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.