More Money, More Problems?


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Be Happy.

The age-old question: How much money do you need to be happy? Okay, okay, maybe it isn’t quite an age-old question, but it is one that I’ve heard over and over again in my twenty-something years of life. And then there’s that other saying Money doesn’t buy happiness. So which is it? I’ve read about studies that measure the happiest income bracket. And apparently (or so says this Forbes article), everyone’s ultimate happiness can be found somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000. I don’t believe that for a second.

Sure, money dictates our happiness to a certain degree since it means we can or can’t have the necessities for life: food, water, shelter. And then maybe a little more money helps give us the comforts of home: indoor plumbing, electricity, TV, an endless supply of Starburst jelly beans (what?). But after that, I think happiness is all about attitude.

I mean, how many unhappy rich people have you known? Or as Daniel Tosh put it, “Have you ever seen a sad person on a waverunner?” I’ve known quite a few unhappy rich folks. I’ve also known some very happy rich people. It seems happiness and sadness can be found across the spectrum of income brackets.

And yet, despite knowing this, we’re all always seeking that elusive higher income. “If we just have this much, then we can finally do this.” Or, “If we just have this much, life will be so much easier.” (aka, happier). Johnny and I have been guilty of it. Yesirree. Every time we seek out a new job, at least 50% of the consideration is the salary. Because, you know, it’s the salary that will make us happiest, not what we’re actually doing for 40 hours a week each and every week. KWIM? First and last time I use that acronym, btw.

Don’t get me wrong. Making money IS important. I was reminded of that fact when Johnny’s income temporarily disappeared in May. It hit me like a ton of bricks: Wow, money’s kind of a big deal. Hmph. 

But does it make us happier? Or is it our state of mind telling us it does?

Johnny and I justify seeking after more money by saying it will help us with our future. If we make X amount and are thus able to save Y amount, then we will have Z amount 30 years from now. And that will mean being able to retire, travel, visit grandchildren, become that orange, leathery looking older woman at the beach (you know the one I’m talking about).

But then there’s YOLO. For those of you who don’t follow the trends of juvenile young adults and high schoolers (like me, apparently), that stands for “You only live once.” Are Johnny and I giving up all kinds of happiness during the best years of our life with the daily grind, all in the name of being responsible and making more money so we can save a few bucks? I’d like to think not.

I think having something to work toward does make us happy. And it helps us appreciate the moments when we do finally get to sit back, watch a sunset, knit a blanket, or whatever it is carefree people do. But the key is finding happiness in the journey instead of thinking that happiness will only come once we’ve reached a certain income point.

And one more thing. I think money starts to make people unhappy when they rely on it for their happiness — or what they deem as such. In other words, finding happiness in things — the coolest car in the neighborhood, the most expensive home, clothing, stroller (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not), etc. Things will never make us happy.

So let’s recap.

  1. Money is necessary for happiness to a degree.
  2. Trying to make more money is fine and dandy, as long as it’s not what’s dictating your happiness.
  3. Things no equal happiness.

Johnny and I are happy. But we’ll always be working toward more money because it’s who we are. But we’re happy with the money we have and don’t have right now in this moment. Because life isn’t all about money. Life is about being happy. KWIM?

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20 Comments

  • Reply Sabrina @WorkItMsJackson August 27, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I totally agree with you. We use to be a two income family but in February I lost my job and am still without, but what I have come to realize is that the extra income didn’t make any of us in our house happier. Don’t get me wrong the additional income is huge in making our finances a little less stressful and would allow us to save more, but it didn’t make us any happier having more.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:26 am

      I’m sorry to hear you lost your job, Sabrina. It’s great that you’ve taken the opportunity to see that you can be just as happy without it. It shows you’ve got a great attitude! Best of luck in the job search!

  • Reply Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle August 27, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I have been skipping out on fun to pay down debt but YOLO and I need to get out there and experience more because you just never know…..

    I need to figure out how to make more money and how to have more of a frugal social life and I will be happier. There must be an amount that people make that will allow them to fulfill all of their living and savings goals and I am pretty sure I make less than that.

  • Reply Insourcelife August 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Money does not make me happy, but enough money will provide financial independence and freedom to do what I want with my time and that DOES make me happy. It’s a balancing act to get to that “enough money” crossover point though. I agree about living in the present and being happy now – concentrating too much on the future can rob you of being happy today.

  • Reply Mrs Pop August 27, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Some of the richest people I know (and thy are quite wealthy) actually have a good deal of anxiety in their lives. The more things you have, the more things you have to worry about, “KWIM”? =)

  • Reply Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild August 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

    It took me a second to figure out what “KWIM” was. Hi my name is Erin and I’m an old woman at 24…

    I am trying to focus on making the journey happy :). After working in a job I absolutely despised, I want to try to make a good income doing something I actually enjoy. Financial security and loving my day-to-day? That sounds like happiness to me!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:29 am

      Haha, I actually had to ask Johnny what it’s called when you shorten a phrase by capitalizing all the first letters. Hi, I’m Joanna, and I couldn’t remember the word “acronym.”

      Good luck in finding the balance of a good income and a job you enjoy! It’s out there somewhere!

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl August 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Sure, money makes everything easier, but I´ve gotten used to living on so limited means, and I´m a very happy person in general, so I don´t think having more money would make me more happy, only a bit less stressed perhaps.

  • Reply Amanda August 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I don’t like studies that put an arbitrary dollar amount on happiness – that number would have to be different if you’re living in NYC vs. West Virginia, married or single, 5 kids or none. The biggest thing for us is earning enough money to take care of ourselves easily – then we’re making enough. Not necessarily no worries, but few worries 😉

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:31 am

      Good point, Amanda! It really is just an arbitrary amount. And so much more goes into happiness than just money. And I agree — getting to a point where money isn’t a day-to-day stress is a great place to be!

  • Reply Michelle August 27, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I think that I would be much happier without the freaking debt! What I make would be more than enough for me to live comfortably on as a single woman. My lifestyle is great though I get to go biking, hiking, chilling out with friends/family, and traveling. I can’t wait to meet that special someone as well…I think that being happy starts inside.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:36 am

      I think you do a great job of finding happiness in the journey, Michelle! You focus on the awesome aspects of your lifestyle. And you’re working toward paying off your debt, which is also awesome. AND you have a plan, which is even awesome-er. Conclusion? You’re just awesome. :)

  • Reply Linda August 28, 2013 at 4:07 am

    An awesome reminder to not just live for the paycheck – I’m guilty of becoming too obsessed with the goal of reaching early retirement asap, when really the journey is so much more important.

    I mean, when I look back at my 20s, I don’t think “Damn, wish I had made more money!” (Well, sometimes I think, “Wish I didn’t spend so much money!”). I more often think “Damn, what did I do all those years, I really could’ve done so much more”. Like going out more with friends and having fun, meeting people and making friends. More experiences like taking a gap year overseas. I kind of spent the whole time studying for my degree, and then working like a monkey and spending a lot of time playing PC games and watching TV. Daaah….

    Well this decade I started with moving to another country, then travelled on holiday to another country, changed teams within my company twice in one year, took up mountain biking, been on several walks in the country (Even if it’s minus partner who doesn’t fancy the big outdoors). So maybe I’m making up for lost time :)

    Here’s to both saving to become more financially independent, as well as enjoying the journey along the way! 😀

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:39 am

      It sounds like you’ve definitely figured out how to find happiness in the journey, Linda! What an awesome decade you’ve had. It’s great you’ve been able to strike the balance between financial independence and enjoying the day-to-day!

  • Reply Ashleigh August 28, 2013 at 5:51 am

    I completely agree. From my experiences of living in various places from Vermont to Florida is there seems to be more stress amongst wealthy people in very affluent areas. It’s pretty much the age old “keeping up with the jones’ ” syndrome but at a much higher income level.

    As for happiness and the endless chase for more cash, everything in moderation. I become most stressed when I let finances consume me. Give yourself an hour or two a week to get down with the numbers and then get on with it :-)

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:41 am

      That’s a great way to think about it, Ashleigh. Money should never be the focus. It’s obviously important, but there’s so much more to life!

  • Reply E.M. August 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I agree with finding happiness from the journey. I also think it’s important not to rely on money or things for happiness. Sure, making more money would make things a bit easier, but you should be enjoying the time spent making that money. My bosses are probably making a boatload, but they must work at least 70-80 hours a week. That wouldn’t make me happy, no matter how many things I possessed or how much I had in the bank. Spending time with family is more important to me. It’s all about the experiences!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 1:45 am

      Agreed, E.M. All too often I see the heads of companies who are absolute workaholics, and their family lives are just completely dysfunctional or nonexistent. I’ll take family and less money any day, thanks!

  • Reply Chris August 29, 2013 at 10:38 am

    What does KWIM mean…?
    I struggle with this. When is enough, enough? I make more than most FAMILIES do around here, and I’m not satisfied. I think that the pursuit of more and more money is just another challenge for me to conquer. Maybe I’m too competetive with myself. If I made my salary for the rest of my life I would be content, not happy. Not because it’s not enough money, but because it would mean I wasn’t moving forward in life.

    Sometimes I fantasize about quitting my job and moving to a beach type place to be a bum and work as a waiter part time or something. I’m not carefree enough to do such things, but it would be an experience nonetheless.

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