Does money buy happiness?

Yes. Yes, it does

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Growing up, I remember watching videos in schools during slow class days, or that one, special episode every kids’ show seems to recreate, all centering around a storyline of good morals with the same philosophical phrase: “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Now, I’m 26 and want to give heads up to all our readers about this untruth; this deceptive ploy to either relieve mental stress or somehow encourage others to be less materialistic. I’m Spencer, the SET Intern, and I’m here to let all you fresh and brand new adults out there — reading this fantastic and edgy publication — in on one of the biggest lies you’ve been told your entire juvenile lives: Money does buy happiness and I’ve got the research to prove it!

Let me level with you. I, too, used to be a naive young adult, believing a dollar sign couldn’t be put on any happy memories I made. The nights would be young well past midnight almost every time, and my “fear of missing out” disorder (a.k.a. FOMO) would keep me from ever bailing or even considering the thought of going home and saving money. I was ignorant to the costs of what those “happy” memories were; enjoying the moment, seizing the day. But then, I slowly realized I had a terrible fast-food job and to be quite honest, if it wasn’t the hassle of getting off certain days to enjoy time with myself or friends, it would be the scrawny, pathetic paychecks I would receive at the most minimum of wages that would put a damper on all the cool and fun activities I could have done.

I would literally go to work for eight hours a day, working at least 40 a week with school in between. You wouldn’t think I had time for much and would be able to afford at least a day or two of fun, but no, after the treachery of “monthly bills” occurs, I was lucky if I could swing by McDonald’s for a binge on the dollar menu.

With the lack of pay and lack of personal time, I started to see things for how they really are: really, REALLY expensive. Life seemed darker, not in a catastrophic way of course, but more of a “meh” way.  Bills became dominant over video games, drinks with friends, road trips and everything precious in my world, taking the majority of my happiness with them. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lose all of my pep, but it felt mostly confined to a couple days in a month where I was able to go out with friends and participate in happy memory making moments. Fortunately for me, my friends were also just as poor, and at least one old adage rings true: Misery does love company.

If you look at it from my perspective, Fun is a bill just like Internet and Utilities, it’s something you need to have money for, not only for the experience itself, but to help relax yourself mentally and physically from stress. Humans need to be able to relax and recharge, but other than lounging on the couch binging your favorite Netflix/Hulu show or reading a book that’s been patiently waiting on your bookshelf for the majority of your off day, without money, your options are slim. Beach trips, midnight showings, music festivals — you name it, they all require money to enjoy and without it, that experience is just unattainable.

In Alabama and Tennessee, our SET magazine distribution area, the estimated result for necessary income annually for a single adult, such as myself, is between $19,000 to $20,000, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. These results show that at minimum to live with yours bills paid and other expenses controlled, you would only need a job that pays 9.62 dollars an hour, something I could never achieve in the drive thru window on a Friday night. Maybe at Chick-Fil-A, where working fast food is their pleasure.

If you take in that perspective, maybe consider extra expenses such as a pet, tuition or possibly a medical bill, you could live a decently comfortable life at $40,000 to $50,000 a year in this area. Bills would be covered, food would be in the fridge and surprisingly, unless you’re one of those crazy college students ready to own a home so early in life, you can have money in your savings. It’s like Minda Zetlin, co-author of “The Geek Gap” said, “it’s not so much that money buys happiness as that not having enough money for a comfortable life can cause unhappiness.”

Now to be fair, although I feel totally in the right, some researchers believe there to be a “satiation point.” For example, someone making $120,000 a year may feel comfortable, but someone who used to make $150,000 and drops down to $120,000 could feel uncomfortable because of their previous standard of living. The person who made more has a higher “satiation point” than the person used to no better, according to nobel prize winners, economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Either way you look at it, the only person who seems upset is the one who lost money. They’ll probably be just fine, but readjusting could be a hassle, thus unhappiness will most likely occur.

It’s not all about perspective, it’s all about having money.

As shallow as it may sound, to actually live comfortably and be happy, which is almost impossible with stress, you need money. Unless you enjoy sitting at home watching paint dry and fantasizing about all the things you hope to do, you might want to think about a budget, a means of living or maybe even a job change. Regardless of what you do, according to the statistics, unless you’re meeting that $20,000 a year, you’re most likely not meeting the cost of all your bills and you definitely don’t have the money for fun on the side.

You’re more than welcome to disagree with my argument. If anything, I would hope this article would lead you to possibly reviewing your finances, regulating your spending or maybe just pushing you in or out of that job you’ve been on the fence about. Although I truly believe money is a major factor in happiness, considering the modern world we live in, maybe getting a handle on the situation or even opening an account with Listerhill could lead you on the right track to being happy long-term. Please visit any of your local Listerhill branches or for more information about opening an account and all the benefits and savings you can gain.


Did you know?

  • According to David Clingingsmith of the Department of Economics at Case Western Reserve University in 2016  once you make around $200,000, having more money won’t make you any happier. While this isn’t exactly peanuts — it’s nearly four times the 2015 U.S. median household income of $55,775.
  • The average salary in Alabama is $39,180 and in Tennessee is $48,547.
  • Last year 48% of Americans said their annual expenses were greater than or equal to their annual income.