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Can Money Buy More Happiness?

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Can money buy more happiness?

A while back, I wrote the 3 Ways to Avoid Downgrading Your Lifestyle After Retirement. We did this by saving a large portion of our income when I was working full-time. We put an artificial cap on our monthly expenditures. That made it easy to maintain the same lifestyle when I stopped making a 6 figure income. Our lifestyle didn’t change much after I retired from my engineering career, but our quality of life improved immensely. I gained a lot of happiness by removing the part of life that I disliked. Today, I want to look at the other side of the coin. Life is pretty good now, but can money buy more happiness? Would our quality of life improve with say, spending $500/month more?

Money and Happiness

Can money buy happiness? Of course, it can. We all know that having extra money is better than struggling to pay the bills. A study from Princeton University showed that the more money you make, the happier you are – up to a point. Once your household income exceeds $75,000, the effect levels off and more money doesn’t really increase your level of happiness. As you accumulate more wealth, it becomes more difficult to buy more happiness.

So how do you buy happiness with money? We can buy material things and that will make us happier, but that warm glow doesn’t last long. A new car would make me very happy for a few weeks, but I would adapt to it and revert back to normal pretty quickly. Actually, a new car would be a major source of stress for me. Now, we park on the street and our car gets dinged pretty often. With a new car, I’d be angry every time I see a new ding. With a beaten up 10 years old car, new dings don’t make any difference. This is the conundrum with buying more stuff. You feel good for only a short while so you have to keep buying more stuff to feel better. Spending this way can become an addictive cycle.

Experience trumps material goods

You probably have heard that spending money on experiences is better than buying material goods. Doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive? Material goods can last many years and it ought to be a better value than spending money on fleeting experiences, right? That’s wrong according to Prof. Howell’s study from San Francisco State University. The study found that when people look back at their purchases, they realize that experiences actually provide longer-lasting value.

Money buy happiness

What should I spend money on?

I’m generally happy these days and on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m at about 8 on most days. There are ups and downs, but 8 seems to be my natural happiness point over the last few years.

Our household income is more than $75,000 so we’re above the threshold set by the Princeton study. We have some extra money for discretionary spending and we can save extra for the rainy days. At this point, we accumulated enough net worth to feel financially secure. Life is pretty good. We have reached the point of diminishing returns. Spending more money might not make us feel any happier.

From the internet, I gathered that there are in fact a few ways that spending money can bring happiness.

  1. Buy experiences – Okay, I believe that buying experience is better than a new laptop, but what can we buy? Summer is usually a good season for us. Normally, we’d go hiking, biking, swimming, camping, and attended many fun outdoor events. However, we cut back a ton this year due to COVID. We took 2 road trips in Oregon so we had some fun. I can’t think of any experience we can buy for the rest of 2020. Well, I’ll try to visit my parent in Thailand, but I’m not sure if that’s going to work. I guess we’ll see how it goes.
  2. Give it away – Another way to “buy” happiness is to give money away. Hmm… Does this really work? Prof. Dunn at UBC handed students some cash and told them to spend on themselves or spend on others. Surprisingly, students who spent money on others were happier than those who treated themselves. Actually, I am sending my parent $500/month. (I have 2 brothers so my parent gets $1,500/month.) They don’t have much savings so this gift is very helpful for them. I’m happy to help. This gift brings joy to all of us.
  3. Buy time – This is what I did when I quit my old job. I gave up some money in exchange for the ability to dictate my own time. It’s worth every penny. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to that way of life. Buying time is the ultimate way to spend money. Then you can do what you want instead of following orders. Of course, if you enjoy working, you can choose to keep working as well. This is what FIRE is all about – choices.
  4. Get rid of debt – Lastly, saving more doesn’t make you much happier, but taking on more debt will make you less happy. If you have a lot of debt, life will improve if you pay it off. We have no consumer debt so we’re okay on that front. We have a mortgage on our primary residence, though. We are working on them, but I don’t feel the need to pay them off right away.

In conclusion, if you’re already happy, spending more money probably won’t increase your happiness much. If I have an extra $500/month to spend, I’d probably just invest it. I don’t see how spending would improve our happiness. I could give more money to my parent, but that’s not good either. My dad tends to use the money if he has too much. It’s better to send just the right amount.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you? If you have $500/month extra, how would you spend it to make life happier?

Princeton study – High income improves quality of life

WSJ article – Can money buy you happiness? Image credit – WSJ.

SFSU study – Experiences better than material goods

Elizabeth Dunn’s book –  Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.

 

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 65 comments… add one }
  • Matthew Reif September 21, 2020, 12:33 pm

    I love this post! I know money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness for everyone but I think that you have to have a certain amount of it to be steady and not worried. I loved your post and just your blog in general as I would like to retire by 40.

  • Sport of Money September 20, 2020, 1:02 pm

    I don’t think money by itself can lead to happiness.

    But I do believe money is a necessary ingredient and one of many in producing a happy life.

  • WTK September 19, 2020, 5:53 am

    Hi,

    My view is that more money cannot buy happiness. The main gist is that more money can give more buffer for one in the FIRE journey. It will be good to have more money but it is not a must to have such monies.

    WTK

  • inversterarfar September 18, 2020, 1:51 am

    Hi.
    Would be nice to see that threshold in terms of a normal spending on groceries or other unit that makes it somewhat possible to convert to other countries.
    Hope you can visit your parents soon.

  • Mr. Tako September 18, 2020, 12:24 am

    Great post Joe! I like that you pointed out that money can buy happiness to a certain extent. Let’s not forget all those making less than $75k/year… having more money would definitely make them feel happier and more secure!

    But yes, after a certain point having more “things” just becomes more work. More upkeep, more things that break and more stuff to worry about.

    This is why folks like you and me feel quite content with our “normal” life. Having “more” would probably just degrade our happiness.

    • retirebyforty September 18, 2020, 10:03 am

      You’re right about more maintenance. The more nice things you have the more you have to worry about them and maintain them. some people enjoy doing maintenance, but I’m not one of them.

  • Lazy Man and Money September 17, 2020, 5:59 pm

    I find myself at a lower level of natural happiness, maybe closer to a 5 or 6. I don’t think money is an issue that moves that needle too much. I mean maybe a near infinite amount would help, because I could hire a nanny to help with the kids sometimes. I could hire a maid so I don’t have to work on laundry. I could hire a personal organizer to clean my basement and garage. I guess “enough” extra money would make me happier.

    I don’t believe that $75,000 study too much. I believe it’s more about the relation to peers. If all your good friends make $150,000+ and you make $80,000 you probably will stress over missing out on experiences and things they have.

    I also don’t believe the experiences over material objects study too much. If you ask people to look back on swimming with dolphins, they’ll of course rate it high. Dollar for dollar my Brookstone Nap blanket that I use every night is getting the thumbs up from me. I may have to read the details of the studies more.

    • retirebyforty September 18, 2020, 10:05 am

      I guess a really good personal aid would be nice. Never had one so I don’t miss it. 🙂

  • Cultivating More Happiness September 17, 2020, 7:38 am

    I’ve generally prioritized spending on experiences rather than things and believed it to bring me more happiness. I’ve noticed that since I buy “things” so infrequently and often times wait a year before buying something I want, it actually continues to bring me a lot of joy since there was so much intention in the purchase. During this pandemic, I am home more and catch a glimpse of some of my small “things” I indulged a long time ago and it brings me so much joy! I’d put my baseline happiness at a 9+ and think a big factor is wiring our minds towards gratitude. Perhaps another benefit of being frugal: I only have a few things and they are the things I really wanted so the novely has not worn off 🙂

  • XrayVsn September 17, 2020, 4:02 am

    I am 100% on board with experience over materialistic things when it comes to long term happiness.

    The thrill of buying something fades rapidly especially when newer and better versions inevitably come out.

    I still get joy from memories of great trips with my fiancee and daughter from years ago. It definitely brings a smile to my face reliving these special moments.

  • [email protected] August 27, 2015, 7:54 am

    A basic rule that always works for me is to ask myself this simple question whenever I reach for my wallet: Am I getting the biggest happiness bang for my buck?

  • Chella August 22, 2015, 4:31 pm

    Regarding my happiness level, let’s say 8. However, I appreciate my life so much and am grateful that I don’t have any major financial constraints. I also try to avoid debts as much as I can, while investing in stock dividends to try and improve my life.

  • Greg @ FYI August 18, 2015, 12:35 pm

    My happiness rating changes quite often, although I would say that I’m about an 8 or 9 on the contentment scale, which rarely changes (job change, move, etc). Most interesting to me is that there’s a growing amount of research that shows experiences boost both happiness and content, but Americans undercut those opportunities by buying houses that are too large for what we need and cars that cost four times what we should be paying for them. In other words, marketers have proven that they consistently win the game with consumers.

  • Michael Hall @ Financially Alert August 18, 2015, 1:41 am

    Such a simple but though provoking question, Joe… love it!

    I’d say I am about an 8.5/10 currently. Although I love my early retirement, I was pretty happy owning a business previously. I suppose it’s just another phase of life, each with it’s own positives.

    With an extra $500/month, I’d probably make a monthly trip to Vegas and place it all on BLACK! Kidding aside, the extra $ would be split between additional education (personal development & investment conferences, books, and courses) and funding my kids’ 529 College Savings Plans.

    Finally, can money really buy more happiness? It really depends on the individual. If you’re clinically depressed and off your meds, I’m pretty sure purchasing a vacation to the Bahamas isn’t going to make huge difference in your emotional state. For most people though, I would agree that “buying more time” has the greatest potential to provide more happiness. Additional time to pursue your own passions, spending extra time with family, and sharing your wealth with others would be incredibly satisfying to most of us.

    • retirebyforty August 18, 2015, 3:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you’re a happy individual no matters what. That’s a great situation to be in. Buying time is the way to go, but it could be a fallacy too. I just listened to a TED talk which touched on that. I will write about it later.

  • Vic @ Dad Is Cheap August 17, 2015, 11:53 pm

    On a scale from 1 – 10, I would say I’m an 8. My wife and I are actually working towards an early retirement for her so she can be a SAHM. When we get to that point, I’ll be a 10!

    My wife and I both live frugally and try to maximize our money with experiences rather than things. So if we made more money, I think we would just put more into saving and investing. We would rather go on vacation or go out to a nice restaurant than have the latest iPad or designer purse.

    I don’t think money necessarily gives you happiness, but the things that money can afford that you talk about are priceless. I’m sure your old coworkers are jealous of you that they have to work another 20+ years!

    • retirebyforty August 18, 2015, 3:13 pm

      Good luck to your family! Actually, you might get jealous of her being a SAHM so don’t expect your happiness to hit 10. 🙂
      Mrs. RB40 is happy these days, but she is starting to get envious of my retirement. Now we’re working on her early retirement.

  • John August 17, 2015, 11:06 pm

    New subscriber here. Can you share in a future blog post or link to one if you have already explained how you are able to generate 75K annually. Is it all through portfolio (variations of 4% rule), blog income, pensions, annuities, or a combination. Having the number broken down will help me plan my early retirement as well since I am not confident in that area.

    • retirebyforty August 18, 2015, 3:12 pm

      Hi, you can subscribe to our newsletter to see my online income break down.
      I make about 50k from blogging, dividend, P2P lending, and rental properties. Mrs. RB40 still works and she has a pretty good income. You can also see my monthly cash flow reports.
      https://retireby40.org/july-2015-goals-and-financial-update/

  • nicoleandmaggie August 17, 2015, 8:24 pm

    Probably an 8 or 9 depending on what kind of grade inflation we’re talking about here. (I would definitely give it an A! But I would be happier if I dunno, there were world peace and children didn’t starve there wasn’t racism etc. etc. etc.)

    $500/mo is the raise I just got today (though only over 9 mo, and technically this year I’m at half pay so only getting half that). It definitely made me happy because it makes me feel valued. But I don’t really have any plans for it. It’ll just go into savings with the rest.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:53 pm

      I would be happier if the world would be a better place too.
      Congratulation on your raise! You should spend a bit to celebrate. That’s what I would do and then save the rest. 🙂

      • nicoleandmaggie August 18, 2015, 7:36 am

        Spend on what though? Celebration doesn’t need to be connected to spending money. I think we tend to make our optimization decisions based on the whole picture and not flows in, at least when it’s a regular flow like this. 1x checks we’re a bit more likely to tag for a specific purchase, but not always– it depends on the size and if there’s anything we’ve been wanting to get.

        Plus, in our case, anything long-term would have to be shipped home after our year away and money isn’t the reason we’re not eating out more or going out more. We tend to make our charitable donations in December, so any of those will happen then.

        • retirebyforty August 18, 2015, 3:15 pm

          A spa date? 🙂 Have fun on your year off!

          • nicoleandmaggie September 17, 2020, 5:05 am

            A spa date sounds awful! (Even before covid.) I’m allergic to everything and not a fan of strangers touching my body. Or being bored.

  • Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets August 17, 2015, 8:17 pm

    I’m about a 6.5 on my scale of happiness. I believe in making the best in every situation, but I know there is potential to be much happier which is why we are working hard to reach FI. If I had $500 extra a month it probably wouldn’t change my current happiness that much because I would just invest the money. It would allow me to reach FI even quicker though which would then increase my happiness.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:52 pm

      6.5 is not bad, but it could definitely improve. Don’t neglect the present for the future. Have fun on your journey to FI too! Good luck!

  • Virginia August 17, 2015, 5:12 pm

    Hi Joe – I would simply invest the money if we had an extra $500 and I would say my happiness is probably about an 8 right now. I am considering switching to part time work to spend more time with my family. I’m curious, have you ever done a Myer Brigg’s test? I am asking because I did one and found that I am an INFP. Apparently this is the personality type that is most likely to stay home. I’m curious if you are also an INFP.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:51 pm

      You should try part time and see if it works for your family. Can you go back to full time later?
      The last time I took it, I was ISTP.

  • Dave August 17, 2015, 5:03 pm

    I’d rate my happiness a 7 out of 10 right now. I’m in the accumulation phase and am aiming to retire by 40 as well. I think I’ll get happier the more money I get as that means I have more freedom of choice. Money gives me options and I want more options!

    If I had $500/mo. I would just invest it in some of my index funds. I really don’t need anymore money to spend. I guess it depends how I look at it, though. If it’s my first $500 of the month, it goes to rent. If it’s the last $500 I get, it gets invested.

  • jim August 17, 2015, 3:23 pm

    I for one disagree with how much people make of the “experiences versus things” deal. I get the idea there sure. I mean I’d take a once in a lifetime trip to Europe over a new car upgrade for sure. But this doesn’t all mean we don’t enjoy the things we buy or that you shouldn’t buy things because experiences are so much better. Often times the things we buy facilitate many great experiences. I think one of the reasons that experiences seem better than things is that the things become familiar and taken for granted and the experiences are novel and memorable. A once in a lifetime trip to Vegas is going to be more memorable than money spent on stuff you get used to and even bored of. But that doesn’t really acount for the true enjoyment you get out of the stuff. Its just perception.

    When I was a kid we couldn’t afford a VCR when they first came out. So as an occasional special event we would rent a VCR and a few movies for like $20 a weekend or something. I remember now decades later how excited I was about that and how great of an experience it was. That experienced sticks out in my mind since it was so special and novel and a treat for us. But a few years after that we bought a VCR and had one in our living room for a decade after that and grew used to watching movies day in and day out. I don’t think back as fondly of owning the VCR versus renting it. Yet if I took away the literally 100’s of movies we watched at home on our VCRs over the years I’m sure I’d miss em. The occasional rental of that VCR sticks out as a memorable occasion and the long term ownership of the VCR in later years was taken for granted.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:45 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. The novel experience really stick with us for the long haul. They are what we can pass on to our children and friends.

  • Stockbeard August 17, 2015, 1:51 pm

    I’m on the low end of the happiness scale right now. I feel my work is consuming me, and when I get time with my kids I feel they’re taking time away from me. I don’t have time for myself, and I don’t enjoy the time with my kids, which I feel guilty about.

    Removing my job from the equation would bring back the balance, I feel: time for me, which in parallel would translate into me enjoying the time with my kids.

    I’d definitely trade money for time, but I need to discuss this again with my wife. She was doing some crazy talk about sending our kids to some international school that costs an arm and a leg. And here I thought she was the frugal one :'(

    • Mike Drak August 17, 2015, 2:28 pm

      Stockbeard I’ve been exactly where you currently are with respect to the kids. Don’t let the job eat you up because at the end of the day all that is really important is your family.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:43 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that. Check out this talk on time – why people feels so busy. It’s really interesting.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItwFMv-u2YE
      Yes, talk to your wife and let her know that too much work is reducing your quality of life. Don’t keep it bottled up. Work on it as a team. Good luck!

  • Grinch August 17, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Perhaps I can offer different perspective. I am probably a 3 on the 1-10 happiness scale. Not for lack of money – I make closer to 200k per year. But because I have no one to share my life with. I am single since 3-4 years, seemingly unable to find someone to film my ex’s shoes. All the money in the world wouldn’t make me happy – my incredibly comfortable life, and my well-paying job which will allow me to retire by 40, keep me from dropping to a 1 or 2 on the happiness scale. But I doubt I will ever go above 5 as long as I am alone.

    So yeah, money really only makes you (me) happy to a certain point.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:40 pm

      Yikes! Thanks for sharing. I guess money really can’t buy happiness. 3 isn’t good at all. You should save as much as you can and take a year or two off. That way you’ll have time to experience life. Maybe travel for a few months and try to meet new people. An incredible comfortable life can’t be that great at 3.
      I hope you can improve your happiness level at some point.

  • Bryan @ Just One More Year August 17, 2015, 9:58 am

    I would say I am at a 7.75 or a solid C+ on the happiness scale. My belief and possible misconception is that I will be at 9 or better once I stop work. That said, I know that Ernie has valid points about not necessarily needing money for happiness.

    We are so hyper-focused on our debt snowball, FI, and early retirement, often to the detriment of having new experiences. We feel that will change very soon for us once our work becomes a distant memory. 🙂

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:30 pm

      Good luck! I’m sure you’ll find your way to 9 soon.

  • EL August 17, 2015, 9:45 am

    I like this post because it hits on many good points. Happiness is sort of intertwined with happiness, and many people seem to disregard that. I agree with you on the point where I rather spend money on experiences. Ill take a dollar since your spreading the joy. HAHA.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:29 pm

      Good try. 🙂 We gave $5 to the Park department last week. That felt pretty good especially since they put on a free concert for us.

  • freebird August 17, 2015, 9:05 am

    “Material goods can last many years and it has to be a better value than spending money on fleeting experiences, right?” I think this is the rationale people use to justify buying a home over renting, but que sais je?

    My happiness stays in the middle of the range so long as health and family are doing fine. I have spending aversion so spending more would actually hurt, not help. If I had to spend, frankly I’m not a fan of giving it away because I believe how we spend changes the world in a way that encourages what we buy. Instead I’d go for experiences that are uplifting to my spirits and give a chance for someone deserving to earn some income, ideally in an environmentally sustainable manner. Maybe like hiring someone who is not already rich and famous to do something they’re good at and enjoy doing?

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:28 pm

      Middle range is good. Buddhism encourage that. You don’t want to be too happy or too sad. I’m not a fan of giving it away either, but I’m happy to give to family members. Giving someone a chance to earn some income is a great way to help them out too.

  • Tawcan August 17, 2015, 8:45 am

    Money can buy happiness but only to a certain point. Happiness is something externally driven, where joy is internally driven. To be truly joyful we need to be at peace with ourselves.

  • Dave in Sunny FL August 17, 2015, 8:10 am

    Weed will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no weed, according to Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.
    I think of money like a battery: a unit of stored energy. I don’t have $500 more of spending I would like to do each month; I would just save it. My son recently got his first job, and my advice to him was to get as far from zero as he could, as fast as he could.

  • Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia August 17, 2015, 7:41 am

    There is a difference between “pleasure” and “happiness.” Getting a massage can provide pleasure, but if you were unhappy prior you will probably go right back to being unhappy once it’s over (unless you were able to get a massage every day – then you might be happy!).

    More often than not, money provides the means to acquire pleasurable things that only last a certain while. Happiness has to be found/created within…

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:23 pm

      I could use a massage right about now, but I agree with you. We have to make our own happiness.

  • Lisa August 17, 2015, 6:46 am

    Interesting, important discussion. To Justin’s point, I’ve seen other figures as well, – $50K per year and a paid off mortgage was one Money Magazine study’s assessment of the tipping point into diminishing returns. Thanks for the reminder – I’ve been exploring this myself and stumbling across the weirdest findings, like how spending more actually reduces my “happiness” with a purchase. Weird, no?

    The concerning part of the conversation, however, is how many people don’t make $50K per year, let alone have a paid off mortgage. You are reminding me how lucky we all are once we figure out this money thing and get ahead of debt.

    As for $500 more a month? More time! Put it toward building my early retirement “buffer” zone for nasty surprises. I’ve got the essentials taken care of, but am spending time now trying to shore everything up before I take the leap.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:15 am

      That’s interesting. I haven’t heard of spending more money can reduce happiness. Can you give some example? Maybe just buying too much stuff?
      Yes, a lot of families don’t make $50k per year and they don’t know how to improve their income. That’s tough.
      Great choice with saving more money. Good luck!

      • Mike Drak August 17, 2015, 2:21 pm

        Here is my take on how spending can reduce happiness. When I retired i went a little crazy and bought a hut tub. Been so busy writing the book I really haven’t had much time to use it , been in it twice the past year. I’m still required to clean it and every time I do it kind of ticks me off as I have to do maintenance on something I don’t have time to enjoy and add to that the opportunity cost of the money I paid. Dumb just plain dumb!

  • Michelle August 17, 2015, 6:38 am

    I think that to a point, yes, money can buy more happiness. Case in point – we just bought an RV and are traveling around the country and we couldn’t be happier 🙂

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:13 am

      Wow, how fun. Enjoy your trip!

  • Mike Drak August 17, 2015, 6:22 am

    One of my favorite stories about money and happiness is the “Mexican Fisherman”. Every time I read it, it still puts a big smile on my face. Money does not guarantee happiness just ask all the unhappy lottery winners. If you were not happy before buying the winning ticket odds are you will not be happy latter. I hate to disappoint everyone but achieving FF also will not guarantee happiness for you. You still need to work at it. The list provided by Ernie Z has nothing to do with money but a lot to do with attitude.
    Buying stuff vs experiences, buying stuff might generate short term happiness but buying experiences like a trip to Disneyland with the kids is priceless. Watch their eyes open up with wonder and teach them anything is possible. When we went it also reminded me that I had changed and lost my sense of imagination, but lucky for me I’m back on track.
    The most precious commodity in my mind is time and I would argue that time is much more valuable than money.Giving your time to another is one of the greatest gifts that you could give.
    I would rate my current level of happiness at a “6”. Writing a book has taken me out of balance and I just had to move my mother from a retirement home to a nursing home and I’ve learned firsthand the sorry state health care for seniors is in. But things are finally coming into balance. All the heavy lifting has been done so I can see a 8-9 in the near future for me. It’s starting to feel good already!
    Joe, the last three questions that you have put forward have been very thought provoking. Nice job!

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:13 am

      The Mexican fisherman is a good parable. I’m not sure I agree with achieving FF. External factors can make a big difference too. I was profoundly unhappy during the last few years of work. Once I left, I’m a lot happier. Work was really beating me down. I was a happy person before all that stress, though.
      Having fun with the kids really are priceless. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. We took a road trip to Mt. St. Helen last weekend and jr had a great time.
      I hope your level of happiness improve soon. It’s tough to deal with nursing home. Good luck.

  • Steve Miller August 17, 2015, 5:28 am

    I would rate my happiness at 9 out of 10 as well. I think that money itself does not buy happiness but financial freedom does. Financial freedom removes the stress of money issues and I think that’s what really provides happiness.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:06 am

      Great! Financial freedom brings a lot of happiness. It free you up from having to worry about money all the time.

  • Justin @ Root of Good August 17, 2015, 5:07 am

    Money can buy happiness… to a point. I’ve seen the $75,000 figure and another $40,000 figure where extra income above that does little to increase happiness. I buy it!

    Once you cover all the needs and some of the wants, you can live a fulfilling life. The biggest part of having “enough” money comes from feeling comfortable and not worrying about money. For us, we spend just under $40,000/yr, and that amount would be closer to $45k or $50k if we still owed on a mortgage, maybe $55 or 60k if we had car payments. And since we are pretty frugal and pay very little income tax, we’re probably consuming similarly to someone who spends close to $75k per year.

    And we are rather happy. 🙂 Maybe an 8.5 or 9 out of 10. I always think there is room for improvement too!

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:05 am

      Yeap, I feel like we have enough too. $500 more wouldn’t make much of a difference. Great job with 8.5 or 9. Life can always get better. 🙂

  • Clarisse @ Reach Financial Independence August 17, 2015, 1:29 am

    Yes, for me money can buy happiness, especially when you have a kid. Without money, you can’t feed your family, you can’t buy clothes for them and especially you can’t afford them to go to school. And I would definitely happy, especially when I can buy groceries for my mom. 🙂

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:04 am

      Would an extra $500 increase your happiness much? What would you spend it on? It sounds like you’re at a comfortable level now.

  • Ernie Zelinski August 17, 2015, 1:16 am

    A friend of mine posted some food for thought on Facebook just last week:

    “IF MONEY CAN’T BUY HAPPINESS, EXPLAIN MOTORCYCLES & BEER!”

    Having said that, money can’t buy ultimate happiness. As I mentioned in two of my books,
    there are many more factors that contribute to happiness which are beyond the realm of money. Following is a list of thirty seven elements of happiness that I challenge you to purchase on the open market:

    * Health
    * Longevity
    * Self-reliance
    * Personal creativity
    * Real friends
    * Achievement
    * Satisfaction
    * Loving family
    * Respect of others
    * Integrity
    * Reputation
    * Peace of mind
    * Good character
    * Sense of humor
    * Ability to enjoy leisure
    * Street smarts
    * Patience
    * Gratitude
    * Compassion
    * Empathy
    * Emotional stability
    * Greatness
    * Warmth
    * How to handle money
    * Generosity
    * Humility
    * Appreciation of money
    * Luck
    * Charm
    * Physical fitness
    * Self-esteem
    * Time
    * Spiritual fulfillment
    * Wisdom
    * True love
    * Courage
    * A good night’s sleep

    In short, if these are all elements of happiness, and they can’t be bought, then it follows that ultimate happiness can’t be bought. Fact is, there are many rich neurotics — but there are no happy ones.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 260,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 280,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:03 am

      Money can help get you there. Health is dependent on good diet and exercise. Those things are within reach with some money. However, I don’t think you need to spend a huge amount. That’s where the diminishing returns come in. More money isn’t going to help you get much healthier. (unless you’re sick, of course..)

  • Pennypincher August 17, 2015, 12:54 am

    Since being retired, I’m a 10 on the happiness scale. The freedom and options are phenomenal. Money gives you freedom, options and security to sleep at night. Material things just have to be maintained, repaired, insured. I laugh at the neighbors around here w/garages stuffed w/….stuff! They can’t even get their expensive cars in the garages! I can’t imagine parking an expensive foreign car on the street overnight, because you have too much stuff, stuffed in the garage! I admit, I do love my power tools for the house, yard, kitchen, that make life easier. Now those were great purchases.
    I would invest an extra 500. a month, for sure.

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2015, 10:00 am

      Congratulation on a successful retirement! We rarely buy new stuff these days. Life is simpler with less stuff. I’d probably invest most the $500 too. 🙂

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