Money and Happiness

A person’s wealth may not always prescribe how he or she will rank on the happiness scale.

Many of us know wealthy and successful people who are living in fabulously wealthy houses, driving luxury cars, and buying what they desire at a drop of a hat. Yet, they are not happy. Why is that, when we all know that money always makes life easier?

Well, the last round of research shows that money up to a certain point indeed makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. However, acquiring things beyond your basic needs is what contributes to you ranking lower on the long-term happiness scale.

One major finding is that spending money to acquire experiences produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on objects.
In other words, it’s better to go on a vacation than to buy a new dining-room set.

Consumption doesn’t buy happiness, research has discovered. The only type of consumption positively related to happiness is leisure, such as, vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment for it, like golf clubs and fishing rods.

Drawing some comparisons with studies linking marriage with happiness, social science researcher, Thomas DeLeine notes: “ A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage”.

Moreover, spending on leisure activities appears to make people feel less lonely because it increases the number of their interactions with people, and studies have shown there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness.

Another reason that paying for experience gives us long-lasting happiness is that we can reminisce about it. This most likely will also be true for the numerous tourists at the port of Piraeus this summer when they were inconvenienced by striking mariners from boarding ferries for their very much- anticipated island escapades. After sometime passes, it is very likely that this event will be airbrushed by them with a rosy recollection of their holidays overseas, in spite of the inconveniences.

Another reason experiences provide more happiness than the acquisition of things is that experience cannot be absorbed in one gulp it needs gradual processing. On the contrary, the buzz from a new purchase is pushed towards the emotional norm , which means it doesn’t last too long.

For instance, we buy a new house, but soon get accustomed to it and the buzz that we initially got from it gets pushed toward the emotional norm, so we stop getting pleasure from it. Consequently, we want to get a new buzz and we buy more and more things, yet happiness evades us.

Further, in purchases, anticipation increases happiness. You might want to consider buying something as long as possible before actually buying it. Remember the days before credit cards? Credit cards allowed us to buy compulsively and impulsively. When one waits for something and works hard to get it-it makes it feel more valuable.

Nowadays, with the economic climate as it is, it forces us to buy less and plan our purchases more carefully. Paradoxically, this may make us happier. The truism “less is more” fits here perfectly.

* First published in the Athens News on Friday 3 September by Loula Koteas