The fact that money cannot buy you happiness is considered as the generally accepted wisdom over the world, however, it is not possible either to simply agree or disagree with this statement without defining what is happiness and understanding the connection between these two concepts.
On the one hand, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, happiness is simply “the state of being happy or an experience that makes you happy”. (Merriam-webster.com, 2016). The provided definition is short and clear, however, happiness is a very difficult concept to define as it depends on a personal perspective of happiness for each individual person. On the other hand, money is “something (such as coins or bills) used as a way to pay for goods and services and to pay people for their work.” (Merriam-webster.com, 2016), it is a basic need for our everyday purchases.
For sure, financial wealth makes our life easier and provides wider opportunities for the person who has enough money. Having enough on your account allows you to buy a bigger house, a new car, visit rock-star concert, go shopping without any limits or travel all over around the globe. But can new house, shopping or non-stop traveling over the world bring you the true, eternal joy? Money cannot fill the new house with a lovely family, concert with no friends aside is not so enjoyable and traveling alone will not bring you happy memories.
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Different studies confirm that people who make $50,000 a year, consider themselves as much happier than those who make $10,000 a year. However, the difference in happiness between someone who makes $50,000 and someone who makes $500,000 is negligible. What is more, those who earn less but feel fulfilled in an internal, existential sense are probably much happier than those who seek to achieve it through external means like social prestige or monetary wealth (Happy, 2011).
Economists, for example, have found the way to measure the individual happiness using the concept of “utility” that measures satisfaction or happiness from purchasing each particular good or service. However, the meaning of “utility” is determined by the tradition in Economics, while the technical meaning of “happiness” is determined more by the tradition in Hedonic Psychology. Utility is only a reflection of people’s choices while happiness is a reflection of people’s feelings.
The most detailed concept of happiness and its connection to money was created by Abraham Maslow. His creature, the theory called “hierarchy of needs”, identifies different determinants of happiness (Maslow et al., 1998). The theory shows us personal needs as a pyramid structure with three main types of needs: basic needs at the bottom, psychological needs in the middle, and self-fulfillment needs on the top. Basic needs include all physiological and safety requirements such as food, water, rest, personal security and safety. Indeed, financial wealth is the best way to fulfill all these requirements. If the ground needs are met, then a person becomes interested in the actualization of psychological needs such as intimate relationships, feelings of belonging, respect of others, friendship and a sense of accomplishment and competence. Let’s agree that it is not possible to simply buy all these things. In case most of the needs of the second sector are met, it is the time for the person to reach the goals of self-fulfillment like fulfilling your unique potential including creative activities.
According to Maslow’s theory, money does buy happiness in case if you are living in the poverty and your main goal is to satisfy your ground needs, however, money cannot guarantee for 100% achievement the highest levels of true happiness (Maslow et al., 1998).
To sum up, purchasing goods will only result in a limited amount of satisfaction, but true happiness can be reached even without financial wealth. Money cannot buy happiness because the most valuable things in life, such as friendship, love or happy memories, cannot be bought with money, they have to be earned. Just as the Beatles sang: “Money can’t buy me love”.
Maslow, A., Stephens, D., Heil, G. and Maslow, A. (1998). Maslow on management. New York: John Wiley.
Merriam-webster.com. (2016). Definition of HAPPINESS. [online] Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happiness [Accessed 23 Jul. 2016].
Merriam-webster.com. (2016). Definition of MONEY. [online] Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/money [Accessed 23 Jul. 2016].
Happy. (2011). [DVD] United States: Roko Belic.