One of the biggest issues that often keeps us from being happy is money, or rather, the lack of it. We often believe that "money equals happiness." But is that really so? In my book, "Be True, Be Happy: Simple Secrets for a Happy and Meaningful Life," I take a critical look at this issue and the findings may surprise you.
Now clearly, having money does make life easier. In our Western society, we need a certain amount of money to meet our minimum needs, such as housing, food, health care, and our perceived financial security. If we make less than this amount, living can become a struggle. In this case, money does equal happiness.
But beyond this minimum amount, researchers have found that the relationship between money and happiness is no longer in proportion. After some point you will find more happiness from doing activities that fulfill you. You may even feel downright unhappy --despite making tons of money-- if you work a job that you don't like.
So it is not quite true that money always and automatically equals happiness.
In Be True, Be Happy I therefore ask you to figure out your personal financial comfort point at which you can live happily.
I call this "putting a price on your life."
This is a highly individual process that differs for everybody. You first have to figure out what matters most and makes you happy intrinsically. As I show in the book, often this is not at all some material thing but an empowering emotional quality, such as feeling love or self esteem. And unlike a material thing, which you must first work for until you can "have it," you can learn to generate "and be" an empowering emotional quality right away.
After you have identified what matters, really weigh this in monetary terms. What is your life, lived to the fullest, worth to you? How much money and material items do you really need to get to this point? Could you simplify things?
Or, as I show in the book, could you also learn to generate feeling happy more directly?
Some people find they can be happier with less and still live more fully. Happiness can be right there for you, if you only know where to look.
Many people simply have no idea what the price of their life is. Do you?
I invite you to find out, and learn to Be true, Be happy!
According to a recent Princeton study, in the US, you will not perceive any more happiness from your income once you start earning more than $75,000 (total family income!). Up to that level, making more money does apparently buy some happiness. Note that this price is for a family, probably meaning four people. The study does not give the corresponding income level for a single person.
My husband and I have been on both side of the economic fence. We used to live comfortably with a six digit income in a large colonial home in CT near the shoreline. Life was easier, but the bills were bigger too! Having more meant spending more to keep things up - the house, the cars, keeping our kids involved with activities like everyone else including the Joneses. We were still limited as to where we could go or what we could buy. Don't get me wrong, the lifestyle was nice, the responsibilities - not so.
After my husband was laid off as a Research Scientist after 15 years, our lives took a big downward turn. Three more lay offs would follow which included tree moves leaving us broke and in debt. We sold our home, lived in a couple of rental homes, but after the last layoff - only contract work was available at half the pay. We now live in a small apartment.
Losing so much hurt at first, however, it taught us what is truly important in life. We began to find joy in the small things the have's take for granted: A weekend ride, a meal out, exploring other towns around us. We also have grown closer as a result, having to come up with other ways to keep life interesting. New hobbies, sitting and playing games, and talking more often and deeply.
No longer surrounded by clutter, our world seems much lighter and carefree. And gee, we don't have to mow the lawn, paint the house, pay for endless repairs and upkeep. Who would have known losing money could bring more happiness. Sure it would be nice if someone could make a few bills disappear - it doesn't matter what financial bracket you are in to want that.
So money and happiness? My only joy at the thought of having more money would be the ability to donate to my favorite causes. But for now - they have to accept my support and letter writing efforts.