Money and Meaning

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What is the balance between money and meaning in life? How much money makes us happy? Can money be a key instrument during our meaningful path?

Does money makes us happier?

In short yes it does from a perspective of well-being but not as much as you may think. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky money increases happiness when it creates an environment of well-being but once certain needs are met it has little effect on our happiness.

According to 225 studies on the benefits of happiness Sonja Lyubomirsky says that happy people have more friends and social support, are more resilient to stress and trauma, have stronger immune systems and also tend to make more money. Happy people are also more philanthropic and give more to charity.

Money can bring more happiness to our lives and being happier can also create more money and social opportunities for us and more.

How much money makes us happy? When someone earns 75,000 USD per year then happiness tends to not increase as basic needs for survival and comfort have been met – this being related to an average in the United States.

People with more money do not tend to show more positive emotions throughout the day when compared to those with less on average. However, they will likely be happier overall with many of their needs being met such as health care, nutrition, increased leisure time and so on.

When your basic needs are not met such as health care, nutrition and safety then money is shown to increase happiness significantly as you can then get many of your basic needs met. However, once your basic needs are met an increase in money isn’t shown to make a huge increase in your happiness but it can increase happiness to a certain degree.

How can we find meaning in our money?

Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that when we buy a new car or ‘toy’ it provides short term hedonic pleasure but this is short lived and we adapt to this initial excitement. At Meaningful Paths we discuss a lot about aligning our day to day lives with our values and this begins to piece together meaning in our lives. If we spend our money to be with our family and close friends then we would be aligning with our values potentially more than buying a new car. If we spend money on charity and community good we will feel good from doing so. An important note is that although donating to charity is a kind thing to do it would not bring longer lasting from of well-being called Eudaimonic well-being unless it is part of our bigger picture. If we had a long term vision to create a positive community and we spent money on this then this would bring much more well-being and longer lasting well-being than buying a car or giving a donation to charity – both of which would provide short term happiness. An example of this could be to end homelessness in your city or to fund and coach a struggling youth development project.

Sonja Lyubomirsky also discusses how excessive spending of money and consumerism can also cause negative emotions.

Psychologist Tim Kasser did a 20 year study on peoples habits on consumerism. His findings showed that the 25 % of the group that were the biggest shoppers and most materialistic were the least happy within the group dynamic.

A Conclusion on Money

It is very important for us to assess how much money makes us happy? Money is not good or bad; it is a fuel for our lives in the way water is a fuel for our body. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy if that money has been earned with integrity and by doing good for others. If we can learn more about what deeper values align with us and increase our financial health and knowledge on money then we can become much happier and have a more solid foundation of well-being. If we focus most of our energy on material possessions which is a common theme in humanity and the media; then we may be surprised to find that we feel temporary happiness and unfulfillment in our lives.

By using money to spend more time with people and things that we value most and by using our money on community good we can find meaning and create longer lasting well-being in comparison to over consumption. Our blog article Ego & Suffering can help teach your more on how to detach yourself from materialism. Our blog article What is a meaningful life? Can help you find deeper values with and outside of money.

If you would like to learn more about financial meaning and how to create a happier balance between money, meaning and well-being then feel free to look at our work Build Your World.

Wishing you health and well-being.

Thank you for reading.

David Chorlton; Meaningful Paths Founder.

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  1. Pingback: How to Set Goals During a Crisis | Psychreg

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