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Why Money Will Make You Happier…

by Mark Ferguson on March 16, 2014 · 51 comments

  
Money CAN make you happy

There have been a lot of discussions about lately on the Bigger Pockets Blog.  Money is one of my favorite subjects, so I thought I would explain why I think money is one of the most important things and why I think it will make you happy.  Having money allows you to have more time, have better relationships and do what you love.

I wrote about how much money you need to be “rich” and if it is worth it here.

What about family, health and the other things in life?

One could argue family and health are the important things in life.  I could not disagree with you, because I hold my family and my health at the top of my list as well.  However, money allows everything else in your life to be better including relationships.  A lack of money in someone’s life can lead to major problems no matter how strong a relationship is.  A lack of money can severely limit your options to keep yourself healthy.  A lack of money can limit your ability to have time for your family, to take care of yourself or to do what you love.  We can tell ourselves money is not important, but the fact is money allows us to live a better life, be healthier, spend more time with our families and be happier.

What about the studies that show rich people are not happy?

In the 1970′s Richard Easterlin, a professor declared that once basic needs are met, people do not become happier with more money.  This idea became known as the Easterlin affect and many people held the belief that rich people were not happier than the rest of us.  A new study recently came out, that states rich people are happier then people with less money.  The study also declared that there is no threshold for when happiness levels off, the richer you are the happier you are.  The study found that the more money you have, the better you feel about your life and the better you feel in general.

If you think rich people are not happy, then look at people you actually know.  Do you know any wealthy people? I am not talking about people who have a lot of fancy stuff.  Many times those people are not actually wealthy, but are living beyond their means.  I am talking about the people who have enough money that they wouldn’t have to work and could live the same lifestyle they do now for the rest of their lives.  I know a few people in that position and I can tell you they appear very happy and they are also extremely giving.  It may be that people have the perception that the rich are not happy because they look at the people trying to appear rich when they really are not.  They are maxing out their credit, living pay check to pay check and not saving money.  Those people are not happy because a lack of money is causing stress, they know one false step could bring it all down.

Money allows for better relationships

Family is one of the most important things in life, in fact it may be the most important thing in life.  The reason I argue that money may be more important is because money can improve relationships.  The fact is: couples argue about money the most, according to this survey.  If you have money and a lot of it, then the chances are you will not be arguing about money with your spouse or family.  The most common arguments involving money are over needs vs. wants, unexpected expenses and insufficient savings.

Money also gives us more options for our family.  College is expensive, vacations are expensive, visiting relatives is expensive, children are expensive, life is expensive.  If you have enough money you can help your children attend whatever college they want to… Whether it is a good idea to pay for all your kids expenses is another argument.  You can take your family on vacation or to see their grandparents twice a year.

Money gives you more time

Time is something we would all love more of, but what is the thing that we spend the most time on?  Work.  Americans work a lot. In fact, in the U.S, 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.  People can argue that people are working so much to try to make more money to get ahead in life.  People may believe working long hours is how to get ahead, but that does not mean working longer hours is the answer to making a lot of money.  We have limited time and working for an hourly wage is rarely the way to making a lot of money that will allow the freedom we all desire.

The truly wealthy do not work hourly, they own businesses and let other people make money for them.  Investing in real estate is a great way to build an income stream that takes little of our own time.  I wrote about how to become more successful by delegating and hiring people to help you here.  To make a lot of money, you don’t have to work yourself to death and sacrifice your relationships.

If we had all the money we needed, then we could spend our days however we wanted.  We could spend it with our family, with our friends, on vacation, building a business, donating to charities or giving our time to help others.

Money can bring you better health

Health care is expensive and health insurance is expensive.  If you have ever visited the emergency room you know how expensive it is.  Even with health insurance, the costs are not all covered.  A major accident or illness can cost tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  People can be completely wiped out by health care costs if they don’t have enough money saved up.  Some medical procedures also may not be considered vital to someones health, but improve their health considerably.  If the person does not have the money to pay for the procedure they are out of luck.

Money also gives you more time to work out, more money to buy healthy food and money to join a gym or buy exercise equipment.

What really is the most important thing?

Okay, so maybe family is the most important thing, but money will make everything in our lives better if we use it wisely.  Money allows us to have more time for our family, more opportunities to give to our family, more options for our family and reduces stress and arguments.  If your only goal in life is to make as much money as possible without regard to your family then you probably won’t be happy.  But if you use your money to buy more time, help others and help your family then it can be a wonderful thing.

FYI, if I am slow responding to comments I will be in Mexico on the beach this week. :)

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad March 16, 2014 at 5:58 am

If money can fix the problem then its not that big of a problem. Enjoy your trip.

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

Brad, I haven’t left yet and luckily they published my article early so I could respond.
I think the sad fact is having more money gives you more options especially health wise. Consider someone diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. If they have more money they have a better chance of surviving and taking care of their family.

1. If you don’t have money you may not have health insurance or be unwilling to visit a doctor due to cost. They also might not have routine tests done every year that could catch the cancer.
2. If I ever get sick I want the absolute best place in the world to fix me and I want the time to research where that place is. Chances are that place is my your local hospital and it will cost money to travel and stop working. If you don’t have money you may be forced to work as long as possible and not deal treatment right away.
3. The best place in the world is going to be expensive. They may offer free are for those who can’t pay or they may not.
4. Medicine is extremely expensive and being able to afford the best is going to be a huge advantage.
5. If it were someone else in one’s family that got sick then money would give them better treatment as well. Even if it was someone in your extended family or a friend you could help get them the best treatment or take care of their family with money.
6. The fact is the more money you have more options.

Another thing to consider is legal fees if you or someone you love needs a good lawyer. Ever notice how the rich can buy the best attorneys?

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Brad Boone March 16, 2014 at 7:40 am

Mark, just pointing out a lot of people stress about things money can change and like you said if you have money you can fix a lot of things.

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Ben Leybovich March 16, 2014 at 8:35 am

Brad – I totally agree. I don’t think that Mark has ever met a problem yet that could not be fixed with money – A REAL PROBLEM!

God Bless Mark – I hope you never do my friend!

Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:17 am

Ben, I never said money can fix everything. It certainly helps to have money no matter what issue you are facing. It makes everything easier. I will share a personal issue. As you know I have twins. Without money I would not have kids, because we had to pay for invitro out of pocket. It was almost $50,000 for the process. Our insurance did not cover it because my wife had a pre existing condition. I guarantee no insurance would issue new insurance covering it.

Doug Merriott March 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

Awesome post Mark! I feel the same way. My goal is $75k/year in passive income. Is this a lot of money? No, but it will be plenty for my family to live the life we want. That is my definition of wealth.

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:18 am

Thank you Doug!

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Sharon Tzib March 16, 2014 at 7:03 am

“For the prosperous, it’s not about getting more stuff. It’s about having the freedom to make almost any decision you want.” ― T. Harv Eker

The conversations I’ve seen lately revolve more around how you get the money you have – is it earned, passive or portfolio income – not whether if you have it are you happy. But I can say that in my life, the more of it I have, the happier I am :)

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:19 am

Same with me Sharon! I love Harv.

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Adrian Tilley March 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

I will agree and disagree. I think more money does make life easier, to an extent. In that way it can buy happiness because it relieves you from stress. I think that there are dramatically diminishing returns though, once you reach some point. In part it depends on what you want to do with your life, and it depends on a decision anyone can make. You can decide to be happy with what you have, grateful for the money/income that you make. Sounds strange, but you really can make decisions like this.
There’s a blog of a local guy whose family of 3 lives on about $30k/year. He lives pretty well. I’ve realized that the things I love to do (backpacking, triathlon, among others) don’t require that much income. I don’t need to drive a Ferrari to be happy. If I won powerball, then sure I’d have several nice cars and a big house. I’m not sure that would make me any happier in the long run than I am now though.

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

Adrian, I am not saying you can’t be happy without money, but it sure helps. I think you are referring to mr money mustache. I know his blog well. There is one huge difference with him. He has a lot Of money! He chooses to live one much less. There is a huge difference between having a lot of money and choosing to spend less and having very little money and having to live on less. If something happened to mmm and he needed money he has it, there is no stress.

I also think people have different interests. We’re not all the same. He an get away with cheap activities because he loves them. Other people love more costly things.

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Adrian Tilley March 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

That’s true, but he got where he is by deciding he doesn’t need lots of “stuff” and living on a lot less from the beginning. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I think he’s onto something when he says that people are driven to desire “stuff” by advertising and society. You only “need” a lot of money to be happy if you decide that you need a lot of expensive stuff. If you decide you much have filet and $300 wine for dinner every night and must own 10 Ferraris to be happy, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm

This is how I used to think as well. I told myself I didn’t need expensive cars or a nice house. I told myself those things because I never thought I could actually get them. Then I started letting myself want what I naturally wanted in life. Some people want cars, others don’t care about them, some want fancy houses, some want to hike or live on the beach. We are all different and want different things. I personally think you are cheating yourself if you don’t be honest with yourself and express what you really want even if some people may think you are a snob or want too much. We only live one life and damn if I’m not going to go after everything I can.

It’s funny, but once I decided to stop masking what I really wanted; my income shot up, my believe went up and I am much happier.

Dave Tanner March 16, 2014 at 8:06 am

Mark,
Thanks for being honest. I respectfully think you got it all wrong though. If you think more money will give you a more fulfilled life, I strongly disagree (unless you live in your car, which you don’t). Mark, If your heart is to donate or volunteer time/services you can do that at any income level. Have your family help 1 night/mo at the food bank, etc. Engage in a % based giving, start now. Want to be in good shape? Don’t buy a $4000 elliptical, be active – walk, run, bike, eat smarter. Want great relationships? Nurture them. If you’re not doing these things now, why would you if you had more money? The list goes on. I’ll admit that money helps with college, healthcare, and travel to some degree. However, sending a spoiled kid to the best college just gives you a college educated spoiled kid! The real value is the kids heart, (who they are), not financial status. Steve Job’s money couldn’t save him from cancer, it might not save you either, accept that. My families travels “on the cheap” have been some of our best trips for sure.

The key is to realize that you have a great life already, enjoy it now, while working toward your goals of passive income etc.

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Sharon J. Gilman March 16, 2014 at 8:52 am

Dave,

While you do make valid points, I feel like there is a part of this article that you missed out on. I do not know you, and I don’t mean any disrespect, but I just feel, based on your comment, that you’ve never been poor before.

I have lived paycheck to paycheck since I left college because I had no direction in my life, didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took jobs that were available, hoping I could make them into a career, to no avail. Although I’m now, finally, on the right track and know what I”m doing, I am still in a transition period of living paycheck-to-paycheck, usually broke by Wednesday or Thursday.
When you only earn $800/month and $500 of that goes to rent, there is very little left over for gas and food. Beyond that, there is no money for anything. I can barely save. So now, with expenses such as car registration and the need for new tires, I am stressed out. I can only hope I don’t pop a tire while I’m driving. I definitely don’t have AAA. I haven’t had any kind of health or medical insurance for years. I’m thankful I’ve not needed it. I have so much debt that I cannot tackle with the measly earnings that I have. My bills out-weigh my income, and I’ve lived like that for a long time.

The point of this article is not to say that having more money and being able to buy expensive stuff with it is going to make you happier. Having money is essential. And with enough of it, you will live life with less stress. And that alone can make you healthier and happier.

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Dave Tanner March 16, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Sharon,
My comment was targeted at Mark and general population of Bigger Pockets who own investment property. In your case money will absolutely fix some things. Once you get to the point of having your basics covered, bills paid on time, dependable car, things you need etc. you should be about as happy and fulfilled as someone who earns double your income. If you think I’ve lived a privileged life, I did not. If I wanted anything in life I earned money and bought it myself. At age 11 I mowed yards (10 of them), raked leaves, and shoveled snow. At 15 1/2 I got a work permit and worked in restaurants. My senior yr of high school I went to school 1/2 day and worked 3 part time jobs, one was night shift! I hustled. Unless you have a disability or limitations I don’t know why you are only making 800/mo.

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Sharon J. Gilman March 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Dave,
I understand you comment, now that I realize who you were targeting it towards. I’m impressed with your work ethic at such a young age. Hopefully when I have kids, I’ll be able to teach them that as well.

I’m earning so little at this point because I chose to go back to school full time, and I’m working a few contractors jobs, such as teaching dance, when I can find the work. My plan is that once I get a ‘real’ full-time job, I’ll be able to put some of my investment plans in action.

Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:25 am

I agree Dave! I have a great life now and I do donate and give as much as possible. I am also lucky that I make a good living as well. My argument is not that you can’t do those thins without money, but that you can do much more with more money. Money didn’t saw Steve Jobs, but how many others has it saved?

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Mehran Kamari March 16, 2014 at 8:37 am

GREAT article Mark! I couldn’t agree more with you on this. It’s quite sad to see people “justify” their inaction/lack of motivation by citing the whole greed/rich people being unhappy debate. I’ll most likely be linking people (even non real estate investors) to your post for years to come.

I can tell you’ve read The Millionaire Next Door! Awesome book :) Keep em coming!

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 9:32 am

Exactly! Many people fail to see how many limitations they put on them self.

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Adrian Tilley March 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

Mehran,
I’m not sure anyone really argues that rich people are unhappy. I think the debate is over whether you are substantially happier at $500k/year than $200k/year.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

I think 500k versus 200k can make you happier. You an invest more for one thing and create passive income much more quickly and be able to retire early if needed.

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Jimmy Moncrief March 16, 2014 at 10:09 am

I’m a Scotsman – and we have a saying: Scotch cures everything.

I guess this ties into money since good Scotch is a great thing!

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Mark Ferguson March 19, 2014 at 7:52 am

Jimmy, Scotch, Scotch, Scotch. Scotch into my belly. I love scotch. Sorry for the obscure anchor man(Ron burgundy) reference, but that’s what came to mind.

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Sharon Vornholt March 16, 2014 at 10:32 am

Mark -

Money allows you to pursue options. It can’t change a lot of things, but it sure makes everything easier to deal with when you don’t have to worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table. Great post.

Sharon

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

Great comment Sharon. If you have to work all day long to make ends meet, it leaves little time to pursue what really makes you happy or spend enough time with your family.

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Paul March 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

I believe that in general people who are struggling financially tend to be less happy than those who have enough money to not have to work. Having to struggle to pay bills can be very stressful and I could see how this could reduce one’s happiness.

I don’t understand how someone that has enough money (so they don’t have to work) could become happier with more money. If Warren Buffet’s net worth were 1/4 of what it is today would he be less happy? I would guess not.

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Mark Ferguson March 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Paul, I think once you reach that amount of wealth is about giving away money and not using it for yourself. The more money you make, the more you can give away.

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Ang March 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

Thanks for sharing your personal story I think that hits the nail on the head!!!

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thank you Ang.

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Zach Z March 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I believe there is a threshold and returns diminish… for some people. It all depends on the person’s outlook.

If a person wants money above the threshold as a status symbol, they will have diminishing returns. Every new dollar will fuel the competition to earn more money. They will never see true satisfaction.

If a person wants money above the threshold to reach a certain number for security, they will increase their returns as they move closer to their goal. Everything above will be meaningless to them because they already reached their goal.

The key? Do you see money as a tool for freedom or do you see money as a contest?

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

Zach, great comment. Although I see benefits of competition because it helps drive people to do more. The difficult part is leaving that competitive nature once you reach a certain point or when you want to take time off and enjoy the grits of your labor. In some cases I think the competition and game to make more money is also very fulfilling to some people. To have that challenge and goals creates excitement and makes life more interesting.

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IJ March 16, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Mark,

I have heard that money makes one comfortable while miserable. Though money cannot buy happiness, I certainly want to be comfortable whenever I feel miserable. It would really suck to be poor and miserable at the same time. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

IJ

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

Thank you IJ, I like that idea as well!

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Kyle Hipp March 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I believe that wealth makes you more of what you already are. If you are a jerk, having lots of money allows you to be a jerk on a larger scale. If you are a generous person, having lots of money allows you to be generous on a lsrger scale. If you are wealthy but are an employee for someone else them you hold a lot more leverage as well as potential. You are there because you want to be and that is a very powerful thing.

I do not consider myself wealthy but I am not hurting. I could probably stop any further investing and let my properties pay themselves off and continue at my current job and probably even retire in my late 50s. I however don’t want that. I want to retire by 40 (retire from employment, be in real estate fulltime). I want to be able to take my son places I have never been. I want to be able to provide the finer things in life for my wife who is right there with me day in and day our putting in the long hours. I want to be able to help more families have a great place to live. I want to improve more neighborhoods. I want to be a customer to more stores. It would bother me if I had the means and opportunity to fix up a house down the road but chose not to because I was content where I was financially. I just want to be more of what I already am because I am happy with who I am and that trajectory leads to more wealth as well.

Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-proxuct of providing a useful service. – Henry Ford

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Dave Tanner March 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Kyle
“I believe that wealth makes you more of what you already are”. Priceless comment. That’s what I was trying to say, but you said it perfectly.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

Awesome comment Kyle! I agree that all the money in the world will not make some people happy.

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Jason R March 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Well said, Kyle.

I was going to say it like…you are confusing the cause and effect, Mark. In other words, successfully pursuing your passion (real estate perhaps?) is the happiness. Money is the effect not the cause.

Broke, unhappy people have no passion or work ethic. (They will, of course, tell you differently.) Please note, I firmly know that you can be broke and happy, and you can be rich and unhappy. Money has no effect on your happiness unless you choose to let money effect your happiness. This is a choice I struggle with personally btw. I think my struggle comes from a lack passion about my work. I like it, and I am good at it. It pays me handsomely, but I don’t get fired up to get it done. (Should tell me something, eh?)

Creating wealth is simply a by product of giving enough people what they want/need.

I wish I could know you for the next couple of decades, Mark. I think it would be interesting to watch how your perspective and priorities change. I know mine have over time; I can’t wait to see how they change as I grow into an old man. :)

Again, well said, Kyle.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I see what you are saying, but doesn’t money give someone more opportunity to pursue their passion or discover it? Many people get stuck in the grind because they are scared of losing the security of a job and they don’t want to risk going after their passion. Having more money makes it less risky.

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Ryan Ebanks March 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

This is tough one… Our view of money is a function of our socialization, cultures and experiences which filters our perspective on what is important and what is not. This has been a debate for a long time and while many folks are impervious to reason, the most mature position is what Sharon Vornholt states – money provides space for the pursuit of options…

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:40 am

Very true Ryan, I think people get caught up in the idea that money does not make us who we are. The fact is money makes it easier to be who we are.

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Frank Iglesias March 17, 2014 at 9:19 am

I think money is important, but we have to remember thats important to live a balance life.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

Very true frank. I think the rich that are unhappy are that way because they don’t have family or neglect it.

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Adrian Tilley March 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

This post is obviously a conversation starter, but I’m not sure there’s much debate to be had. I think we can all agree that:

1) Having some base amount of income per year that allows us to pay basic bills will lower stress/raise happiness (ie, it’s tough to make it on $10k/year).

2) Having lots of money doesn’t “make” you happy any more than having a little “makes” you unhappy. There are a lot of other factors.

3) If Bill Gates called and wanted to write us a check, we would prefer more rather than less.

4) If there is a happiness difference between a person making $1m/year and a person making $10b/year, it’s probably not because of the money. There are dramatically diminishing returns at some point.

I think the individual has a lot of control over where those diminishing returns are. If you’re making $300k/year, you only don’t have “enough” if you’ve decided that you require very, very expensive stuff. Just my $.02.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

Adrian, I would disagree. I think your points may be valid for some people but not all. I think we all have different tastes and different ideas of what we want. That may have been ingrained in us when we were young. I love cars, the cars I love happen to be very expensive. At 100k a year I can’t afford those cars, but at a million I could.

There are many examples like that. I am not saying you can’t be happy with less money, but having more money gives you more opportunity. When you have a family everything becomes expensive. Going to Disneyland for a family of four requires a loan for many people. For many people it is never a possibility. Money allows you to be able to go to Disney, or stay in an ocean front hotel room or beach house. Believe me there is a huge difference between ocean front and a garden view. Will a garden view be okay? Yes, but an ocean front is awesome and will always be remembered.

Another factor is cost of living. Living on a 100k in San Francisco can be tough. Living on 100k in Greeley Colorado is a little different.

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Adrian Tilley March 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I agree with you that more money = more opportunities/possibilities, but that does not necessarily = happiness. If the ONLY way a person can be happy is to own 10 Ferraris, something is wrong with them. I don’t think that’s the case with many people. I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was 3. I’ll take the kids sometime soon, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. That only means happiness if someone decides it does.

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Mark Ferguson March 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Adrian, I am not saying money is the only thing that brings happiness. I am saying it makes you happier. There is a big difference. People can be poor and happy, but I think the percentages show there is a better chance of being happy if you have money. One of my goals is to buy a lamborghini diablo. If I don’t ever buy one, will it ruin my life? No. But it will be fun chasing it and awesome if I get one. I won’t ever buy one unless I am in an incredible financial position. You bet reaching that goal and buying that at will make me happy. It makes me happy just thinking about it.

Shaun March 18, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Great article Mark.
I really think that all the people that are arguing with you are not seeing your actual point. I completely get you point about money providing opportunity and choices.

As long as we don’t do the typical American mistake of having our lifestyle expand to meet up with any increase in out income more money usually will bring less stress and more happiness. If you don’t use the extra money to reduce stress and start to buy security then you will just keeping living (bigger) paycheck to (bigger) paycheck just with more expensive crap.

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Mark Ferguson March 19, 2014 at 7:59 am

Thank you Shaun! That is exactly what I am saying. Many people have deep seeded beliefs about money and I think those beliefs get confused with what I am saying. People are taught money causes problems, simple life is a happy life, money cant buy happiness, etc.

When it comes down to it, money doesn’t cause the problems a misuse and over spending of money causes problems. If you look at many truly wealthy people; not the high leveraged no savings people with all the stuff, but the truly wealthy. They saved and invested and didn’t buy fancy stuff until they had made it. Once they made it they are able to do whatever they want in life that makes them happy. Most find giving huge amounts of money to charity makes them happiest.

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wave March 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Greta points Mark. I would rather be unhappy with money, than unhappy without it.

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Mark Ferguson March 24, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Me too!

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