Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Money: Can it buy happiness?

It's easy to get into the mindset of desperately wanting something. I've fallen into that groove once or twice in my lifetime. It seems whatever occupation I hold I want something to do with it. When I first started out at Bed Bath and Beyond I wanted a set of All Clad cookware (price tag: $600), and when I started in the real estate industry I wanted a home more than anything (price tag: $250,000+) in the world. Even to the point of driving those around me crazy.

It's a good thing nobody listened to me, I shudder to think of my financial position had I bought a home I couldn't afford on top of my credit card debts. We probably could have, too. What with all those shady lenders pumping out mortgages like they were penny candy.

We in the western world live in a very materialistic society and whether it's a new car, a pair of jeans or a burger at Wendy's it all boils down to how much dough we have in the banking account.

So the end product often is not desire over things, but quite logically desire over money. When you're in financial straights it's simple to dream about the day you'll have enough money to buy and sell the folks who are giving you nasty collection calls. All your problems all of a sudden go poof, they disappear into void that was your former life.

But does that remove the underlying problem? Would more money solve the fact that you likely lived beyond your means in the past, or does it inflame the issue? Does more money really mean more happiness? It seems that a lot of people believe so, what with all the get rich quick schemes, dead end garage power businesses and blogs with little or no direction but a whole mess of ads.

People like to think they've been forged through the fire of being poor, a hundred times more responsibly than they were prior. I wager that responsibility doesn't stick around for very long once six figures start getting thrown around.

I submit that yes, it does bring happiness. But only to a certain point. A little money to an excruciating poor person will bring an inordinate amount of happiness (compare giving a bum 50 dollars to giving the same dollar value to someone who makes $150,000 annually), but after awhile the numbers begin to lose mental value.

After a specific dollar value the average Joe and Sally Smith type of folks end up with Clampett's Syndrome. A whole lot of money with the same mannerisms and attitude.

Not to mention the fact that people with serious money dysfunctions to begin with tend to repeat their mistakes, only on a much larger and potentially disastrous scale.

If you're already poor and in debt it's hard to make crippling decisions. You can't lose a lot of something you don't have.

It's hard to get pay off $35,000 with an hourly 9 to 5 job. Think how insanely difficult it would be to pay off $90,000. Or $200,000. At that point bankruptcy begins to look a lot prettier.

How much is enough? For me, I think $15,000 would be adequate. Roughly half I currently owe to various creditors. Would I like more? Of course. Am I capable of handling more? Absolutely.

But it'd be enough. I'd get a taste of that shiny brass ring, bring a tremendous amount of joy into my life (which it is sorely lacking) but still allow me to take responsibility for a good part my actions. I'd still be capable of knowing what it's like to be in a bad situation. I'd still learn a lot about handling my money. My life style would not change, but it'd bring me happiness.

I'm comfortable with that.

What are you comfortable with? Are you currently struggling with money issues? Do you have your fair share but would feel safer with more? Please post and share your thoughts.


Joan said...

I'm not sure. I like to play the lottery sometimes. it's pretty fun.

But if I actually won 12 million dollars? I can not say that it'd all go to a charity or something like that.

I think I'd be able to control myself. But i dunno.


Anonymous said...

i agree with you. a little bit of money to someone who needs it will bring a lot of happiness. but a lot of money to someone who doesn't really need it will likely bring misery.

i think bill gate's first million was exciting. but i don't think he cares very much if he earns another billion or so.


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