Money: how much should we strive for it to become happy?

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  • James says:

    Thanks for the link, Nick!

    The Buddha acknowledged the need for the basics–food, shelter, medical care (and to this, we might add education). He also understood the difference between need and want, the latter of which is often at the very root of our troubles. There seems to be plenty of evidence to support this view: Contemporary studies on the topic tell us that it’s true that money makes us happy, as you point out, because with it we can meet our basic needs. Beyond the basics, though, money ceases to be a reliable measure for happiness.

    That doesn’t mean money’s bad, of course, and I agree–it’s a double-edged sword.

    We ran a section on happiness (“The Happiness Craze”)–maybe I should make it publicly available, but it’s late now and I have to be in the office early.

    I enjoyed reading the post!


  • [...] The more we can pre-live the future moment (or “emotionally model it in our brains”), the higher the expectations can be, and the higher the potential disappointment Our capability to pre-live future happenings is different from event to event, which therefore also has an impact on what we “emotionally expect” from it, and thereby the implications on happiness are different.    For example, “taste” is one of the dimensions which is not easy to pre-live. On an intellectual level, you can expect a lot from a restaurant you are visiting where you’ve heard they serve good food, and therefore can also be disappointed if they don’t, but the emotional letdown is limited, because you couldn’t pre-live the experience authentically beforehand. On the other side, there are events that you can picture very strongly, and might even be a victim of incorrect or overblown, vivid expectations. A classic example is a holiday. We tend to remember the positive peaks of our last holidays, which we can re-live very well (by remembering of how great it was), and therefore run the risk of expecting it for future holidays as well, which may make the holiday not as enjoyable as it could have been.Another example is wealth. We can picture very well of what it would be like to be very wealthy (we tend to focus on the positive, thinking of all the things we could afford which we couldn’t in the past, leading to positive emotions), therefore the letdown can be very high when we realize it’s not as good as we imagined it to be (also see “Money: how much should we strive for it to become happy?”). [...]

  • John says:

    To me the biggest negative about money is that earning it takes a lot of time and effort. So to consider how much good it is doing you, you need to think about the opportunity cost, that is, what are you giving up to get it? Not to mention that the job that would may you the most is not necessarily the one you would enjoy the most. As I said over on my blog, the thing that correlates most strongly with happiness is having lots friends, or more generally having strong connections with other people. If working your way up the corporate ladder takes time away from maintaining friendships, then it will probably be a loss no matter how much money you earn.

  • Mukund says:


    I liked your analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of money in trying to get us happiness. I do, however, strongly feel that trying to have suggest that there is a one-to-one correspondence between money and happiness is a bit simplistic. There are a number of factors that bring us happiness: Stable relationships and love, purpose and meaning in life, leisure to pursue our interests, intellectual stimulation through work and challenges, social status, ability to bring comfort and happiness to others, etc. Unless we realize and understand all the levers that control happiness, and the extent to which they need to be shifted to attain the right amount of happiness, we might be completely miss the picture. For many, money might have little impact on happiness. So to make it a goal and pursue it might be a waste of time if they are not able to find, for example, love and affection that they are seeking.

    My conclusion, is that we should first understand what are the various factors that will give us happiness. And then, we need to see how many of these factors can be positively influenced with money and wealth.

    I enjoy your blog and hope you are your readers find mine interesting, too:

    Happy Blogging,

  • Nick says:

    Hi Mukund,

    thank you for the good points!

    I fully agree, a lot of other things can have impact on our happiness as well; I was planning to compile a “long list” of all possible factors (it will really be a long list!) but that may take a bit of time…

    Just had a look at your blog, I very much enjoyed reading your posts! And I fully agree with your blog’s premise: Happiness can indeed be found in the most ordinary of things. It would be interesting to analyze in which situations we are capable to find joy in simple things, and what to do in order to be more often in the required “mental state” to enjoy them.

    Thanks again,


  • [...] and/or because they believe that significant wealth would solve all their problems (which is questionable). The latter perception may be because they only see the advantages of being significantly wealthy [...]

  • hansuke says:

    Hi Nick.

    Thanks for reading my post. I didn’t really espect for anyone to read it.

    Well, your post is very good and well detailed and I thought that you have put a great deal of effort of defining Happiness in a scientific way as you have decribe to me earlier.

    I do agree to a certain level that money do give hapiness to someone who is wealthy but I also believe that at a certain point in life they tend to feel that there are something missing from all the richness they have and maybe some also feel that something is just not quite right. They tend to seek the lack of hapiness in them although with tones of money which can be spent to gain hapiness.

    People live in a different environment and with different views in life. I’m pretty sure that ‘filty rich people’ anywhere in the world are totally enjoying themselves in this short life. But to some of them maybe being rich is just pure emptiness.

    Being said that, I believed that in order to be happy in life is to have faith in your religion and towards God you believe in. No matter how rich you become but without knowing your God or your religion is just pure emptiness. Simply for some people money is not everything as there are other factors that can make you happy such religion, love and effections, meaning towards life and the list goes on. That’s what I believe anyway..:D

    Thanks for sharing your article and I hope you would produce more great article in the future.


  • Helen says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. The relationahip between money and happiness is very interesting to me. I think we tend to either worship or demonize money in our society in ways that are far too simplistic. As I mentioned in my post, I believe the ability to buy experiences probably brings more lasting happiness than material items. I really appreciated your point about the impact of delayed gratification. When we do purchase something we’ve saved for or wished for for a long time, it is almost always much more likely to bring joy than an impulse purchase.

  • [...] Another effect to mention in this context (which I believe is considerably less strong than those mentioned above) is: if our peers earn or possess more, we see more clearly what more wealth would bring us, as it is closer to our lives and therefore closer to our reality (which may cause us to feel envy, as it is so close, yet so far…). This may be due to the fact that we are inclined to only see the advantages that come along with money, which is not the full story (see Money: How Much Should We Strive For it to Be Happy?). [...]

  • Good stuff Nick… it is easy to jump straight to the conclusion that more is better when it comes to money and how we obtain the money is almost an after thought. I appreciate the stance you take in comparing the advantages as well as the disadvantages of wealth relative to happiness. And I especially appreciate your treatment of the proces of obtaining wealth… that the path to one’s goal is much more rewarding and character building than the actual destination. If we earn a $1million savings balance we will inherently feel different about it and more fulfilled by it that if we were simply handed the money. The trip itself is part of the preparation process whereas instant arrival is somewhat deflatting… not that I’d reject the check.

    Thanks for fnding my site and commenting on my recent article on the topic of money and happiness. I look forward to reading your work again.


  • Rizal Affif says:

    Hi Nick :)

    I followed you here through the link you provided me on my blog :) After reading your post, I realize we view the connection of money and happiness from different point of view. I drew my conclusion from personal spiritual experience and contemplation; that eventually, on deepest level of human nature, money (and any external objects beyond ourselves) is completely unrelated to true and profound happiness. On the other hand, I see you wrote on objective-analytical basis; and eventually you could map the detail connection between money and happiness on the level of practical human experience. So, I guess it’s just natural if we don’t come up with the same conclusion :D

    Anyway, I highly appreciate your work as I believe it involves serious data analysis–it’s an article at a price of a research! :D I also admire your neutral stance that you concluded money could correlate both positively and negatively with happiness. I myself would highly recommend your blog to those who want to know concrete-practical aspects of happiness (as opposed to abstract-fundamental understanding I offered).

    May I recommend you another source? My friend C. Om shared similar view with me on connection between money and happiness, but he wrote in more down-to-earth explanation :D You might find several of his posts interesting. His blog is I hope it is useful to your further research :)

    Regards, Rizal

  • cyberfish says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for visiting my blog! My “discussion” on money vs happiness was just a joke :) a gross over-simplification at best. I wrote it right after my math final on differential equations.

    I agree with your comprehensive analysis, and I can personally relate to quite a few of your points.

    I read an article a while ago about materialism vs consumerism, and I thought that was pretty interesting. The author argues that our society is not materialistic, but consumeristic. People in a materialistic society would cherish what they have, and would find satisfaction in owning things. That’s not quite what’s happening in our western world. We keep buying more and more things, get the adrenaline rush from unwrapping them, play with them for a few minutes, and leave them aside or throw them away. So it’s about buying stuff, and not owning them. This is quite apparent around this time of the year.

    I really appreciate your in-depth thoughts on this subject, as I have not devoted as much time to it myself, and your post cleared up many things I would like to think about, if that makes sense :).

  • Sina says:

    Hi Nick

    Thank you very much for your interesting comment, which I added to my New Year’s wishes. As well I added your link to support your blog. In the next days I will hopefully find some quiet time to read carefully your theory and leave my comment!

    You can’t buy happiness with money, it’s something inside of you to lead to happiness!

    From the bottom of my heart, all my best for the coming year ;o))


  • C.V.Rajan says:

    Again another good analysis from you.

    Incidentally, I too have an article in this subject at Helium. Please drop in:


  • Daddy Paul says:

    Good read. If money could buy happiness the New York Yankees would be full of happy players. Just imagine how happy Washington DC would be.

  • Vishal says:

    Hi Nick, thanks for sharing and a wonderful attempt to spread happiness.

    I wish you luck in the endeavor finding happiness.

    I have defined “happiness as state of equilibrium of mind and soul, by self choice and beliefs.”

    No one can make you happy or sad, its all within you. I don’t think I can make anyone happy except myself – others will have to make the same attempt to be happy. Although you can give pleasures to someone but those needs to be repeated and will eventually become a work for you.. Seeking happiness is matter of “no effort” – you don’t have to do anything to be happy. It is a beautiful- but you have to know your own self well… You may have to work on listening to self and being self…that is a journey of self discovery and one must take that to realize that “life is beautifully twisted”

    I have made a concept of Globezen – its a concept of ‘Way of life” you can read it – see if make sense. its twisted
    Please feel free to visit

  • Rochkirstin says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for visiting my page and commenting on my post, which led me to gaining new insights from reading yours.

    My hat’s off to your comprehensive analysis and brilliant thoughts! More power to your blog. I wish you more happiness.

    By the way, I have another article regarding happiness. Feel free to read it by clicking here. :)



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