It’s tempting to think that more money will make you happier, especially if you’re currently undergoing financial distress. After all, money has the power to solve many problems; it can conceivably make everyday problems like car trouble or home repairs much less impactful.
But would making more money and living a more affluent lifestyle really make that much of a difference in your mental health and overall moods?
The Complexities of Human Psychology
First, it’s important to recognize the complexities of human psychology. It’s tempting to think of happiness as a simple emotion, and a one-dimensional one. After all, we all know what happiness is, intuitively, we’ve all felt it, and we’ve all felt the impact of life when we don’t have that happiness.
But happiness, and the absence of happiness, are much more complex than we realize. It’s possible to live a good life, with pleasures and moments of satisfaction on a daily basis, but still be deeply unsatisfied. It’s also possible to be very stressed and frustrated with life on a daily basis, but still be deeply satisfied. And most of us, regardless of how much fleeting, momentary happiness we experience, still have some issues related to happiness, joy, and satisfaction with life.
That’s one reason why therapists in the Beverly Hills area are so in demand. Therapists have the unique ability to help us recognize and understand these deeper complexities, and they can equip us with knowledge and strategies that can help us reshape our lives for the better.
And yes, it’s true that therapists are technically something that money can buy. But because most health insurance policies now explicitly cover mental health services like therapy, therapy has become much more accessible, regardless of income. Keep this in mind.
The Relationship Between Money and Happiness
Now, let’s dig into the relationship between money and happiness.
There is some evidence to suggest that money can “buy happiness,” but only up to a certain point, and in ways that are fundamentally more complicated than most people realize. For example, studies suggest that happiness and life satisfaction can increase in proportion to the amount of money you make, but only up to a certain point. One especially prominent study from 2010 showed that happiness doesn’t tend to increase with your salary after you make about $75,000 a year. Adjusted for inflation, that number is closer to $100,000 a year now.
Additionally, the plateau of happiness that one experiences may have a tight relationship with your existing levels of happiness and unhappiness. In other words, if you already live a happy, satisfying life, your “happiness plateau” may be delayed, and if you already live an unhappy life, increasing your salary probably isn’t going to make you as happy as you think it will.
How Money Can Make You Happier
Why is this the case?
As you might imagine, the issue is very complex. There are some ways that money can legitimately make you happier:
- Mitigating and eliminating money-related problems: Unhappiness is sometimes caused by specific problems, such as health ailments or issues with repairs and maintenance. With enough money, these problems become practically unnoticeable. Spending $500 on a car repair is no big deal if you have millions in the bank – but it could be a devastating, stressful event if you’re already deeply in debt.
- Giving you more access: Money also buys you some degree of accessibility. If you have expensive hobbies, or if you love activities like vacationing, having more money gives you more freedom to explore them.
- Improving your confidence/self-esteem: For some people, earning more money and having more money also improves confidence and self-esteem. It feels good to be financially successful.
How Money Can’t Make You Happier
But there are even more ways that money can’t make you happier.
- Correcting deeper issues: No matter how much money you have, it’s not going to make issues like CPTSD or an anxiety disorder go away. Deep psychological issues are a major root cause of unhappiness that money can’t directly touch.
- Accommodating lifestyle creep: Lifestyle creep is the phenomenon of gradually adapting to the acquisition and use of luxuries, such that you come to see them not as luxuries, but as baseline necessities. It’s typically used in discussions of financial responsibility, but it’s also an explanation of why wealthy people aren’t especially happy with their lifestyles; they’ve acclimated to them.
- Improving your relationships: Money can’t really improve your personal relationships. No matter how much money you have or how much money you make, it’s not going to make people like you for you – and it’s not going to heal your broken relationships.
- Giving you a deeper meaning: For most people, the pursuit of money isn’t the deeper meaning of life. And if you spend too much of your time and effort pursuing that money, it might eat you up inside.
- Introducing new problems: Finally, you should understand that having lots of money can introduce new problems to your life. Many wealthy people worry about losing it all and obsess over things like careers, connections, and social status in an unhealthy way.
The simple truth is that money can make you happier, but only in some ways, and only up to a certain point. Because unhappiness isn’t directly correlated with money, if you’re feeling unhappy in your life, the best course of action is to talk to a therapist or psychological professional who can guide you to a happier lifestyle.