Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Many people are brought up with the old expression “money can’t buy happiness”, and I think that holds true for a great many people. I heard it a bunch.

It certainly doesn’t hold true for everyone, though, and is absolutely used as a crutch at times.

Putting more money into a broken system is unlikely to bring about any positive change. More money in the hands of people who are not mentally and physical “at peace” is unlikely to help. It certainly won’t make a broken, unhappy person a fixed, happy one.

On the other hand, putting more money into a “functional” system, or into someone who has a solid foundation is likely to bring about positive change.


  1. Starving child cannot afford food, money absolutely buys a long-term increase in happiness here.
  2. Billionaire sociopath gets another million dollars, unlikely to change much.
  3. Middle-income family gets more money, assuming they’re already happy they will likely continue to be happy and will use that money to generate even more happiness.
  4. Middle-income family gets more money, family is a mess, members are extremely unhappy and unfulfilled. The money probably won’t lift happiness levels. That’s money into a broken system.

Maybe I’m over stating things a little, maybe most people are miserable, but I would like to think most people are somewhere in the proximity of number 3. More money and semi-sensible spending will probably increase happiness, at worst it is unlikely to decrease it. If they take the money and start a meth-lab well shit, that’s just unfortunate.

If you’re happy without additional money you’ll likely be happy with it as well. Money tends to magnify the qualities you already have. If you’re a douche-cannon – you’ll be a rich one of those. If you’re an upstanding citizen, you’ll likely continue down that path.

Folks should be working to increase their happiness every day (probably wishful thinking, lets say every quarter?) – so realistically more money is very unlikely to be a problem.

And yet, we shun the dollar.

Let’s say Bob goes to work and somehow manages to earn an extra $10 despite being a salary-man, or maybe he’s lucky enough to work for himself and thus making the extra $10 is easy.

Bob has $10 extra, he doesn’t need the money. His family is fed, housed, clothed and reasonably happy.

Bob is a bit of a bad ass. He decides to give the money away rather than spending it on a 6-pack of beer, or buying 2 coffees from the local cafe.

What could Bob do?

The options are ridiculously vast in terms of how many different ways he could make the world better with his unassuming $10 note.

Where I live, in New Zealand, he could buy almost 8kg of rice for a family in need. That’s 80 servings of rice, a real “super food” (what a bullshit term, nice work marketers and nutritionists of the world) in that it has a high caloric density, is readily available, is cheap and is good for you.

I did some quick Google searching to see what that money would buy in super poor countries, and it turns out they pay about the same for stuff as us “first world” posers. Ain’t that a crock of shit and a half.

Let’s look at some quickfire alternatives to rice/food (which is an amazing option).

Here are 10 off-the-cuff:

  • Buy someone else that really needs it a small gift. Make their day, and make your day in the process – you selfish bastard!
  • Pay a kid to mow an old, infirm persons lawn for 2 weeks.
  • Buy a caffeine addict a reusable cup and tell them about how damaging waste is to the world. Potentially save hundreds of single use coffee cups going into landfill.
  • Go to the local primary school and give the $10 to the receptionist. Tell them to credit the money against the student with the highest current outstanding balance to the school. Chances are that student’s family really needed that.
  • Buy some trees, plant em. Bring your kids back to see them one day.
  • Give the money to a local animal rescue/shelter. That money will care for abandoned pets.
  • Invest the money, give away 5-7 cents per year forever.
  • Buy a homeless person a blanket.
  • Buy the right book for the right person, change their life.
  • Donate $10 to any of a million charities. (Or get the best bang for your buck and look at services like Effective Altruism)

That was $10. Image what you could do with $50.

Hell let’s get crazy – $1000.

That money can provide an unbelievable amount of value in your own, or other peoples lives.

“Money can’t buy happiness”, what nonsense. There are absolutely edge cases where money is a horrible thing to add into the mix, but I think the majority of the time money is overwhelmingly positive.

Think of the change you could create in the world if you earned another $5000, another $50,000? another 500,000?

Someone making minimum wage who struggles to make ends meet may be a real crusader for civil rights, for equality, and for awesomeness in general.

Sadly however their likely effect is very, very small.

That same person bringing home 6-figures? Now we’re talking.

Once your basic human needs are met; the more money you have, the more good you can do in the world.

If you knew how much good the Gates Foundation (Bill) has done it would likely blow your face off. Bill has a few dollars to his name, and that let him do some things.

We should stop touting anti-money nonsense and get young kids excited about creating value, generating big incomes and changing the world for the better with that money.

Being a poor left wing liberal simply isn’t good enough.