Ideas, Information & Inspiration

Reasons Why Money Can’t Buy Happiness

10 mins
What You Will Learn
  • ‘Money and Happiness,’ A Concept
  • Why Money Can’t Buy Happiness
  • Tips That Can Lead to Happiness
by Marcus Life Learning Team

The Controversy

“Money Can’t Buy Happiness” is an adage that some people live by and others ignore. The saying means that true happiness comes from within, not from possessions that can be bought. Beyond the ability to pay your bills, happiness is a state of mind that is short-lived when you base it on physical objects and the numbers in an investment portfolio. To borrow a quote from the movie Forrest Gump, “There’s only so much money a man really needs, the rest is just for showing off.”

man sitting in a car throwing money in the air

People suffering from poverty scoff at the concept that money can’t buy happiness. The American Psychological Association published an article about research conducted by Robert Kenny, EdD. Wealthy people he interviewed admitted they loved having a lot of money and understand they are fortunate, but sometimes having a lot of money means isolation, loss of friendships to get you through difficult times and struggling with the same parenting issues as everyone else. “If their kids have access to a lot of money, and therefore a lot of drugs, that hurts just as much as if they don’t have any money and their kids are doing drugs. It doesn’t save you from any of that.”

Can Money Buy Happiness?

To answer this question, look around your home at all the things you bought that excited you at the time but now may feel more like clutter. Do you ever look at those things and think, “I am so glad I bought that because now I am happy.” On the other hand, when you look at photos of trips you have taken, nature that inspired you, family and friends, and people who captured your heart in different ways, it probably fills you with a sense of joy. Material goods can’t compete with that.

Five Reasons Why Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Money and trinkets may provide temporary joy but not true happiness. Here are five reasons why happiness derived from money is not everlasting:

group of friends laughing together

1. You Will Never Be Satisfied.

Once you allow money to become your source of happiness, you will never be satisfied. You will always want more because that shiny, new thing will become old and used one day. With technology introducing new products at lightning speed, there will always be a carrot dangling for you to reach for

2. Money Can't Buy True Friends.

Although it may seem like the wealthy are surrounded by an extensive and devoted entourage, oftentimes those “friends” tend to fade away if the money diminishes or someone more affluent and influential arrives on the scene.

3. Happiness is Doing What You Love.

Happiness comes from doing the things you love, not from your bank account balance. As for the passions that require money, such as travel and sporting adventures, budgeting and prioritizing will enable you to spend money on what is important to you. 

4. Money Can't Buy Time.

 Rather than wasting time to shop and buy, spend your time doing what you love to do.

5. Saving is Important, but Don't Forget to Enjoy Life.

 Experiencing and savoring special moments can fill your heart in a way that money cannot.

List of reasons why money can’t buy happiness.
List of reasons why money can’t buy happiness.

Money Does Buy Some Happiness

Of course, we still need to pay our bills and save for the future. Money buys peace of mind when we are able to live within our budget and save for the future. In the present, you will sleep better knowing you have some money in reserve in the event of an emergency. Looking into the future, you will be happy knowing you have built up enough of a nest egg to enable you to retire and live independently for as long as possible.

man holding a golden egg in a nest

Money is necessary to invest in a business, but so is the passion that makes you happy. When you can identify what truly makes you happy and build your business around your passion, you increase the chances your business will be a success. As Marcus has said, “I’m a big believer that if you’re happy and your employees are happy, your customers are going to be happy. If you’re unhappy and your employees are unhappy, there’s no way your customers are going to be happy.”

Basic Necessities are Important

We often find ourselves saying, “I need this,” or “I need that.” With ads in our face all the time, telling us what we need, sometimes it is hard to distinguish between what we need and what we want. We need to pay for our housing, utilities, food, transportation and, of course, taxes. Just about everything else is nonessential. Make sure you have money for basic necessities. Reserve funds for things that fuel your passion, but think in the long term. The latest cell phone model and luxury car may tempt you, but think bigger than that. Start by understanding your true self and values.

Tips on How to Find Happiness Outside of Money

Here are a few ideas to discover happiness that does not require financial wealth:

person reviewing receipts and using a calculator

1. Search for a Cause that Resonates with You.

This can be giving your time rather than a monetary donation. To identify such a cause, the Forbes Nonprofit Council encourages thinking about your values, what gives you a sense of fulfillment, what you want to impact, your skill set and what skills or experiences you want to gain.

2. Find Happiness Within Yourself and Where You are Today.

What are you grateful for? What investments would you like to deposit in your memory bank to build on for the rest of your life?

3. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others, Known as the "Keeping Up with the Joneses" Mentality.

Appearances are deceiving. As mentioned earlier, wealth is not a sign of happiness.

4. If You Constantly Worry About Money, Take the Pressure Off Yourself by Maintaining a Budget that Makes You Comfortable with Where You Are Now.

Keep a record of your monthly expenses, and consider adjustments if the differential between your total monthly expense and net

List of tips to find happiness outside of money.
List of tips to find happiness outside of money.

What Does Happiness Mean to You?

The next time you see an ad for something you didn’t know you needed but now can’t imagine living without, take a deep breath, count to 10, and think about where your happiness really comes from. Call a friend, take a nature hike, or read a great novel. Then reconsider whether buying that item will really make you happy. If it does, by all means – go for it! But if it’s just a passing whim, you may want to save that money for a rainy day.

  1. Do you currently do anything to help you feel more empowered in your day to day life?
  2. What tips from above do you think will help you feel empowered the most?
Photo of Marcus Lemonis