Can money buy happiness?

My answer to this question has always been ‘No, but it makes misery feel pretty good.’  However, according to a recent session at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the answer might be ‘Yes’…or then again it might be ‘No’.  I’m not entirely sure about the answer, partially because I know very few wealthy people at a level at which they’ll share their innermost secrets with me.  You know, the sort of things you worry about at 3am when you can’t sleep, when the ticking of the clock becomes the passing of your life and you wonder whether you’ll still be sane in the morning.  Of course, most of the time you do get to 7am in one piece.  I suppose that there is a part of me that really hopes that wealthy people are miserable on occasion – a quick burst of Schadenfreude on my part.

A similar story is that of the so called ‘King of the Chavs’, Michael Carroll, who won almost £10 millions on the UK national Lottery in teh early 2000s.  After a colourful story, Carroll is now broke again and claiming £42 a week dole.  From what he says it sounds like he enjoyed the money, spent it and will now enjoy being back on the dole.  I have to say that whilst I might not agree with his lifestyle, his rather laid back transition from rich to poor reminds me of the the joke ‘I spent most of the money on wine, women and song and wasted the rest.’

The main thing that seemed to emerge from the Davos session was that happiness is really hard to define, and given that it’s hard to measure something unless you know what it is, I guess that when even the richest and smartest folks on the planet  aren’t sure then any thoughts we have are just as valid. 

I’ve always wanted enough money to basically keep the bank manager off my back and have a secure environment for me and my family.  Not needing to worry about spending money is nice as well.  Exactly how much money makes you happy is, I guess, a relative thing; I can probably safely assume that I’d be happy with an awful lot less money than Bill Gates, for example!  Apart from personal security and comfort, the main thing that appeals to me about having extra money is what you can do with it to impact on the lives of those around me.  I’d love to have what is often called ‘Fuck You’ money – the amount of money that you feel you require to allow you to say ‘Fuck you’ to bank manager, employer or anyone else!

Whether I’ll ever get to having that amount of money available to me is debatable.  I may hit the jackpot with something I do – or, if I can ever be bothered to buy a ticket, I may win the lottery.  But until then I’ll just have to work on the principle that money may not buy me happiness, but it’s a better bet than being poor.

2 thoughts on “Can money buy happiness?

  1. Yes, you can argue about the minutae and relativity of “rich” til the cows come home, but the fact remains that being poor has very little to recommend it. Don’t forget it is not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of it.

  2. One of the most common mis-quotations of all times is indeed ‘Money is the root of all evil’ when, as you rightly point out, it’s ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’. (Timothy 1, I think??)

    Even poverty is relative, though – we have an artificial concept of what constitutes poverty in the West because there is a lot of pressure on people to want ‘things’, and for people to regard ‘things’ as being some sort of right.

    To me the issue is the lack of security that lacking money brings; it’s hard for anyone who’s never been involved with Bailiffs, for example, to understand the sheer sense of powerlessness that comes from not feeling safe in your own home.

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