The question posed in the article by Professor Dan Ariely, best selling author on psychology and behavioral economics, is one repeated more times than any query ever uttered: “Can Money Buy Happiness?” He then launched into an analysis of the responses by people in all economic strata in an effort to match income level to professed happiness. Despite confusing implications by the many replies he received, his final conclusion seems warranted: “Accumulating wealth isn’t about the pursuit of happiness – it’s about the pursuit of what we think (wrongly) will make us happy.”
I’ll offer a few personal observations based on many decades of experience. Born during the Great Depression of the 1930s, into a family of modest means, money seemed always in short supply. As a preteen, my major luxury was the ten cents my father gave me each week to attend the Saturday matinee with my school chums. Upon turning 13, the few bucks I managed to earn as a golf caddie helped me pay my way. However, by 15, I commanded full adult pay of about $12 daily as a pinsetter in a local bowling alley … a job I retained until the Korean War transformed me into an unadorned seaman in the U.S. Navy. The $100 per month pay I received guaranteed I’d not be spoiled by undue opulence.
In more recent years, first as a hired property manager, and now as a professional investor, the money flows far more freely. Nonetheless, on the happiness scale, I observe no changes since the days I limited my daily expenditures to the few dollars in the bottom of my pocket. I’ve always lived well within my means. As a result, I maintain an aura of satisfaction – perhaps not quite the same as happiness, but close enough so it’s hard to tell the difference. And as for poverty, it’s a condition I’ve never experienced. I admit to having been flat broke many more times than I can recall, but at no time did I ever consider myself poor. The former is a financial circumstance, whereas the latter is a mental condition.
A final word on this subject: Don’t imagine I disparage being well-to-do. Many years ago a prominent humorist, whose name I’ve long forgotten, made a comment which beautifully captures the reality of prosperity. Although intended entirely in jest, it struck me as one of the most profound truths I’d ever heard. His assertion: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor … rich is better.”