Does Money Bring you Happiness?
As you may have already noticed, I started writing blogs based on weekly discussions recorded on Clubhouse. In the past weeks we have discussed experiences and managerial-related topics but this week was slightly different.
We opened a room to discuss if money brings you happiness and soon we had a lot of other speakers chime in with their two cents. It was interesting to see that most people agreed that having some sort of wealth does buy one’s happiness to a certain extent. However, we also heard from people who disagreed.
GENERAL MISCONCEPTIONS REGARDING MONEY
There is a saying that it is more comfortable to cry inside a BMW instead of crying by the roadside. That said, those who have actually cried inside a BMW can testify that being able to cry inside a luxury car means one has larger responsibilities and by scale, bigger problems.
Comfort aside, crying inside a luxury car could mean one is in deeper shit than those spilling tears by the roadside. In fact, I truly believe that owning a luxury car does not necessarily mean a person is happier or even smarter than the next guy.
People who assume earning a large salary equals having financial security clearly need to rewire their way of thinking. Big earnings mean bigger responsibilities and not everybody is prepared to handle the burden. The saying, be careful what you wish for, comes into play here.
Having a large sum of money means you start to spend them on more things. And like it or not, having things means more time and effort (sometimes more money) spent on maintenance, regardless of how small these things are. An example being indulging in tastier food can lead to health issues and therefore if one keeps buying and eating these high sodium or high fat, super delicious food, one may end up with hospital bills.
Another instance is owning gadgets. With the quick development of technology, owning gadgets means always having to upgrade these gadgets. Compare these maintenance issues with somebody who has fewer earnings and owns fewer things. That’s right, they do not have the same superficial headaches as the guy who keeps collecting material things.
On the other hand, the speaker Nabilah pointed out in the discussion that every human being, regardless of wealth status, has their own set of problems. A less fortunate person will have worries regarding where their next warm meal is coming from while a person with lots of money would worry about how not to lose their wealth and how to properly manage their spending. Ask a person in either situation, and they both view their predicament as a major roadblock in life.
Of course, Nabilah also points out that money opens you up to options like the best treatments when faced with health issues. In that context, yes, money does buy you happiness to a certain extent. She adds, “Not all problems can be solved with having money but a lot of problems can be solved with having money.”
RICH PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE TO WORK HARD
Speaker Hafiz weighed in on this part of the discussion based on his own experience. Coming from a humble background and building his business empire from the ground up, Hafiz agrees wholeheartedly that money does indeed buy happiness.
Even though he now has a lot more than what he used to have, Hafiz says he still works like a dog to continue collecting wealth and maintain this fancy new lifestyle. If anything, people with money work even harder than those without money. The only difference would probably be that wealthy individuals have more comfort in doing so.
According to Hafiz, he finds that he can now afford anything in life, and that includes love and relationships.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS TOO MUCH
Both speakers Hafiz and Azha agree that no amount of money is ever enough. “It is simply human nature to never be content with what they have,” says Azha. The idea of a vision board is to always expand ones’ self and to continue the search for the next thing in life, she says.
Individual satisfaction and happiness depends on how a person utilizes their money. Regardless of what one’s passion is in life, be it food or collecting luxury cars, Azha says realistically, money is the key to fulfilling these needs that eventually lead to personal happiness.
At this point, Nabilah chimes in saying that just like money, there is no absolut with happiness. Different levels of happiness can be achieved with different amounts of money but just because no amount of money is ever enough, it does not equate to zero happiness. In fact, she says, having less money does not necessarily mean a person has less happiness in life.
What an interesting thought.
I decided to drill Hafiz on why he thinks no amount of money is ever enough. I wondered why he would not simply be content once he has reached his ultimate financial goals. To this, he replied, he is always striving to achieve greater goals. According to Hafiz, this is human nature, and he uses the conflict between Israel and Palestine as an example. Morals and ethics aside, at the core of it, human beings will always push for better things, like human rights, more land, more ownership, freedom and mobility.
The vision board is brought back into the discussion, as Hafiz says, people will constantly be on the look out for the next thing or next objective in life. Hafiz believes that the same applies in relationships. For as long as a person is not satisfied with their chosen partner, they will keep on pursuing the perfect fit.
DO LESS FORTUNATE PEOPLE HAVE LARGER PROBLEMS
As described by Azha, some less fortunate people tend to live within their means not because they do not desire an improved lifestyle but because they are influenced by their surroundings. The likelihood of being grateful and content with what they have is larger within these circles.
Some people may view this in a negative light, like who in their right mind would not want a more comfortable life, right? But you might be surprised.
Less fortunate people are not necessarily poor. They prefer to set aside their extra wealth for emergencies while keeping their day to day lives simple. As Azha says, the rich keep getting richer because they invest their wealth to create more.
Perhaps the new generation that come out of less fortunate families strive to leave their situation but their parents managed to live through it and still find pockets of happiness within what they own.
Hafiz weighs in with his own background growing up. His mother is a housewife and his late father was a firefighter. According to him, a firefighter can make approximately RM3,000 (USD700) a month at most and so he often found his father mending things around the house, instead of buying them new. When asked, his late father told him that he preferred it that way as compared to being cheated by people he would pay to get things done for him.
And as Hafiz said, that was their mentality as a less fortunate family. In fact, he would help his mother sell food at school and in front of their family home, but he observed that his parents never had a vision of scaling up the business. Without being exposed to the possibility of having an improved lifestyle, his parents were content with having enough to pay bills and raise their children.
Hafiz was once told by a former employer “Poor people continue to mingle with the poor and that is how they stay poor. Meanwhile, rich people mingle with the rich and that helps them grow wealthier.”
Hafiz took this as motivation to make something of himself and help improve the lives of his family members. He believes that the ecosystem of Malaysia as a developing country is slowly evolving the people into entrepreneurs. The generation is slowly seeking to improve their lifestyles.
IS HAVING A FAMILY A TRAP
I believe this depends on how you look at it. Sure, having a family costs a lot of money, especially if you are not living in a welfare country where the government provides for growing families.
But I feel like less fortunate families with plenty of children seem to have a long-term investment plan. With more kids, the possibility of having a larger number of them succeed in life is also bigger and this paves the way for a comfortable retirement, as compared to a family with less amount of kids.
Azha disagrees. She presents a case of a family of ten children with only three who succeed. This places the burden on the three to pull the weight of the rest, not only their parents. It is a matter of quantity versus quality and the mindset of the parents.
DOES MONEY DICTATE THE WAY ONE LIVES THEIR LIFE
Azha says yes. The goal here is to reach financial freedom. From my own personal experience, I was not a fan of living under the same roof as my parents only because I was often reminded that I had limited mobility for as long as they are providing for me.
I would not say I became a slave to money but I used success and wealth as a motivation to push me out of the house so I was able to make my own decisions to live my own life the way I want to.
Depending on which phase you are going through in life, money can dictate the way you live your life.
At this point, we hear from speaker Imran who does not agree money buys happiness. He says of course money can afford you anything from the smallest candy to even the affection of other human beings. Imran says however, this is a matter of personal taste as his own wife enjoys following rich people on social media.
She is amazed by how some people can maybe have wagyu beef for breakfast in Singapore and caviars for dinner in Tokyo, all on the same day. Meanwhile on the other hand, Imran is content with being left alone on weekends to just lounge on the sofa with absolutely nothing to do.
DOES EXCESSIVE MONEY ATTRACT CORRUPTION OR GREED
Imran says money is the root of all evil. It simply emphasizes who a person is fundamentally. A person who is good to the core, will only become a better human being with money, meanwhile a rotten human being can be lead down a corrupt path.
Hafiz does not think it is greed but it is the hunger to always reach one’s target. Once a target is met, you move on to the next.
Personally, I often question myself. Why is it that even though I have a fulltime job, I still engage in freelance work that comes with more stress, working more than eighty hours a week. I love having more money, so I am able to travel but why can’t I downsize? Perhaps be more flexible, so I do not have to go through the physical and mental anguish of always trying to gather more funds. Unfortunately I do not have the answer to this question.
Having had a comfortable life in Malaysia, Nadia moved to Denmark a married woman with responsibilities, budgets and finding her footing as a couple. She was suddenly faced with some lacking in the financial department. As she puts it, she is not less fortunate, but she was so spoiled by the financial freedom back in Malaysia, she now feels a constant need for money. In other words, greed.
EQUALITY FOR ALL
A Malaysian speaker currently living in UK (we shall call him Y) says he does not agree that money can buy happiness if the happiness cannot be had by all. He starts off by stating that you either need money to buy happiness or to survive. Through his own experience of using money for both purposes, he observed that survival money is usually just a small amount while happiness requires a large sum.
Y sees money as a means for social mobility and the idea that happiness can be bought is simply an illusion. He adds that once a person starts owning things, the cycle is endless. Y questions if it is morally right to own material things whilst denying others the same freedom of living. In agreement with Nadia, Y says the more money a person has, the greedier they become.
He strongly believes that happiness should be defined by a society’s measure of contentment instead of an individual.
We ended the discussion with everybody’s definition of having money. You can listen to everybody’s take on the podcast but my own definition is not having to think when I need something. In other words, freedom of choice and the freedom to be impulsive.
Can we all just agree that we love money?