Financial Fitness and your Health – Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness
Part I of a short series I plan to write –
So, I blog a lot about health and fitness. Healthy living is important. But, one thing that I have noticed and that I often think is overlooked is how financial fitness contributes to our overall sense of well-being and happiness. Thus, I have decided to write a series on financial fitness. Now, many of you will ask what my qualifications are for such an endeavor. None. I am not a financial planner. I did not study finance. I am not a banker or an accountant. However, I have had 20 years of working for our taxing authority in our fine country. More importantly, I have made every mistake imaginable when it comes to money. So, while some people come at you with a “I know better” attitude because they have had some formal training, I come at you with a “please, for the love of all that is good, listen to me because I have made every mistake imaginable” attitude.
First thing first – MONEY BUYS HAPPINESS.
We want to tell our children that money does not buy happiness. Stop trying to sell them that load of crap. I appreciate those of you that are religious and devout. I appreciate those of you that truly believe that money does not buy happiness. But seriously…it does. This is about framing. You frame the argument in such a way that it suits your needs. Check out this little article…and it really does sum up what I am saying:
Now, I am not trying to be mean to people that are classified as poor. On the contrary, I am hoping that by discussing this, some folks can turn things around. However, there are levels of poverty that are so overwhelming, that there is not much we can do about it as a society. Even more so now, when we have leadership that frowns upon handouts, helping hands, or anything that reeks of what they have labeled as socialism.
But, there are some hard truths we need to accept. Money does buy happiness. Yeah…I can see people saying that I am full of crap. Screw you, Rod…ass. And that is cool. I get it. You keep selling that horseshit to all the generations. It is cool with me. Frankly, I do not care…as I have money. And, newsflash…I AM HAPPY.
Of course, you will say things like “studies show it is not true” and thus, you find comfort in knowing that a study said people do not think money buys happiness. Now, according to this article, money does not buy happiness:
So fine, Men’s Health is not the be all, end all of academic literature. But, according to this article, 415 people were surveyed. What I cannot make out is whether they were 415 people in Spain. Or 415 people in Canada. Now, if it is Spain, the percentage is not too bad:
Spain – total population – 46,070,540. So .09 millionth of the population. Sweet.
Canada – total population – 36,652,298. So .01 hundred thousandth. Sweet.
And if we just used the US – well, it would be an abysmal number. These are the numbers they decided to use to justify that money does not buy happiness. To put this in perspective, if I were to go back to the place where I grew up and state that the entire region known as the Rio Grande Valley of Texas has a population of 5 million people and I wanted to conduct a survey to determine if people are happy living in the Rio Grande Valley, I would take my fancy PhD and learning and create a survey and find my sample size. So, I go to the local mall and question approximately 7.4 people (so maybe one of them is really short). Great…got my random convenience sample and I am ready to run calculations on this to effectively state for publication that all 5 million people of the valley have now had their voices heard because these random 7.4 people walking the mall answered my questions. Sold!!
And we have a book or a paper stating money does not buy happiness. It has to be legit. Has to be. They’ve got some math in it. Some people wrote it and put it in men’s health. Hey man…they said that once you have pasta in Tuscany, eating food at the local Chili’s sucks. Once you have seen the world, going to San Antonio to see the Alamo blows. I agree. Totally.
Wrong! All wrong. Massive assumptions made that are wrong. Paper is wrong. I will disagree wholeheartedly. See, there is another article that talks about wealth as well and it states:
“Often using small or methodologically flawed studies as evidence, positive psychologists restate over and over the claim that money is of minimal importance to wellbeing. “Increases in wealth have negligible effects on personal happiness” writes Professor Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania in his seminal positive psychology book, Authentic Happiness.
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert discussed a similar idea in his wildly popular TED talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, now viewed over 12 million times. He quoted as evidence a methodological train-wreck of a study from the 1970s that suggested that a small group of lottery winners were no happier than a group of paraplegic accident victims. (Although Gilbert graciously later admitted that the study actually didn’t even really show that much.)”
Look at that….right here… using small or methodologically flawed studies as evidence…kinda like me saying hey, 7.4 people are telling us 5 million that they represent our views. Wait…Rod…hold on…maybe that PhD shit means something. You might actually kinda know what you might be saying…and I hate you for it.
What’s the Effing Point Dude?
For a great many people the idea of money buying happiness is counter to everything we are taught. We are conditioned to think it cannot buy happiness because many of us grow up without the kind of money one would think is required to attain happiness. People tend to think that this means millions of dollars and wealth the likes of which very few people possess. Some studies consider the baseline level of wealth to even be considered in this discussion a minimum of $25 million dollars. Seriously…get the hell out of here. 25 MILLION!!?? No, no, I think not. The point is to reframe what the concept of wealth is. We need to ground the idea and concept of wealth in something more tangible and realistic for people. And we need to teach our youth about this concept. Instead of telling them it does not buy happiness, we need to condition them to understand that it does….with certain conditions. Now, conditions are hard to monitor and that will be up to the individual delivering the message. But, it is a lot better than telling people it will not buy happiness because that is just not true.
This is the full article where I got the above quote:
Seriously, take a moment to read it. Some of you may disagree and that is totally cool. Frankly, it does not change the following reality – your faith, your morality, your honesty, or any of these other personal beliefs will not be accepted as payment for your bills.
Now, you can argue that you just will not incur bills. Cool. Nothing like living in a tent in the middle of a field and living off what you hunt and fish without any of the creature comforts of life. I respect you for living that way. However, if you are like most people, you will need a home or apartment. You will need electricity. A car. Food. Some minor form of entertainment. Healthcare. Human interaction. Some hobby. Etc. Etc. And these things cost money.
Let’s say, for example, you like running. It is your passion and it is a low cost thing. But, you need running shoes. Preferably good ones. If you do not have them, you run the risk of hurting your feet. So, that incurs a cost. Admittedly, rather small, but a cost. Or how about bike riding? Sure, you can buy a Huffy 10-Speed at your local Wal-Mart, but the poor thing will fall apart if you put it under the strain of constant 50 to 100 mile rides. Hence, you get a better bike. Those bikes are not cheap. So, to indulge in your low-cost or no cost hobby that will take hours and hours of your time, you need to invest money. Back to that pesky money. The money does not make you happy. But the action does. Without the money to afford the activity, your happiness goes down.
So, money does not directly buy happiness. But, it allows us to do the things that make us happy. Everything has a cost. Unless you simply like walking to the local library, you will find things cost money. A buddy of mine loves to buy records. It is his passion. But, without a car, how easy would it be to go from garage sale to garage sale looking for records? Without the 100 bucks or so that he takes with him to go on out and do this, how easy would it be to indulge this hobby? Without the solid job that allows him to pay the bills, how much time might he be able to devote to this hobby which grants him happiness? Etc. Etc.
Many of you see me in the gym. I love working out. But, I have a job that allows me the flexibility to be in the gym daily. I make enough money so that I can get my butt in the gym for an hour or two a day. I make enough to buy the supplements that help my body stay fit. Now, I try to pass on knowledge and information to people about fitness, so I can save others money, but at the end of the day, it costs to have this hobby. So, the gym makes me happy, but the cost associated with it is footed by my paycheck.
When I get too overloaded, I take a vacation. I go somewhere. Some people like Europe. Or fancy places. I like Disney and Universal Studios. Not much cheaper than Europe. Trust me on this. But again, money. And make no mistake, whatever you may think…when I am there..I am damn happy.
I saw someone recently purchase things. This person says money cannot buy happiness, but all of a sudden with money things start to get purchased. Hmm….I will not say hypocrisy, but more like reality.
Now, the trick here is to keep yourself grounded in reality. Money only goes so far before it stops making you happy and starts making you crazy. That is something each of you has to figure out. Hence, this series on financial fitness. That is where most people struggle. And let me tell you…and I will reiterate this for everyone….I say this because I HAVE MADE EVERY DUMB CHOICE WITH MONEY IMAGINABLE. I am not saying this because I am somehow better than anyone reading this blog. I say this because I am the biggest idiot about this you can imagine. But, I gutted it out and figured it out. So, at 43, I have found a peace and balance. This means it is never too late to get to where you want to be.
So, the point here is that money matters. Sure, faith and hope and love and community and all these things are important. I do not disagree in the slightest. But, money matters. It allows you to have security. It allows you to pay bills. It gives you time and freedom to do things you love. It allows you to go to church instead of working every shift you can to make ends meet. It allows you to go on a run instead of working two jobs to pay bills. It allows you to afford a few little things that make you happy instead of always looking through the window at something you can never have. No, material things are not all that matter in this world, but they do make life a little nicer. It is a balance. Sure, the library is a great free resource and plenty of people take advantage of free things to do in the places they live. But, it is not always that easy.
So, let’s start by acknowledge that money matters. Money does buy happiness, if not directly, indirectly. It buys security. It buys comfort. Let’s start teaching our children that it matters instead of telling them that it does not buy happiness. Make sure they kids understand the value of the dollar. Make sure we frame the conversation properly. As I move forward with this series on financial health, I am going to start describing things like investments, credit scores, smart money moves, dumb money moves, jobs, college, and all the things where we blow money out of our asses. Some of you may think I am the biggest jerk out there…and maybe I am….but I am going to give you a perspective from my point of view. It is not necessarily right, but it is not necessarily wrong. It gives you a different view…a glimpse from another direction. What you do with it is up to you.
But, I will say this. I have been poor. I have been dirt poor…as an adult. I have had to beg for help from friends and strangers. And it was hard on me. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Very hard. I paid a heavy price for it. It took its toll. And I am no longer poor. And I can most assuredly tell you, that I am a heck of a lot happier now. Less stressed. More relaxed. More engaged. I get to do what I want when I want. I get to work-out, write, parent, chill, and enjoy life. So, if I am full of crap, cool beans. But, and maybe it is only anecdotal, I can tell you that it buys me quite a bit of happiness.
The next chapter will be coming soon….and seriously..share this with your kids and let them decide. Because this is the real deal shit….