The Truth about the Relationship Between
Happiness and Money
Money appears to be easier
to come by than happiness. There aren't too many happy neurotics, but there are many rich ones.
— from the book Money Madness by Herb Goldberg and Robert T. Lewis
People think that if they make more money and figure out how to become a millionaire that they
will have connected happiness and money.
Clearly, we all need money but the pursuit of wealth can cost us precious time and, more
important, our independence. One reason people pursue the almighty dollar zealously is they make an absurd
assumption about money. Although many wise people over the ages have warned us that money can’t buy happiness, most
of us ignore this wisdom. We strive for happiness that is supposed to accompany increased wealth regardless of the
The belief system that more money can bring more happiness needs some severe auditing. Somewhat
against my better judgment, I am going to take a stab at it.
Mere wealth can't bring us happiness;
Mere wealth can't make us glad;
But we'll always take a chance, I guess,
At being rich, and sad.
— C. C. Colton
Money, generally speaking, can’t buy what your heart truly desires nor can it buy what you can’t
see. Yet what your heart truly desires and many things you can’t see are fundamental to being happy. In this group
you can list peace of mind, love, job satisfaction, and spiritual fulfillment. Many rich people don’t have these
elements of happiness and, regardless of their financial prominence, they can’t buy these things.
Money may not make a person happy, but it keeps his
creditors in a better frame of mind.
— Author Unknown
Even health can’t be bought. No doubt financial might can provide better quality healthcare,
particularly in the United States, where public healthcare is not universal as it is in Canada. Once you destroy
great health, however, you can’t buy it back. Right living including having enjoyable work — and not the almighty
dollar — is key to great health.
Believe it or not, money can't buy happiness. No, this
isn't a strange joke. Believe that money can buy happiness and the joke's on you.
— from Life's Secret Guide to Happiness
If you were to think about it for a while, you would realize that there are many more personal
attributes contributing to happiness that are beyond the realm of money. Following is a list of thirty-three
elements of happiness that I challenge you to purchase on the open market:
33 Elements of Happiness That Money Can’t
- Physical fitness
- Personal creativity
- Job satisfaction
- Loving family
- Respect of others
- Peace of mind
- Good character
- Sense of humor
- Street smarts
- Emotional stability
- Spiritual fulfillment
- True love
- A good night’s sleep
If these are all elements of happiness, and they can’t be bought, then it follows that happiness
can’t be bought with cash. When you finally accept this, it is much easier to break the relationship between work
and money. This in turn gives you the opportunity to pursue your true work that may be totally unrelated to what
you are presently working at to earn a living.
Money brings happiness to those who find happiness earning
— Author Unknown
Of course, if we are extremely poor (starving or homeless), more money can bring a much better
life. But beyond a certain level — not as high as you may think — more financial resources don’t translate into
more happiness. The evidence is overwhelming, as indicated by numerous studies. Here are four:
1. A recent study compared average life satisfaction with the purchasing power of tens of thousands of
people in twenty-nine different countries. In poor countries, not surprisingly, purchasing power and life
satisfaction were clearly related. Surprisingly, however, in countries half as rich as the United States there
is absolutely no relationship between money and happiness.
2. Another study confirmed that people in rich countries are not any happier than those in poorer ones.
“During the 1980s, the West Germans had double the incomes of the poor Irish, who year after year reported more
satisfaction with their lives,” claims David Myers, a sociologist at Hope College in Michigan and author of
The Pursuit of Happiness (Harper Paperbacks, 1993).
3. The Alfred P. Sloan foundation found an inverse relationship between self-reported child happiness and
parental income in the United States. Blue-collar and middle-class kids identified themselves as happier than
4. Two Canadian studies found that the unhappiest Canadians live in cities where income is the highest
whereas the happiest live in Atlantic Canada, the poorest of regions.
I could present a lot more scholarly evidence that more money doesn’t translate into more
happiness, including extensive research by renowned psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, but this
could be in vain. Regardless of how good of a job I do, there will still be many readers who won’t believe that
money can’t buy happiness.
This coincides with the Law of the Lie: No matter how often a lie is shown to be false, there
will remain a significant percentage of people who believe it to be true. I hope that you aren’t one of these
NOTE: The above article is excerpted from the book How to Retire
Happy, Wild, and Free.
Here are some quotations about the relationship between happiness and money:
Top-5 Things Anybody Ever Uttered about Happiness
#1 Quote about Happiness and Money
It is neither wealth nor splendor but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.
— Thomas Jefferson
#2 Quote about Happiness and Money
Prescription for Life-Long Happiness
Purpose enough for satisfaction;
Work enough for sustenance;
Sanity enough to know when to play and rest;
Money enough for basic needs;
Affection enough to like many and love a few;
Self-respect enough to love yourself;
Charity enough to give to others in need;
Courage enough to face difficulties;
Creativity enough to solve problems;
Humor enough to laugh at will;
Hope enough to expect an interesting tomorrow;
Gratitude enough to appreciate what you have;
Health enough to enjoy life for all its worth.
— From the book How to
Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
#3 Quote about Happiness and Money
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
— Bertrand Russell
#4 Quote about Happiness and Money
Anybody who thinks money will make you happy, hasn't got money.
— David Geffen
#5 Quote about Happiness and Money
If you believe that money can buy happiness, then why don't you try selling some of yours?
— from The Lazy Person's Guide to Happiness
The Money Cafe is brought to you by Ernie J. Zelinski, an innovator and content
creator of best-selling books, creative free e-books, and websites.
Ernie is the author of the international bestsellers How to Retire
Happy, Wild, and Free (over 200,000 copies sold and published in 8 foreign languages)
and The Joy of Not
Working (over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages).
For More Quote about Happiness, See the Pursuit of Happiness in
THE MONEY CAFÉ COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Ernie J. Zelinski