Different people do different things with their money, but when the money they have is sufficient to take care of their priorities, it can bring about bundles of joy. Money could help prevent a home foreclosure in the United States, or allow a poor farmer in a developing nation to feed his or her family. Money can be used for a wedding in Singapore, it can help a scholar in Indonesia or assist a restaurant owner in Australia. The defining element that tips the balance between making these events possible vs. not is simply money.
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True, a lot of money is spent on what a lot of people may consider inane, like yet another car or a pair of shoes that don't give any real long-lasting happiness. However, having money shouldn't be the only thing we strive for in our lives. The fundamental and pivotal role money plays in the kinds of life we can live is too big to ignore. Let's look at some of the things money can buy.
In some cases, money helps buy more time. Instead of wasting countless amounts of time doing chores and running errands, if one has enough money, it will help cut down the amount of time spent on these things. Money can help in the time aspect by giving us the ability to buy technologies that make some chores quicker and easier to perform. For example, a dishwasher for dirty dishes or a lawnmower for landscaping duties. One can even cut the cost of performing some chores and errands completely by hiring a maid, landscaper or butler. Money can definitely buy time.
Money can help us realize a variety of common goals in many different ways. For one, money can provide the funds needed for a proper education. In richer countries, citizens do not have to strive as hard as poorer people in developing nations to realize basic goals like providing food for the family, clothes on their backs and maybe even something less basic like a luxurious vacation. Money can also support training in certain desirable skills like sports and music. In many ways, money can help achieve goals.
A person with financial security would be less worried and happier than someone struggling without it. It affects your world view and what you do with your time. Laura Vanderkam, author of "All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending," says satisfaction with life and consequently happiness increases with income. This is probably because when one has enough money, he or she won't have to stress day in and day out about providing proper food for the family, or worry about a family member becoming ill and not having enough funds to pay for healthcare. Financial security is one of the many things money can also buy.
The more money you have, the greater the opportunities we have to help others. Michael Norton, associate professor at the Harvard Business school, says it is far more satisfying in the long run if people use their money to help others, rather than spend it only on satisfying their individual needs. These conclusions were reached by conducting a study across economic and demographic groups whose highlights he presented in his TED talk called How to Buy Happiness. He says, "The specific way that you spend on other people isn't nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people."
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Vanderkam says that money can buy happiness if done mindfully. Buying too much of the same thing is going to diminish happiness, as compared to using money to create an experience that can be shared. This, she says, helps the happiness grow three-fold. It grows through the anticipation, the experience and the happy memories whenever we remember it. Money can provide the capital needed to gain lasting experiences like traveling the world, scuba-diving in amazing oceans and trying some of the most delicious meals restaurants have to offer. Money can buy a ton of wonderful experiences that are available in our world.
Our socio-economic statuses are determined largely by the amount of money we have. It's certainly no fun to be poor and it doesn't hurt to be rich. For most of the rest of us in varying shades of the middle ground, it is money that puts us there, more than our color or ethnic backgrounds. If it didn't, we would not have proud discussions about how much we earn. It is the equivalent of the lion hunt in our ancestor's time. Most often, the ones who can say money doesn't mean a thing are those who sit on a pile of it.
Many philanthropists like Bill Gates are looking at ways to build better healthcare and education systems. They are using their money to not allow great teachers get defeated with inadequate budgets or a lack of resources. Grant commitments by the Gates foundation stand at $26.19 billion to date. Why would he want to part with his billions? According to psychologist Martin Seligman, humans are happiest when they acquire meaning by enabling something greater than themselves, which gives them a great sense of accomplishment. He also states that being engaged with a challenging task is yet another indicator of happiness. Fulfilling relationships and the basic pleasures of life all lead to happiness and contentment. Gates, having accomplished way more than his financial goals while still quite young, probably finds happiness by enabling greater opportunities for many others who need a helping hand.
The Bottom Line
Often, we see people and organizations that already have sufficient money use unlawful means to make even more money. This causes great distress to so many others, and it leads people to believe that money is evil and beguiling. Money is not moral in nature - but we are. The things we choose to do with our cash determine whether we will be happy or not.
SEE: Financial Planning: It's About More Than Money