Money doesn’t make you happy

I know a woman whose daughter talked her into buying lottery tickets. She knows that the odds of winning the lottery are lower than the chance of being struck by lightening. But that’s not why she does it. When she asked her daughter, “Why do you spend money on lottery tickets?” her daughter responded, “It’s a licence to dream.” This week, the lottery is offering $7 million. What would you do if you won the jackpot?

Chances are, you would do the things you had always dreamed about. Which is why I don’t think money changes people. It doesn’t change their dreams, it only brings their dreams from fantasy into reality. From everything I know about people, money simply allows them more opportunity to express who they are. People who are self-centered will indulge themselves. One man I know bought himself eight new cars over the course of a high-income year. People who are generous use it to help others. People who are gullible end up losing it. We’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who are in debt a few years later.

Not having money can be a problem. But having money brings its own set of problems. Friends who need money seem to come out of the wood work. A high-income lifestyle costs a lot of money to maintain. And money doesn’t take care of itself; it must be managed. In fact, income may be inversely related to health. For example, high income earners are often executives who work under a lot of stress or entrepreneurs who live with a lot of uncertainty. The higher a person’s income, the more likely they will feel obligated to meet every demand placed on them by their work. This often demands a commitment of time that takes away from other areas of life. In the family, money can also be a point of contention.

If money is important to you, you’ll probably find a way of getting it. I have realised that the trick to getting something is to make it a priority. If you want it badly enough, you’ll do whatever it takes. However, money is different than almost anything else; it is a means. Money allows you to get the things that you really want.

Maybe, just maybe, having money isn’t what you want. Maybe what you want is to travel, or to spend more time with family, or to enthusiastically pursue a hobby. Once you realise what is actually important to you, money becomes less important. You can focus on the things that really make you happy. It also helps you prioritise. Spending your time and energy where they really count allows you to create a life that is fulfilled, not just filled up with stuff.

Money can’t make you happy. It can help you to do the things that will make you happy, but only if you know what they are. Money is a means for getting what you want out of life. But having more stuff doesn’t make life meaningful. Only you know what’s meaningful to you and only you can decide to go get it.