The Money Paradox
Why you need it to be happy, but how you’ll be miserable if that’s all you chase.
92% of the money that circulates nowadays is digital. You can’t touch it, stack it, or smell it, however, the importance it carries remains the same.
In many ways, it’s the gatekeeper who holds all the freedom and pleasure we work 8 hours a day for.
We need it to pay rent, gas, buy food, and as research has shown, to make us happy.
Yes, you read that right.
You may have just instinctively questioned.
“Money doesn’t bring happiness, we all know plenty of rich people who are depressed.”
While there are countless examples of wealthy individuals succumbing to the tragedy inside their minds, we have much more of the opposite:
Unwealthy people struggling with their happiness.
While the amount of 0’s in your bank account has all to do with how proficient you are at making money, and nothing to do with how good of a person you are, it will provide, generally speaking, a better level of happiness to those who possess more of it.
No, I’m Not Just Making This Up
According to a Princeton University study, published in 2010, the more one makes until $75,000 annual income, the more individual happiness increases accordingly.
It’s important to note that “happiness”, in this study, means how happy one feels about their life as a whole, and not so much the daily emotions one goes through.
Despite that, it still may come as a shock to a lot of you. It sure did for me.
When in a complicated financial spot, either with a lot of debt, being underpaid, or overall feeling lost, the last thing we want to hear is that if only we had more money we would feel better.
In these instances, “Money doesn’t buy happiness” is as comforting as a homemade mom meal on a rainy day. It eases your mind and makes everything feel fine.
Unfortunately, opposed to a homemade meal, this advice doesn’t help.
As researches found, the closer we get to the $75,000 threshold, the less the stress with money-related issues, and the happier we feel about the overall state of our lives.
In essence, the closer to this amount, the less anxiety and overwhelm towards money exists, and the more control we feel over our life.
However, that’s not the end of it, after all…
What Happens After $75,000?
Far from being a magical number, “it does seem, to me, a plausible number at which people would think money is not an issue,”, says one of the researchers, it still is surprising what follows crossing this barrier.
While below it, one always makes money a part of their life equation, in the sense that it plays a part in every life decision, from buying a new house to deciding whether or not to go to Whole Foods, above this limit, due to its abundance, people start living more and more without having to constantly worry about whether or not their bills are going to be paid.
Instead, they free more headspace to focus on other things.
Before we get to that though, curiously enough, after this limit the “happiness” returns for how much money you make start to exponentially drop.
While on the first stage, when escaping poverty, we are constantly in a state of worry and stress, counting dollars to make sure we can make it by for just 1 more month, things start to change once that stops becoming a problem.
After the $75,000 mark, the returns for your happiness are quite similar in growth as the ones for how productive you are the longer you work.
In the above example, as illustrated by Mark Manson, we see that the longer hours you work, the smaller the returns are for that time invested.
The same holds true if we replace hours for money and productivity for happiness.
Once the pain of struggling for bills is removed, according to research, we find ourselves at increasing ease with our life, taking less and less happiness from more money.
Thus, one may start to conclude, more money equals more happiness and that is all we need to achieve to live a good life.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Ha! If only were that easy.
While reaching that mark may give us an increased sense of control and care-freeness, removing money from the list of worries, we still need to find the answer to the crucial question in all of this:
“What happens after money stops being a problem?”
The Money Paradox
If you remember from before, happiness was defined in this study as “the deeper satisfaction you feel about the way your life is going”, and at face value, that would seem like a fair guideline to measure happiness.
After all, if you feel like your life is in order, you are drastically more likely to enjoy it.
The big issue for me, with all of this, is that you can make $75,000/year, have a job you enjoy, feel like you are doing the most you can, and despite all of this, feel completely lost and devoid of purpose.
You can overcome all the apparent struggle keeping one from reaching the ever-fleeting state of happiness, only to find yourself deprived of anything meaningful in your life once you reach it. In other words, you may conquer the top of the mountain, only to find that what you really enjoyed was the climb.
For some, an eye-opening moment, not only to enjoy the process of reaching their goals but to seize what the present moment has to offer. For others, a shocking moment that can dictate the beginning of the end.
An unexpected downward spiral which can throw even the most positive individuals for a ride.
Just a quick glance at the rates of depression over the past decade, we can see a graph that paints a scary picture to look at, one that sees this terrible occurrence rising along with the quality of life, especially among young people.
From this, one could draw quite a few conclusions:
- The removal of the struggle for basic survival needs gives space for the rise of “higher” level problems;
- Not having to struggle for an outcome removes much of the meaning human beings draw out of life (problem-solving);
- Placing an unrealistic expectation on the overcoming of an obstacle will likely lead to tremendous disappointment once said obstacle is conquered, in this case, lack of money.
Along with these, I’m sure there are plenty more to be found and developed upon, and not to be mistaken, all worthy of their own in-depth development.
With that out of the way, none of those is the one I’m finishing with.
As someone who, once upon a time, placed all his happiness in a future monetary goal to be achieved, truly believing that would be it, I know what it’s like to reach the end destination only to find myself completely empty inside, and even though money stopped being a problem, lack of meaning and purpose took its place.
Both much more painful than being poor.
After years of making them my main focus, I’ve realized that being financially set is not only a worthy goal to strive for, but also, one crucial to the improvement of our lives, something which everyone should strive for. However, it is one that once achieved will usually bring higher problems to be dealt with.
“What is my purpose?”
“Which pursuit brings meaning to my life?”
“Am I living according to the morals I believe to be of utmost importance?”
Thus, what I’ve realized is that money is a crucial piece to the happiness equation, yet, one that if focussed on solely will bring a hefty dose of misery for the soul.
Keep climbing but, as the old saying goes, stop once in a while to smell the roses.
Thank you for reading.