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Can money buy happiness or is the grass always greener?

Can money buy happiness, or are we simply in a culture where the grass is always greener? New research suggests an answer to the age old question.

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can money buy happiness

Can money buy happiness?

As I ponder this question, I can hear my oldest cackling from across the house. He’s playing hide and seek with his dad.

It may seem now that I’m going to give a spiel about the love of money being the root of all evil; I’m not. But I will dissect that quote. It suggests that all things evil are somehow related to money; it does not say that all money is evil.

Humans have basic needs, and in our society, we need money to provide those needs. Food, shelter, and healthcare cost money, and while most material things aren’t related to true happiness, basic needs are. But don’t misunderstand the word “basic.” Shelter does not mean your dream home, and food doesn’t mean brunch with the gals. Research suggests that money is directly connected to happiness until a family generates $13,000 per person annually.

Beyond that, happiness is measurably the same across all socio-economic classes.

An illustrative story of happiness

Once basic needs are met, many do struggle with feeding money into the quest for happiness in American society. I experienced this several years ago when we decided to build a house. After saving a bit, we purchased a lot and picked out a floor plan. Evil reared its head when we were sent to the design center. We were bombarded with choices and teased with upgrades. We could choose (read: fight about) carpet, carpet pad, light fixtures, and tile. We got to pick (read: fight about) wood, stain, cut, style, and pulls for the kitchen cabinets, and the bickering continued as we moved into the bathroom. There was a $130 available upgrade for a soap tray in the shower!

You know what my favorite thing about building the house is? The experience. As it was being built, we would pile into the car and drive across town to see the progress. The kids played on the mounds of dirt and made balance beams from two by fours. Once the walls were up, the kids sought out the best hiding spots and staged games of tag.

When we moved into our dream house on a cul-de-sac in a new development with the most sought after schools, we sure missed the life we left behind. Our previous residence came with a maintenance man who fished Hotwheels out of toilets. There were parks with walking trails, sidewalks that led straight to the school that out-of-district parents desperately wanted their children in. It was even a gated community. It was military base housing circa 1962. It was free.

The American conundrum

My grass here at the dream home is only greener because the high priced HOA demands it so. I’ve seen many disputes, petty arguments, and tears from my neighbors who, as Dave Ramsey says, are spending money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. There are parts of military life I long for. There is such simplicity in wearing your pay grade on your sleeve. The substandard (read: non-dream-home) living conditions are an acceptable trade for the experience of seeing the world and for the gift of lifelong friends from every corner of the country.

Meanwhile, back at the dream home… We sat around the dinner table tonight letting each child tell about his/her favorite part of the day. One said he liked the family walk we took. Another giggled, remembering when mom couldn’t find him in his secret hiding spot. Two were just happy we were having something they liked for dinner. One, the only girl of the bunch, said she liked summertime with her family. But, of course, this moment was brought to you by the money I had to put food on the table.

Can money buy happiness? It’s an American conundrum.

Kristyl Barron holds a BA in English Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MHR in Counseling/Organizational Management from the University of Oklahoma. Barron has been writing professionally since 2008, and projects include a memoir entitled Give Your Brother Back His Barbie and an in progress motivational book called Aspies Among Us.

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Business Finance

COVID-19: Governors fail renters, a 90-day rent freeze is the only option now

Independent contractors whose only sin is renting instead of owning, are facing evictions even as Governors put tiny bandaids on the situation. A 90-day freeze is the nation’s only option to avoid mass migrations or spikes in homelessness.

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2020, it seems, is the year of rebranding—even when it comes to our impromptu recession brought on by a variety of factors (but largely thanks to COVID-19). Despite the negative connotations of widespread economic disaster, some people, such as St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard, are regarding this instance as “an investment in U.S. public health.”

Should we all be so optimistic? Bullard seems to think so.

To be fair, James Bullard’s “optimism” also accounts for taking a “$2.5 trillion hit” to the economy, so it’s not all sunshine and dancing unicorns (this time). However, the long-term outcome of handling this crisis correctly—a process which involves bailing out small businesses, matching wages, and contributing to rebuilding and supporting our healthcare infrastructure—will be, according to Bullard, positive.

Bullard’s optimism does come with an important message: As with pretty much anything, the simpler we can keep solutions to this problem, the better the outcome will be. We’re not off to a great start; between states’ varying responses to COVID-19 procedures and mixed congressional support for a stimulus package, the process of dealing with economic fallout has become more complicated than some—Bullard included—would consider “ideal”.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really an “ideal” outcome here that is also practical without requiring a heretofore unseen level of cooperation and cohesion between political parties and state-based cultures. In the event that we can actually pull together and actively invest, as Bullard suggests, in our infrastructure, the implications for our economy will ultimately be positive—even if only in a pyrrhic victory kind of way.

In unprecedented times of crisis—you know, like right now—a little bit of optimism doesn’t hurt. Over the course of the next few months, you’ll hear all sorts of different takes on the situation; some people—those who identify as “realists” but really just enjoy bumming people out—will actively speak out against positive attitudes, while others will avoid “getting their hopes up” because they don’t want to be disappointed.

But, if Bullard’s optimism is to be believed—and we’re choosing to think it is—you have full permission to let yourself hope, at least for now.

Remember, there are a couple of things you can do to bolster your immune system without medicine during this time. One of them involves keeping a positive outlook, and the other one is eating plenty of garlic; we’ve found that one accompanies the other.

This story was first published in our Real Estate section.

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Business Finance

Gov. Cuomo first to issue 90-day moratorium on commercial, residential evictions

(NEWS) NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state leader to put a halt to all commercial and residential payments in an effort to stem the COVID-19 crisis.

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New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state governor to put a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, specifically hitting pause for 90 days in his state. This is part of a $10B relief package that includes utility payments missed during this outbreak as the state (and all states) are strained by the global pandemic.

This will not only help renters to find stable footing as so many have lost their jobs overnight, but commercial renters (like restaurants) that are worried about being evicted during a time that they were shut down by the government.

Reactions have mostly been positive, but many are still pushing for a freeze on rent, essentially rent forgiveness during this period since mortgage holders can roll their 90 days on to the end of their loan term, but renters cannot.

For many landlords, rent is their exclusive income and they have very few units, but they too will be under a mortgage freeze on their buildings under this Order, providing some relief. Not to mention Tax Day just moved from April 15 to July 15.

Meanwhile, a state group, Housing Justice for All, is calling for the rehousing of every homeless individual using emergency rent assistance and in vacant homes. They cite the risk of viral spread through the homeless shelter system, as well as viral possibilities among homeless people living on the streets.

There is no known answer in this time of being tested, but a freeze on rents and mortgages in New York will likely lead to other governors taking the same route, and renters might be able to breathe a little better soon, especially those who have lost their jobs and independent contractors whose business immediately died on the vine.

We’ll be watching for other states’ reactions to rents and mortgage payments.

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Business Finance

COVID-19: Self employed Texans get some relief benefits

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Self employed? Worried about the corona virus hurting your business? Texas says you’re STILL eligible for cash-related COVID-19 coverage!

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When I heard ‘It’s hard being your own boss’, I thought people meant employee reviews were harder to do since you have to carry both parts of a tough conversation in your home office.

Now, watching as self-employed artists, caterers, events specialists and more are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the image is less ‘Ha!’ and more ‘AH!’.

It’s bad out there, y’all. And my heart goes out virtually, as per CDC guidelines. But in every viral cloud, there’s a colloidal silver lining. In the great state of Texas, that lining is: You’re probably eligible for disaster-based unemployment.

Yes, really!

Straight from the Texas Workforce Commission’s mouth: If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

Now how does that cover the self-employed? Simple…kinda.

You’ll need to apply through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance and then take the extra steps of providing different proof than your 9-5 friends.

Firstly, you have to prove you’re self employed. If you’ve been paying you under the table, this is where the poop hits the fan, I’m afraid. The government will need things like (any given one of these): Insurance bills, business license, a recent ad, an invoice, or sales records.

Were you just about to start your own business when all this went down? Fortunately you’re covered too, so long as you have proof of prospective self-employment, say: The deed to a building you just bought, loan documents, ‘Grand Opening’ announcements, and so forth.

For the full list of documents that suffice, visit the TWC site directly and check what proof your pudding needs.

This situation is a Corona-cluster-cussword, but there’s help out there.

Reach out. Grab it. And then wash your hands.

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