This question comes up a lot in movies and films, as well as in everyday life, but the way people answer it always varies, the way they answer it also says a lot about what kind of person they are and what they value most in life. You need money to get pretty much everything in life, from food, to clothes, to a roof over your head. However there are some things that money just cannot buy, including happiness.
Many people believe that money brings happiness, these people are usually either low on money, or newly ‘rich’. The word ‘happy’ is defined by oxford dictionary as: “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment” however happiness means different things to each individual person. Most people’s definition of happiness would include words along the lines of ‘love’ and ‘health’, and others may include ‘family’ ‘friends’ ‘belief’ ‘achievement’ these are all things that money does not give you, although receiving money can be an achievement sometimes, you have to work to get that money and it is the result of hard work paying off that brings the sense of achievement, not the promise of money. It is true that on average, people who have a house and can afford three meals a day will be happier than someone living on the streets, surviving off of food that they have found half eaten in the bins. However this does not mean that if you have more than what you need you will be happier.
Many people think ‘if I’m happy with £20,000 pounds a year, then imagine how ecstatic it must be to earn £50,000 a year’ these people might then go on to earn £50,000 and they will probably find that it’s not as great as they first thought it would be, so they then set higher goals and when they reach those goals, they are disappointed again. If anything, their money has made them sadder because they have everything they wanted but are still not happy. They find it hard to believe that after all of their effort and all-nighters that they are still no happier than they were before. People sit inside a cosy house with their family surrounding them and think ‘I’m going to try and earn more money so I can give my family what they deserve’ often the person does achieve financial success but when the same size family is in a house 10times bigger, the cosiness that came with the smaller house fades away and the achiever will have lost valuable time with their family whilst they were working, time that they can never get back.
Also if they send their children off to expensive, academic schools in a bid to give them the chance to pursue any career of their choice, their children would leave the school without certain life skills, like knowing how to cope when nothing seems to be going your way, when you can only afford one meal a day, or how to respect people who are less fortunate then themselves, things that their parents could have taught them had they not been so focused on receiving a larger pay check or getting bigger houses. If you want more than just my opinion then here is some statistics from a study by a university in America showed that 30% of the richest people in America were not as happy as someone who had an average amount of money.
On the other hand it could be argued that money does bring a certain amount of happiness. Using my example from before, of the man on the streets compared to the man in the nice suit going home to a warm house, a welcoming family and his third meal of the day. This man would probably be happier because he can afford to give his children a good education and will be able to pay for medication to ensure that he sees his children succeed in their lives in the same way that he thinks he did in his.
With money you can afford fancy food and a nice house, money also provides financial security that can eliminate financial related stress. Also if you can have enough money to keep the people you choose to surround yourself with happy, and you can watch your children opening the present that they asked for with a big grin on their face then money might bring happiness as long as you remember to give more than you take.
In conclusion, I believe that money provides temporary satisfaction but that is up to you to figure out how to truly be happy. You need to start with the basics like enough money for food and shelter but if you try and build on your fortune then you must keep your priorities right; friends and family first. If you lose your money then who will be there for you to catch you when you fall from that high horse that you have been riding on for so long? Your friends and family. My definition of happiness would be living a healthy life surrounded by my family and friends, yes I would need money for food and shelter but after that, how much do I really need?
Scientific evidence has shown us that in fact, money DOES buy happiness, but only to a certain point.
A famous Princeton study (linked below) found that emotional wellbeing increases steadily with income, up to around $75,000 per year. After that point, income does not have much of an effect on emotional wellbeing.
Research has previously shown that low income families are more likely to divorce than higher income families (see NCFR link), and that lower income couples were more likely to have their relationship negatively influenced by money problems. Together, these facts suggest that conflict within low income families can often relate to money problems, leading to unhappiness and divorce at higher rates than high income families.
The Princeton study has found that low income families also experience more emotional distress from unfortunate life events (which include poor health and loneliness as well as divorce) than do higher income families.
With that said, it seems clear that $75,000 for a family isn't really all that much money. Two parents earning just over $37,000 per year will earn that much (which works out to around $18 per hour per parent working 40 hours per week). Clearly, though, a single parent earning that salary will earn far below the 'happiness threshold', and will suffer from many of the financial troubles experienced by low income families.
Essentially, I think the data shows us that money can buy happiness if you are in poverty or struggling with money. In this case, the money will eliminate several sources of unhappiness, such as stress and marital conflict over finances. But once you have a comfortable family income: enough to pay for all your fixed expenses (such as rent/mortgage, bills, and groceries) and maybe a few luxuries (movie tickets), money doesn't really have much of an impact on happiness.