevaluation on how the calculation of compensatory packages to various shocks in the individual’s life events should be designed.

    Bottom line: more money is associated with more happiness.

    Here is the link to the article:

    1. Hi James, thanks for sharing. We were able to contact the author (Professor Powdthavee) of the article you shared and he agreed with our main premise that money isn’t going to make you as happy as you think it will.

    2. It’s all relative, I believe more money brings more happiness, and a few 80- and 90-year-olds told me the same thing

      We can’t make any rule for anyone because each one of us is different, That’s the main point,

  4. Early in my career I flew on our company jet a lot. Once even as the only passenger with two pilots who both made more money than I did. It was pretty cool I have to say. Never having to go through security and being able to take off as soon as you arrived at the FBO did make me feel pampered. It took 40 minutes to get to Houston and 45 to get to Chicago and that was from the time I stepped out of my car. It’s not enough to make someone happy, but it sure made me happy at the time!

    1. Having had a similar experience, I know exactly what you mean. Some things in life are really nice and really fun. But at the end of the day, they pale in comparison to time spent with your loved ones.

  5. Knowing facts and opinions wildly around this statement, I’d say it’s TRUE: Money cannot, in fact, bring extra, long-term happiness. However, as commented above, many people that don’t HAVE a lot of money think the exact opposite thing. Their brainshave been fixed on them being poor, and not that even without money, your heart and well-being can be as happy as you’ll ever be.

    1. I agree, Sara. Sometimes we just have to roll with it as we go. Sometimes with our brains being fixed on what we DON’T have diminishes the gratefulness of what we DO have and love.

  6. Some people just don’t think to be grateful of their loved ones and don’t see that what they do have is enough. It makes me so sad when I hear of someone with post-mortem-depression, because sometimes that person didn’t get to know that person very well at all, and wish they did. Step forward, my lovelies, and do what you know is right.

  7. I’m only young, at 25, but I initially agree with this statement. Having a low-paying job isn’t all fun and dandy like salty candy, but at least I am as grateful as I can be for everyone I love and hopefully in the future, I will feel the same.

  8. People find money as their way out of all their problems. They see it as their ticket to a better life but it’s not always the case. Money isn’t the root of all evil but it can sometimes be the reason why families can’t spend time with each other. Spending time with families is the best way to live life because you build memories – memories that last forever.

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