The Relationship Between Money and Happiness

One thing I often ask the 40-soemthing women I interview is whether money buys happiness. Most of them have have had times with more money and times with less. The consensus is that it doesn’t necessarily translate to happiness. It fulfills different roles but once you have enough to provide the fundamentals, the happiness part is still up to you.

Of course there is a message of moderation as with many things. Don’t get over your head in debt, but don’t save so much that you don’t life your life. It’s helpful to remember this during the holiday gift-buying season. In your twenties it’s easy to think that you have to spend on certain things but don’t overestimate the joy it will give you when weighed against the debt, anxiety.

There are plenty of ways to give joy without spending money.  I remember one of my favorite Christmas memories was one year when my brother, who was in college at the time, had no money and gave each of us a card for Christmas. I can’t remember exactly what the card said but (continuing on the theme of giving compliments that I spoke of the other day), I do remember that it was a generous gift, commenting on who I was and what I had to offer, rather than a token of store bought affection. It meant a lot to me. Here are what 40-something women have to say:

Does money buy you happiness?

 “When you have enough money to pay your bills and take care of your family, all that excess money doesn’t make you anymore happy. In fact, I would argue the opposite, that people with excess money have excess burdens. Ultimately not having any money is a big drag but having what the masses of money that people dream of, that does not make you happier, certainly not exponentially.”  – 40-something, Detroit, woman who gave up a lifestyle to get divorced and build her own life


 “Is money happiness? No. I was very poor in my 20s but I was perfectly happy. It doesn’t destroy happiness but you don’t need it. Your success is represented by how much you make. That is nice as a sign of your achievement but it is not necessary.  It’s nice to not worry about your next house payment and food on table but that’s it.” – 40-something, New York, dermatologist


“Don’t do anything just for the money. I haven’t seen that work for many people because eventually you will be unhappy. If you really don’t like it, don’t do it or you won’t be good at it. You will either be unhappy or you won’t be good at it. Just don’t assume that it’s always going to get better. You should keep yourself relevant.”  – 40-something, Chicago, consultant, expert on flexibility in work


“You don’t need as much as you think you do. I feel like I have led an awesome life on not a lot of money.  We made our own fun and that was a valuable lesson for my son.” – 40-something, Los Angeles, Single mom, documentary filmmaker


“Money is not that important. Try to stay away from structuring your life about making money.  Do something you like and the money will follow. I think that the pursuit of money just for money, ends up in a banking crisis. Having enough money to do what you want is important. You can have a lot of money and then no time. If you cant do what you love, what is the point?” – 40-something, Los Angeles, executive in travel / hotel industry, 44, LA


“Money doesn’t buy you happiness. It may give you ease and entrée but it doesn’t make you happier. – 60-something, went through bankruptcy, widow and now single mom


“Not one bit but it doesn’t hurt. I don’t think it creates happiness but it makes happiness easier to enjoy.” – 40-somehting, Detroit, married, mom

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