Money can buy a lot, but it can’t buy you these 15 things


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“Money doesn’t buy happiness” is a common expression that has been around for centuries. It is often heard after someone has just won a lottery or inherited a fortune from a distant relative.

The phrase or proverb means that money cannot cure your suffering or fill your life with constant happiness.

Although the source for this meme is buried in obscurity, one possible source for it could be from the philosophical writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher who influenced the Enlightenment in Europe.

According to Gregory Y. Titelman in the “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings,” in 1950, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, “Money can buy material things, but real happiness must be truly earned.”

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Is it true that money doesn’t buy happiness?

Based on your own personal experiences and observing the world around you, you must admit that there appears to be a certain grain of truth to it.

It’s a well-known and widely accepted notion that money cannot buy happiness. But what if you’re not rich? What if you’re living paycheck to paycheck? What if you’re barely making enough to get by?

Well, in that case, money will make you happy for a short time. But the biggest problem with being rich, whether someone has made their money over many years or has had a sudden windfall that made them rich overnight, is that even having enough money to take care of all the necessities of life is not enough to make anyone happy all the time.

The following are 15 reasons why wealthier people are not always happier. Before you start focusing your life on making more money, check out these reasons why money doesn’t buy happiness.

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1. Money often isn’t enough to buy happiness

Why do they say money can’t buy happiness? Because money doesn’t buy happiness, but it helps make life easier. One problem is that often money can’t buy the one thing that really matters in life: happiness. Another problem is that we don’t always know what will make us happy.

Money can buy many material items, but for some little known reason, it appears the more money people earn, the more they want. Paradoxically, too, people who are not prosperous rarely have high expectations in life and find happiness in simple pleasures.

We may think money will make us happy, but it doesn’t appear to work that way. Money can’t buy happiness. So when we think of money as a measure of happiness, it turns out that more money doesn’t mean more happiness.

Perhaps what we really need is to be content with our lives and to find meaning within ourselves. What’s more, finding meaning within ourselves is more important than chasing the next high, and we should be content with developing our talents.

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2. Money only provides fleeting pleasure

True happiness arises from within, not from without. Happiness is a matter of perspective and attitude. It is not a goal that can be attained by simply purchasing an expensive item, but it can be found inside you by embracing gratitude and optimism.

Finding true happiness means understanding that the material things we think will make us happy don’t actually bring lasting joy.

Wealthy people – like rock stars, movie icons, and sports legends – are frequently in the media explaining how they had tried to find happiness through affairs, expensive purchases and other material pursuits, but fell short and are now more empty than before.

Despite their jet-setting lifestyles, living in mansions, driving the most sophisticated cars in the world, and traveling in elite social circles, they didn’t find fulfillment. Their wealth and influence never made much of a difference to their sense of life satisfaction.

When people bet money on experiences that should make them happy, they often come up short.

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3. Money doesn’t always satisfy all your desires

A new study shows that having more money does not correspond to more satisfaction. In a survey of five studies of 1.6 million people from 162 countries, researchers found that more money does not lead to greater feelings of fulfillment over time.

One reason suggested for this dissatisfaction is the “hedonic treadmill.”

The hedonic treadmill is the idea that we can never really be satisfied with our current level of consumption because we are always thinking about what we don’t have. As a result, people on a hedonic treadmill become increasingly bored, irritated and dissatisfied with everything.

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4. Money can’t buy the best relationships in the world

Money can buy a lot of things, but not everything. A happy family, for example, is something you cannot buy. You must work hard to build a good relationship. Often the truth of the undercurrents of a relationship is masked from the public. Most people, for example, thought Bill and Melinda Gates had a perfect relationship until they announced a surprise divorce.

Relationships are not the only source of happiness in life, but there is often a high correlation between healthy relationships and happiness. We should never underestimate what relationships mean to people. That’s why we should always acknowledge that relationships take time and patience and that money alone will not magically make everything always work out for us.

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5. Money doesn’t automatically create a sense of meaning or purpose in life

Money can give you the security, freedom and time to define your cores values, identify deeper meaning in your life and find your purpose, but it’s up to you to decide what lights up your life and pursue it with everything you have. And you can explore what is most important to you with or without money.

What’s more, not only does having plenty of money have nothing to do with the happiness of living a passionate life, but it can even have the opposite effect, too.

For instance, money can bring about more debt and worry, which leads to unhappiness. Or it can lead people into temptation.

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6. Money won’t buy you more time than anyone else

We all want more time to do the things we love, but money doesn’t buy us more time than anyone else. In fact, the pursuit of money can itself become time-consuming.

We might think that since working long, hard hours at a job to earn more money gives us a sense of accomplishment, it means that our time was well spent, time worth something. But in reality, our time is always invaluable since we are only here on earth for a brief lifetime.

Therefore, you should not be laboring under the false idea that if you are compensated for your labor, you have made good use of your time.

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7. Money doesn’t solve all your problems

Jesse Livermore was one of the most famous investors in American history.

In 1929, he shorted the stock market and made $100 million. Then in 1934, he lost most of his money. Six years later, he ended his life. He considered himself poor but, in fact, still had an estate worth $5 million. In today’s money, that would be about $86 million.

He considered himself a failure in life. His tragic ending is a clear statement that money is not a cure to all of life’s problems, especially those related to psychological issues like self-worth.

Money provides many social advantages that may not be as readily available without it, but money won’t solve all of your problems. Nor will it be able to heal your psychological wounds.

Some people see money as a fix for all their issues in life, inner turmoil and outer obstacles, but it never is the answer to everything.

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8. Money will not make you feel positive about everything

Money is not a panacea for all problems. What truly matters is a person’s mindset and attitude. Money matters in our lives because it can provide us with many things that we need to live well, but money alone cannot buy happiness. Both the rich and the poor have sad days.

People find happiness when they spend their money on things that give them pleasure, but pleasure should not be mistaken for the happiness of a well-lived life, a life filled with positive feelings.

Speaking of happiness and positive feelings, the recognition of happiness is actually a subject of scientific research. The new field of positive psychology has revolutionized psychology, which until this time had focused on abnormal psychology.

Now, an entirely new area of psychology has emerged in which the nature of the brain and the origins of happiness can be understood.

It concluded that people need three things to be happy:

  • Good relationships
  • Rewarding work
  • Personal growth

One of their findings was that happy people make more money, but money does not make people happy. In other words, most people have the happiness equation in reverse.

Psychologists have studied the personal experience of many volunteers and concluded that there is a strong correlation between happiness and positive thinking. In other words, the key to happiness is often linked to having a positive attitude about everything, even things that at first appear problematic.

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9. Money does not always promote better health

In many countries, many wealthy people are in poor health, even though they have a lot of money.

We should see the correlation between money and health as one between the resources of a society and the quality of life available to the people who live there.

For example, in an affluent society, there may be excellent medical care but an overindulgence in tasty but unhealthy foods.

So, while wealthier people can afford excellent medical coverage, they might not be disciplined enough to practice preventative health by eating highly nutritious meals and exercising regularly.

In essence, while money can buy excellent health, many wealthy people are not interested in it. Warren Buffett, for instance, who ranks among the richest persons on earth, has a notoriously unhealthy diet. He loves Coca-Cola, burgers, candy and many other foods that nutritionists label as “junk food.”

He relishes foods that nutritionists warn people to avoid as much as possible due to their high levels of sugar, salt, and saturated fats.

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10. Money is not correlated with personal or spiritual growth

Personal growth is all about improving our habits, while spiritual growth is all about finding a deeper purpose in life. Money has nothing to do with self-improvement or acquiring spiritual wisdom. Worse still, the pursuit of money sometimes impedes pursuing these ideals.

Instead of pursuing personal or spiritual growth, many people prefer to spend all their time and energy chasing money.

Personal development is pivotal for happiness and success – things that money can’t buy. Some of life’s most important things cannot be measured in dollars. These are often things related to developing core values that come from coping with difficult experiences in life.

Spiritual development is often associated with developing core values, humanitarian values like love, compassion, patience, empathy and tolerance.

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11. Money does not free you from anxiety

While having more disposable income will help you get many things that improve your quality of life, money can’t buy many of the things that ease the pressures of life, such as true friendship, the love of your family and friends, and psychological freedom from mental health issues like bipolar disorder.

Money is not the only solution to your worries. There are other ways you can find peace, like meditation and yoga. The truth is that money won’t solve all of your problems. Money cannot buy happiness or keep you from worrying about the future. So we have to rely on other tools to find peace and contentment in our lives.

Your level of happiness depends on having more positive emotions like hope and optimism than negative emotions like anxiety. Happy feelings are powerful emotions that can have positive impacts on your health and well-being.

To understand what it takes for psychological freedom from anxiety, it’s important to look at the components that make up your day-to-day life. It’s also important to develop core values like gratitude and mindfulness to combat anxiety. Although material possessions come and go with the ebb and flow of life, an even-tempered temperament can last a lifetime.

The pursuit of money often creates anxiety because there is always the possibility of losing money. The richest person you know probably spends most of their time solving business problems rather than pleasant activities.

Many business news stories also suggest that successful Wall Street bankers endure incredible stress every day. Those who are trying to save and skimp on getting more money also do not always enjoy life.

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12. Money provides temporary happiness

Money can make us happy, but it depends on how we spend our money. For example, spending money on experiences like traveling or going to concerts boosts happiness, while buying material items like clothes or furniture does not create lasting happiness. Therefore, positive psychologists recommend you take some time to think about what you would spend money on to maximize your happiness.

According to a Princeton University study, your level of happiness will go up until you earn about $75,000 a year. After that, your mood levels off. You begin to take for granted your ability to care for all the necessities of life with ease.

The majority of us believe we’d be happier if we had more disposable income. Money can buy security, but as the Princeton studies show, people who earn enough to live without worrying about money don’t get increasingly happier the more they earn.

Money allows you to get what you want in life when you are struggling financially, but that doesn’t mean money always makes you happy or is the only thing that makes you happy. You are much more likely to be happy if you are grateful for everything in your life, especially the love and support of your family and friends.

While reaching a certain level of financial security is comforting, it doesn’t create a feeling of never-ending contentment. Money can buy you more lucky breaks if you don’t have food, water, shelter, clothes or a sense of security. Still, beyond meeting your basic needs and purchasing luxurious things with your disposable income, money can’t do much more for you.

Still, it’s only fair to say that initially, when you are coming into money after bitter personal experiences arising from a lack of it, money brings some short-lived happiness.

For instance, if you have been unemployed for a while and land a great job after months of searching, one of the biggest thrills in life is when you see money in your bank account as a reward for your hard work.

Unfortunately, your positive psychological emotion eventually reaches its peak. But in the beginning, when money showed up in your bank account and you could spend money on things that made you temporarily happier, having plenty of surplus money was great.

Money can’t buy happiness in the long run, but it can help make life easier. These feelings are transient, but while they last, it feels good to have money.

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13. Money can keep you stuck in emotional immaturity

It takes a great deal of emotional maturity to be sensible about money.

Unfortunately, a lack of emotional maturity can often be seen with lottery winners. After receiving the big check, many people spend it on one frivolous purchase after another because they don’t know how to handle an overwhelming amount of money.

Often, wealthy people have an immature view of money and hold beliefs that make no sense to poorer people. There are many wealthy people who feel they don’t have enough money because they know other people with even more money. Their constant desire for more cannot be sated.

Emotional immaturity around money arises because society conditions people to have an insatiable desire for more money and prosperity.

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14. Money can attract insincere, disingenuous and dangerous people

With more money, the chances of attracting the wrong people increase. People who care only about getting money from you will be drawn to your business. They don’t care about your core values and will frequently engage in unethical behavior to gain an advantage over you.

Although wealth does not guarantee happiness, it still attracts people who are after your fortune. Wealthy people often need to be cautious about unscrupulous individuals they attract. They often have to be careful when meeting strangers or taking risks on unsound business ideas pitched to them.

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15. Money won’t compensate for low self-worth

Self-worth is one of the most important aspects of our lives; it should not be overlooked or underestimated at any cost. The risk of being exploited or taken advantage of will always exist when you have low self-worth.

It’s important to have high self-esteem and to love and respect yourself. Self-worth should not be the center of every decision in your life, but it definitely affects your decisions.

Money gives you more of who you are. If you have high self-worth, you will get even more when you earn more. Conversely, if you have low self-worth, you will use your money to cover it up, but it still lurks beneath the surface.

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Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it helps

The psychology of money is very complex. We see money as a source of power, a signifier of status and a symbol of the esteem in which others hold us.

Money is a powerful thing. It can influence every decision we make in life. But we may be misinterpreting how it can benefit us. It provides for our physical well-being but only touches on our emotional health.

Considering all the reasons money does not buy happiness, it’s tempting to conclude that poorer people have higher happiness levels and fewer mental health issues. This, of course, is not true.

The pursuit of money is one of the necessities of life – without it, it’s difficult to get food, shelter, healthcare or other basic needs. High or low social status does not make one happier or more miserable. For this reason, it’s not useful to adopt a negative attitude toward money.

While you don’t want to make money your only focus in life, you should not consider poverty a virtue either. People who insist that money cannot buy happiness associate money with existential misery.

If you can overcome any unrealistic beliefs about money, considering it either the source of happiness or the root cause of misery, your heart will be filled with appreciation for all the things you have in life, whether it is a lot or a little. You will understand that true happiness comes from making peace with your life.

Ultimately, money and our attitude towards it are always nuanced issues. We need money to buy some things in life, but it does not always bring us happiness.

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Final thoughts

Money is a hot topic these days. So naturally, we all want to know how we can make more of it.

For instance, this economic downturn has made many people focus on saving money and being thrifty. The result is that they are looking at the world with a new appreciation for what they have and what they don’t need in their lives.

This shows that people’s attitude to money is not as simple as just wanting more of it or trying to spend less of it. Instead, it changes according to the circumstances that we find ourselves in.

There is so much confusion around money because there are so many misconceptions about it.

Money is a taboo subject that we shy away from talking about. We are more likely to talk about death or intimate relationships than what our salary is. This, combined with the fact that we need money to survive, clarifies why this topic has been neglected for so long and how detrimental this is to society.

It is time for us to face this reality and start addressing the issues which have gone unnoticed for so long.

One of the biggest misconceptions about attitudes towards money is that there are two camps: people who believe it brings happiness, and people who think that happiness is just an insider job that has little to do with how much or how little money a person has.

In short, there’s very little middle ground. But, in reality, it’s more nuanced than that – there’s actually a whole spectrum of attitudes towards money. Some people just like having lots of money and others don’t think much about it at all.


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