Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Club: Money - Buy Some Happiness

In the seventh chapter of The Happiness Journal, Gretchen Rubin describes the relationship between money and happiness. Though money can't buy happiness, it can buy things that will lead to happiness. And, speaking from personal experience, when we aren't bringing in income, it can lead to major stress!

I have thought a lot about the relationship between money and happiness recently. Most of my life, I haven't had to worry at all about finances. Both my husband and I had great jobs in high tech. In 1999, if you looked at all our stock options, we were downright rich. Then came the dot bomb era and all our stock options were worth nothing. No big deal. I only thought of it as "funny money." Next was the divorce. I lost a husband and my financial security. I bought him out of the house and still had all the bills with a third of the income. But I still had a good job. I tried not to panic. Then the stock market dropped and I lost a major chunk of retirement savings, along with the rest of the world. The final kicker was last summer when I lost my job. This time I started to panic. I couldn't even get low paying jobs because the employers figured I'd keep looking. I did end up getting a job that is half the salary of my old job so I'm no longer panicked, but I'm definitely a lot less wealthy than I once was.

While I was unemployed, I did some serious thinking about what it was like to have no money. Every time I turned around there was an expense and a finite amount of cash. Food, housing, utilities, transportation. I became obsessed with spending as little money as possible. Of course, I could have survived for quite a long time... I had savings and even a severance. But I got a little taste of how scary this is for people that don't have those resources! This wasn't about happiness, it was about basic security!

While I was unemployed, I had a goal to find something that didn't cost money that made me happy each day and I found a lot: hikes, picnics, time with friends, playing, learning, biking. There was a huge world to enjoy. But I was always worried about money. I never had a sense of security so it was hard to feel completely happy.

Now that I'm working again, it's much easier to be happy. I don't spend as much on "stuff" but more on experiences. Even though I'm making a lot less than I used to, I'm making a whole lot more than nothing, so I often feel rich. I have more compassion for the unemployed and I don't take financial security for granted any more. In many ways, I'd say I'm happier now, making a lot less money, than I was when I was "rich." Sometimes it takes losing something to realize it's worth. It's not the money as much as the security.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. (I'd spend more, but I've become very cheap!)

What do others have to say?

It just so happens, in my Google Alerts for Happiness today, I found two articles about money and happiness: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness, But a Trip Might and Finding Happiness Along the Way to Long-Term Financial Goals.

How about you? What are your thoughts about money and happiness?

No comments: