Money and Happiness

The Truth About Money and Happiness

It is an oft repeated axiom that money cannot buy happiness. While this is certainly true, poverty will not buy happiness either. Some people become very wealthy, yet struggle to enjoy their lives. On the other hand, others manage to go through life with very few money problems simply because they are able to make the most of what they have.

Ideally you should try to combine both prosperity and happiness. To do this I recommend the following steps:

1. Learn to Value Simplicity

The aim of life should not be to accumulate as many possessions and as much wealth as possible. We should learn to be content with what we have and appreciate the benefits of simplicity. For example, if we clear out our unnecessary clutter we will achieve a greater feeling of space and freedom.

If you feel happiness is directly related to material possessions, you are making a mistake. Happiness can be gained just through being content with a small amount of possessions. Our inner wealth is not just about what we have, but what we are content to live without.

2. Do Not Be Attached to Your Money

Does it pain you to spend your own money – even if it is for something useful? Even someone like Bill Gates can feel uncomfortable spending his billions; it is said he used to always travel economy class because he didn’t see the need to spend more money on first class. The problem with this, however, is that if we are always reluctant to spend money we miss the whole point of earning it.

A good attitude is to see money as a circular flow – that is, spending money enables more to come into our lives. It is not like a big dam where we just try to hold onto it all. We need to let the money out by spending on useful and necessary things. It is no good having a stockpile of water unless we use it to generate power; similarly it is no use accumulating large savings if we we feel miserable spending it.

3. Minimize Money Worries

We will be happiest if we can make money a small part of our lives, and think about money issues as little as possible. To be able to do this we need to avoid creating situations of debt as getting out of debt can be difficult and stressful. Learn to live within your means by avoiding impulsive overspending. If you do need to go into debt, plan ahead and find a loan which is clear and manageable to repay.

Try to avoid complicated and risky investment plans; these give you the potential to gain more, but you will also have the potential to lose a lot more. Good financial planning should be simple and well balanced; this means your nerves will not be affected by worrying about the outcome of your investment. It is better to invest and save in something secure so you can forget about it and not worry endlessly.

4. Avoid Jealousy

No matter how much money you have, do you still envy people who have more? A recent survey asked people whether they would prefer to have a salary above the national average. Alternatively, they could choose to have a higher salary, but this higher salary would be lower than the average. A surprising amount of people chose to have a lower salary as long as it meant they were relatively better off than the rest of the population.

To me this makes no sense. If other people become wealthier than you, that is no reason to be unhappy. If other people are prosperous that is good; don’t feel miserable just because you cannot keep up with the Joneses.

5. Don’t Live to Work.

Do you find yourself working overtime in the evenings and at the weekend? If you spend all your time working, you will have no opportunity to spend your earnings. Don’t feel guilty for turning extra work down; it is important to give leisure time as high a priority as work. It is good if we can gain satisfaction from work, but if we only spend time working then our life lacks a proper balance.poor2.jpg

6. Understand Why Are Some People Always Poor

I’m sure most people will have good friends who always seems to have money concerns. No matter what happens they always seem to be short of money and they frequently share tales of financial woe. The lack of money makes them unhappy, but they don’t know how to change the situation. Giving them money doesn’t solve the problem because they continue to make bad financial decisions.

Part of the problem lies in their mindset. It is easy to become accustomed to being poor and then half expecting the poverty to continue. With this mindset, it becomes difficult to attract money into our lives and easy to develop feelings of self pity and regret. However, while we might be unfortunate it won’t do anything to resolve the situation. The secret is to try and change our habits and approach to money. Also, be wary about trying to convert others to better financial habits – it is almost guaranteed to fail.

7. Ignorance is Not Bliss

Another attitude to money is to try and avoid thinking about it. We ignore the true extent of our debts, spending and leaving unpaid bills. We frequently miss out on moving to better financial deals and make late payments which harm our credit rating. By ignoring money like this, we merely create more serious problems for the future.

Also, when we put off dealing with financial problems we carry the problem in the back of our mind. We can get no peace of mind because we permanently have a long list of things to deal with. It is better in these circumstances to promptly deal with things like paying bills and sorting out your accounts – then we can forget about them.

8. Develop A New Perspective

The following are some money related questions you should ask yourself:

  • Am I happy with my financial situation?
  • Would more money make my life better?
  • Do I always have financial problems hanging over my head?
  • Is money the most important thing in my life?
  • Is the pursuit of money making me miserable?
  • Would I sacrifice principles to make more money?

Even just answering these questions honestly may encourage a new perspective towards money.

Tejvan Pettinger works as an economics teacher and writer. He writes on issues of personal finance at his blog Simple Finance – helping to simplify finance. Images from Velo City and iStockPhoto.

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