Can Money Really Buy Happiness?

You’ve always heard the mantra “money can’t buy happiness.”  Well, maybe it can.

According to a new paperback from the editors of Time magazine entitled The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, (and yes, It’s on, “Money can help you find more happiness, so long as you know just what you can and can’t expect from it.”

Enough research is being done that the search for happiness is now considered a science.  A good starting point is a simple insight — we’re never satisfied.  “Once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness,” says Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness.

Scientists give three reasons for this —

  • We overestimate how much pleasure we’ll get from having more.
  • More money can lead to more stress.
  • You constantly compare yourself to those around you.  ( H.L. Mencken once said the happy man is one who earns $100 more than his wife’s sister’s husband.)

So if you want to use money to look for happiness, the first step is to understand what brings happiness in the first place.

New research has shown that having friends is a great boost to happiness.  That includes a healthy relationship with a “significant other.” (The key there is “healthy”; a bad marriage makes everyone miserable.)  Having kids is something of a mixed blessing — raising them is challenging, but the overall experience can be very rewarding.

Another happiness boost comes from doing things, as opposed to having things.  Paradoxically, “the things that don’t last create the most lasting happiness.”

Also, overcoming a challenge can bring happiness.  We actually seem to be happier working toward a goal than reaching it.  And it’s a waste to dwell on unpleasant experiences.

This is a brief insight into the latest research.  For more detail, see “Here’s How Money Really Can Buy You Happiness” by David Futrelle (


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