Many people share a fairly common misconception. They believe that having lots of money can make you happy. Some even say that the more money you have, the happier you can be. Others believe that having money is not spiritually or socially acceptable, and that money is the root cause of all evil. Are any of these beliefs really true?
To answer this question, begin by asking yourself, what does money mean to you, and how do you treat it when you have it? Here’s what science has to say.
The new science of happiness starts with a simple insight: human beings are never satisfied. In other words, once a person’s needs are met, additional income mostly goes to satisfying wants which, beyond a very initial level, doesn’t lead to additional happiness in life. A study of more than 12,000 people from various social and economic groups found no correlation between income and happiness.
The single biggest culprit is that having money raises our aspirations about the happiness that we expect in our daily lives, and these raised aspirations can be toxic. While earning more money makes you happy in the short term, you quickly adjust to your new wealth—and everything it buys you. More money can also lead to more stress and impairs our ability to enjoy those things.
Depending on how it is used, money can create powerful, positive changes in the world. Having money allows us to function more easily in the world, provide comfort in our lives and in the lives of others. However, because attachment to money is based on fear, it always creates insecurity. The desire to have more money, and thereby feel more secure, never ends. Security can never come from money alone. Some of the people who have the most money are also the most insecure. Does this mean you must give up the desire to attain wealth? Not necessarily.
In and of itself money is neither good nor bad. It is what we choose to do with the money that determines if it will have a positive effect on others, society, the world, and ourselves. Sure, money could make a difference to many aspects of your life, but could it really improve your happiness? Numerous studies and surveys suggest that money may help buy happiness when used to meet basic needs. The total happiness value money may produce can only be increased when it is shared with others or spent on causes those in need.
Like many people, you probably think achievements such as education, intelligence, athletic ability or being sociable, marriage, family, and status make a person happy.
Studies of happiness in several countries have found that, while money makes these achievements more attainable, it has little to do with happiness (except among the very poor) when compared to an individual’s characteristic sense of wellbeing. Some psychologists believe happiness is genetic. Other scientists say they may have located an important area of the brain where happiness is generated.