How often have you heard the ‘money cannot buy happiness’ debate? I’ve heard it often enough I almost believe it’s true. It’s fair to say we don’t need to travel in a private jet to be happy, or even business class. We don’t need to book a suite in a 6-star hotel when we’re on vacation to be happy. I get it. And I agree. That’s why most of us want to believe that money is not important, it can’t buy us happiness anyway, or so you think. Most of us see money as a vice. Some sneer at the rich. Some think the rich are greedy.
Let’s dig deeper, shall we?
Before we can answer whether money can buy happiness, we need to answer this question first: “What leads to happiness?”. Yes, happiness is in the heart, it’s an inside work and it shouldn’t depend on material things, yada yada…
But let’s be real here. For most of us, what determines our everyday happiness? I would like to say that there are a few things in life that undeniably determine everyone’s level of happiness. They are: passion, health, opportunities and time.
Money Can “Buy” Passion
Recently my boys have been interested in ice-skating. I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but here in Singapore, I would consider it a luxurious sport. The skates are over a hundred dollars per pair, each entry into the skating rink will cost our whole family of five around $100 per 2 hours. If we were to skate once a week, that would be $400 per month. That might not be a big sum to some, but it might be unthinkable to others.
My point is:
In some cases, money can allow you to pursue your passion, and that’s as good as buying you happiness.
Yes, some passion doesn’t require you to spend that much money. But what is passion? Passion is what the heart is deeply attracted to. There is a force tugging at your heart. But if at the end of that force is something expensive, we have to let the passion pass. And that will make anyone a little sadder. If we can afford to do what we want to do, it makes us happy and contented with life.
But since most of us don’t have a surplus of money in our bank accounts, we have been told that the key to being happy is to be happy with what you have, and not want more. It’s easier said than done. How can you control what you want? Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. But even then, money determines whether you get the chance.
Have you heard of Joseph Schooling? The 21-year-old swimmer became Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist in 2016 – and national hero – with his win in the 100m butterfly. He not only beat world-class American swimmer Michael Phelps, but also smashed the Olympic record with his time of 50.39 seconds. The important thing to note here is that his family supported him and paid for his training in the United States because his dream was to be an Olympic Gold Medallist. What would have become of him if he didn’t have the money and/or opportunities? He wouldn’t be where he wanted to be.
Money Can Buy Health
At the very basic level, having enough money to buy food from all nutrition groups can ensure you don’t have any nutrition deficiency and can lead a normal healthy life. At the other extreme, access to world class health care means nothing if you do not have the means to pay for the service. That’s the truth that our very lives depend on. A chemotherapy drug for lung cancer can cost $100 per capsule (no joke, personal experience in our family) and that adds up to $3,000 per month every month until you die, just for the medication. I mean, how many of us have that much money? Even your insurance plan might not cover 100%. So there goes your life.
Money can mean the difference between life and death, and yet people are still saying that money can’t buy happiness.
If being able to afford a longer lifespan (for you or your loved ones) does not bring you happiness, who are you kidding?
Money Can Open Doors to Opportunities
I don’t even need to talk about third world countries. You know how money can change things. Let’s just talk about first world countries here. Many developed countries can provide basic education to their children at a very minimal cost or with heavy subsidy. However, who are the ones that are at an advantage? They are the ones that can afford enrichment classes and activities. Does it mean that enrichment classes determine your level of happiness? No. I’m not saying that. What I mean is with more money, comes more opportunities (enrichment classes), and with more opportunities come other opportunities (better grades lead to better entrance into better universities etc). And it goes on and on.
The more opportunities you have, the better chances of you having a better life.
Money Can “Buy” Time
Do you know how much an average security guard in Singapore earns per month? They earn an average salary of S$23,874 per year that comes down to $1,989 per month. But how many hours are they tied down to their work? 12 hours per day. On the other hand, families in Singapore spend an average of $550 on domestic help so that they can have free time to spend on their family, job and leisure. Having little money restricts the amount of free time you have. The more money you have, the more you can afford to pay for more free time. A new research suggests that using money to buy more free time – such as paying for a cleaner or cook to take the daily chores off your hands – does actually improve well-being.
So where am I going with this blog post? I’m just trying to make a point that money is important and that it can buy you happiness. This is so that you can teach your kids the right mindset. Get them set on the right path. Don’t let them look at money as an evil thing. Let them see how helpful money can be.
However, it is also our job as parents to not let money become the focal point of life. Research has shown that happiness level drops once you pass a certain level of income. What we can teach our children about money is that it is a necessity in life, one that can make the difference between a good life and a miserable life.
Money cannot buy happiness, but money can buy quality of life. And that’s almost the same thing.