Money Can't Buy Happiness

4 February 2020

I’ve heard this phrase so many times but it didn’t really click until I took a year off. The problem is that it’s much easier said than understood 1. And to understand it I had to try to prove it wrong, in a way. I thought that buying myself a year in which I didn’t have to work would solve a lot of my problems.

I went to Europe for four months during my year off. It was a wonderful trip. And yet I could still find myself at times feeling anxious, lonely, scared, unsure, wanting to leave. From the outside it could have appeared as if I had everything going for me.

What I really internalized during that time is that it’s not the money or the things or the traveling that make me happy. It’s spending time with my friends and family. It’s feeling fulfilled with my work. It’s sharing what I’ve learned. It’s creating. It’s being outdoors. This trip reshaped my view of money. I was able to see how far a dollar can go when you stick to the basics; I never got tired of living out of a backpack.

The one thing that I could buy myself - if not happiness - was comfort. If I was feeling anxious I could spend more money on a nicer place to stay. Not having to share a bathroom, for instance, would be one less thing to worry about.

We all do need money to survive. And unfortunately too many people aren’t having that need met. But for those who are chasing a dream of having x income or y net worth or such and such car or that size house or this many boats, give yourself the time to reflect on what makes you really happy.

  1. The other problem is a Princeton study found that up to a certain income level can contribute to happiness. ↩︎