The Dalai Lama once said that “These days, in our materialistic culture, may people are led to believe that money is the ultimate source of happiness. Consequently, when they don’t have enough of it they feel let down. Therefore, it is important to let people know that they have the source of contentment and happiness within themselves, and that it is related to nurturing our natural inner values.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Earl Wilson said, ” Always remember, money isn’t everything-but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.”
So, who’s right? How important is money in our lives? How important is money to our happiness? I am sitting here browsing through all these wise and quippy quotes about money. The trend that draws my attention is that every quote that belittles the possession of money or summizes that it is insignificant, seems to be made by a very wealthy or famous person. The rest of quotes that address the fact that some financial backing is essential to survival seem to be made by everyone else.
Interesting. I think all of them are correct actually. Once you have achieved fame and fortune, money becomes less important because you already have it. You already have a foundation. The struggle is over. For the rest of us, we realize that human beings need money to pay for all the things that make your life possible. You need it to pay for your basic needs like healthcare, food, and shelter. That is just a fact. Having more money gives a person more choices and comes with more autonomy in their own lives. Can money buy happiness? Well, I think we have answered that question with a resounding no over the ages. Money cannot buy happiness. I am sure there are miserable millionaires everywhere.
There are some plot twists though. There are studies that show that, while having enough money for basic needs and provide a safety net is essential to well being, having additional income may not actually increase wellbeing and may even have a negative impact. Here are some statistics.
A study was done looking at per capita income in the United States from 1946 to 1990. Per capita income rose 150%, yet the percentage of people who reporting being happy fell significantly and depression rates rose ten fold. People who won large sums of money with lotteries were not actually happier a year later and had more daily dissatisfaction. The University of Minnesota did a nine experiment series that showed that when people are thinking about money, they isolate themselves from others. Money made people want to be free of dependents, be less helpful to others. When people compared themselves economically to others it only caused distress. Well, none of that sounds good.
So, why think about money so much? It does allow for some instant gratification possibilities. It does help provide for our basic needs, but we have shown that it doesn’t buy happiness. In fact, we have shown that sometimes too much of it can make things worse. I think it is not realistic to say that it doesn’t matter at all. That is not really possible. I just think that it can’t be your primary focus all the time. It’s too disruptive mentally and physically. There are other things that matter more like relationships, purpose, and happiness. Within reason, I think over focusing on money should take a back seat to those.