Is Chasing More Money Costing You Happiness?

I personally came from very modest beginnings. My parents were young, in love and working as servers in restaurants when I came to be. I never felt like we didn’t have money, because we had enough. Sure, my parents divorced and that didn’t make me happy, and kids made fun of me because I would wear the same clothes all the time, and that didn’t make me happy – but I don’t think that having more affluent parents would have really made me happier. My parents likelihood of divorce would have been the same, and kids would have found something else to bug me about, and although my quality of life would have been different – I wouldn’t have been happier.

I knew that as a kid, so I can’t help but wonder why there’s this overwhelming idea that more money and more stuff equals more happiness to American adults.  Like if you have 2 million dollars instead of 1 million dollars, you must be two times happier. In actuality, a recent poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion found that $50,000 is the income level where, over that amount, you do not become any happier. Why? Well, you are working longer hours and sacrificing time with your friends in family, and therefore your personal relationships suffer. You don’t have time to work out, so you gain weight and now you’re unhappy with your body and  never feeling like your best self. You start looking at time in terms of dollar signs, and therefore feel like it just makes more sense to spend that time further accumulating more wealth at the expense of things that will actually bring you joy and fulfillment, but is chasing more money costing you happiness?

more work less happiness

Think about what really makes YOU happy. Is it that new dress you were so excited about but only wore once because everyone saw you in it on Facebook? Having an incredibly expensive car that no one else has (until someone else in your neighborhood gets it too)? It’s human nature to chase happiness, but you’ll never catch sustainable happiness until you change your perception of money’s role and importance in getting you there. On top of that, do you really think that rich people are lounging at beach clubs drinking pina-coladas? This may be true if they are on their one week vacation or they’re 75 and retired, but the more likely truth is that they spend a majority of their days in high-stress situations glued to their phones and being physically and mentally worn out. I’m sure that’s not how most people would define warm fuzzy happiness.

I think it’s pretty easy to identify the things that make people genuinely happy. Self love. Feeling connected and loved by others. Feeling like you’re growing as a person. Gratitude.

So where does the confusion come from? Well, we live in a world that congratulates people for being success driven, and a society that assesses a person’s worth by how much money they bring in. That high you get from the promotion or the bigger office satisfies that need inside of us to feel loved and accepted. Unfortunately, many then adjust their spending to reflect that raise, and you’re stuck constantly chasing that feeling of accompishment and worthiness. You become insatiable. Think about it, when you’re first starting out you are so happy to live in an apartment that has laundry in the basement of the building, but once you’re rich, you’re not happy unless you have the best washing machine money can buy. You risk becoming ungrateful and always left yearning for more – two of the biggest happiness sucks out there.

It’s a slippery slope my friends. So the question becomes, how do we shift our perspective? I saw an interview with Suze Orman recently where she stated that “Money is the currency of life. It is there to teach you about yourself.” She went on to explain that you need to use money as a teacher to discover who you really are. I’m not saying to get rid of your ambition or that you shouldn’t strive to be successful if you want to be happy, but become more conscious of how you define success for self. For example, as being a good friend or mother, or being compassionate and giving back to your community as opposed to having a higher job title or bigger home. Learn to find as much pleasure in saving your money to invest in things that actually bring you joy and fulfillment as you do in spending it on things that leave you empty. Shifting your perception may take some work, but when you’re working on your happiness – it’s always worthwhile.

are you happy




  1. Chasing money is definitely costing me happiness. UGH!

    • Once your debt is paid off and you reach that tipping point hopefully you’ll know to pull off from the chase – you’re so close!

  2. Thank you for this. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I find myself super stressed out about money- but not necessarily because we don’t have enough of it, but because I’m always trying to figure out how to bring more in. It can take a toll on my well-being and my relationships. Now, I don’t know that we will ever be anywhere CLOSE to rich, but I do hope that we will always remember the things that are really important to us. I don’t want the road to financial peace to be littered with hard feelings or unhappiness!

    • What a great comment – thank you for sharing! We are all guilty of the money equals happiness trap getting to our heads. It’s important to remember what really makes us happy :)

  3. I’ve always thought that being rich would mean being tied to a job that would never allow you to enjoy what you work so hard for.

    My family and are gearing up for a move that will entail living in a smaller space and actually having less – so we can do more. Having less “stuff,” spending less on things that aren’t important, leaves more for things like travel and those things that are important to us.

    • I LOVE that. It takes courage to live against what society has labelled a “successful” life and live a life that truly makes you happy. I’m sure you’ll never regret one moment of it – thank you for sharing.

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  5. My theory is that the max income for max happiness is $200,000 bc I’ve experienced both sides and have felt the backlash of taxes and the public after that amount. So keep striving if you got the energy, especially in expensive places like NYC and SF!

    BTW, back in NYC again for the US Open week of Sept 2. You around? Would be good to meet up. There is this good party on Sept 6 my friend is hosting in the city we should all go to. Shoot me an email!


  6. We have the same issues in the U.K. I know people who are mortgaged up to the max and as a result I can see the stress in their faces which causes them to over eat as a result – You also see the resentment in their faces when I go traveling with my wife and as I tell people ”small house=small mortgage=more life” but the majority of people are so concerened about their image I actually pity them…. one life,live it…. great posr by the way.

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