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Yes It’s Official Money Can Buy Happiness


For years, academics railed against the idea that money could buy happiness. Not only did the data support them, but it also helped to maintain their anti-capitalist ideology, providing firepower against the modern economic system.

All those houses, cars, and televisions, they said, didn’t make a bit of difference to people’s levels of happiness, and so none of them was worthwhile. It was time to repeal the existing economic order and replace it with something far more progressive.

But recent data challenge this long-held belief. It turns out that there are ways that people can spend their money to make them happier, and it’s caused a bit of a stir.

Have you stopped to think about why some of the biggest names in business have signed The Giving Pledge? It’s not just because they’re all philanthropists at heart – although some of them are. It’s got more to do with the fact that giving makes people feel good.

It’s nice not only to be somebody with all those extra financial resources to give but also to see the effects of one’s own giving in real communities.

Bill Gates and Elon Musk have both said that they’re willing to be a part of it, and with their support, The Giving Pledge may attract more than $600 billion, or about the annual budget of a country like South Korea.

Giving and benefit loans seem to have a different effect on happiness than personal acquisition. And the amounts given don’t have to be large to produce a substantial impact. Just a small sum – $5 per day – was shown in some studies to cause the release of happy hormones at elevated levels for over 24 hours.

Employers now realise that they can use giving to increase happiness in the workplace. Managers at Google, for instance, have begun a scheme which allows employees to nominate others to receive a bonus of $150. It’s not a lot of money for the average Google employee, but it’s emotionally significant: it feels very different recommending another person for a bonus than it does asking for one yourself. It allows employees to personally thank members of their team for a job well done.

Giving isn’t the only way to “spend” money to make oneself happy. Research shows that people who spend on experiences tend to have happier lives than those who want stuff. Why this is the case can be a little tricky to unpack, but it’s mostly because of the motivations behind the spending.

People buy things because they want to stand out. A lot of expenditure on designer clothing and accessories is narcissistic. Experience, on the other hand, is more about wanting to enjoy everything that life has to offer.

As research continues, it will hopefully begin to explain why money can sometimes buy happiness but doesn’t always do so. A lot of it has to do with the personality of the individual, rather than the money itself, with some people seeing far more benefits from wealth than others. If you were wealthy, do you think that you could buy happiness?

Image Credit: fauxto_digit

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