• Brock Williamson, CFP®

If Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, What Does?

For centuries mankind has been searching for happiness. Regardless of culture, social status, or beliefs it seems that we are all connected by our desire to be happy. What makes someone happy and how much happiness we feel may be subjective. But there are a few fundamental principles that tend to detract and add to an individual’s happiness.

In difficult or uncertain financial times, it can be helpful to take a step back and assess what makes us happy and what doesn’t. The good news is that everything that leads to lasting happiness is in our control.

What Doesn’t Bring Happiness

Money, power, and prestige don’t bring happiness. Yes, they can provide certain opportunities that people may value, but they can also cause misery. The evidence is all around us. Money, power, and prestige can have insatiable appetites. Rather than feeling satisfied and content, we may feel urges to pursue more of it. This hedonic treadmill continues as we amass more, while never becoming satisfied.

The incessant pursuit of “more” often brings about negative feelings and behavior such as selfishness, backbiting, and egotism. Those are not the fruits of someone who is happy. But those are the qualities we see among many of the rich, famous, and powerful.

Three Drivers of Lasting Happiness

  1. Altruism/Selflessness. It is human nature to be selfish; us before them. Yet those that can rise above that instinct and sacrifice their own time, pleasure, and/or possessions for others find a huge return on investment. A return that is better than money.

  2. Positivity. There is so much negativity out there. In the daily news and even in comedy. Many seek laughs by putting other people down. It may provide a moment of thrill or happiness, but it is fleeting. We can find more enduring happiness by talking well about others and choosing to see the good in other people, even those we disagree with.

  3. Gratitude. People that demonstrate gratitude, especially for the little things, exude happiness. Gratitude helps us be less selfish, think highly of others, and keep our ego in check. Maybe we could say it’s the antithesis of unhappiness.

Our circumstances certainly play a role in how easy it is to feel happy, especially those moments when we experience a burst of intense happiness. But lasting happiness is more a function of how we think and act. While the world and markets may be uncertain and volatile, we can take comfort in knowing that much of our lasting happiness is within our control. 


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