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Money Can’t Buy Happiness… Or Can It?

We’ve all heard the age-old adage, money can’t buy happiness. Yet, we seem to always be in pursuit of both: money and happiness.

Cold, hard cash means we can buy bigger, better, and more. We try to keep up with the Joneses and the Kardashians. We expect earnings to grow, profits to rise, and productivity to soar. All, in the quest to make a buck.

And yet, for all the times we each say, ‘money isn’t everything’, there may actually be something to it. Could money actually buy happiness?

The ‘Why of Wealth’ Report

Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy peace of mind.

Boston Private, a leading wealth management, trust, and private banking company, surveyed 300 people worth anywhere from $1 to $20 million. The goal of the survey was to find out how wealth affects quality of life.

The ‘Why of Wealth’ report finds that while money itself cannot buy happiness or success, it can afford a lifestyle that makes happiness more likely. In fact, when asked what wealth is, 54% of the respondents answered simply, happiness.

Wealth is happiness, according to those who have it.

“Aside from the intangible emotional and psychological benefits, people view wealth as an enabler — it enables them to have freedom, a happy family life and to pursue social and leisure activities they enjoy,” the survey reports.

65% of people surveyed say that money gives them peace of mind. It’s not hard to figure out why, but in case you’re wondering, 70% of respondents say their wealth gives them financial independence and freedom. This means less worrying about how to climb out of debt, fewer fights over finances, and less struggling to make ends meet.

After all, money can’t buy health, but it can afford healthcare.
Money can’t buy purpose in life, but it can fund your quest to find it.
And, money can’t buy you a worry-free day, but it can offer freedom.

What do the wealthy do with this freedom?

44% of the survey respondents say they travel extensively. Others report that they use their money to give back, investing in worthy causes like minority-run businesses. All pursue family, social, and leisure activities that give them satisfaction. Aka happiness.

Money Can Also Come with Regrets

Before those of us pulling less in than $1 mill a year start to feel our own happiness fading at this news, the report also points out that making money comes with its own share of regrets.

Almost half of those surveyed say they regret not spending more time with their families.

“Wealthy individuals may feel they owe an emotional debt to their families,” the survey reports. “Here we see the emotional interplay of regret, guilt and compensation.”

Other regrets include: taking better care of their health, following their passions and dreams, and pursuing higher education.

wealth and regret

It’s also important to point out that none of this means that wealthy people don’t have stress, depression, or anxiety. Wealth, may come with its own set of concerns: anxiety about children, uncertainty over relationships, and fears of isolation, according to research by Robert Kenny, a developmental psychologist at Boston College.

Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World

If there’s one thing coveted more than money, even by the wealthy, it’s time.

“In terms of our happiness, time is really the fundamental currency,” University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn said on CNBC Make It. “What really matters for your day-to-day moods is what it is you’re doing with your time.”

To buy more time in life, one must master the art of balance.

In an interview with the NY Times, Venture capitalist Elizabeth Galbut Perelman said, “You’re sacrificing time with your friends, time with your loved ones, time with your own health. If I’m working at my business 16 hours a day, how do I have a sense of wellness and also take care of my employees?”

Negatives of wealth

For those who feel like they are teeter-tottering in their toils for balance, you are not alone. There are more than 30,000 books on Amazon with “balance” in the title. Work-life balance, financial balance, and self-transformational balance, to name a few.

The topic’s popularity inspired books from the Oola guys to soar into top spots as best-sellers. What is Oola, you might ask?

“Oola is that state of awesomeness you experience when your life is balanced and growing in all the key areas of health and well-being. It can be a noun or a verb. It can be a destination or a feeling. It can be as complex as a life growing and balanced in fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun (the 7 F’s of Oola), or as simple as a sunset, a quiet book on the beach, or a special moment with a child. It is that place we all shoot for in life. That feeling we experience and that we celebrate in our successes along the way. In short, Oola is cool.”

In other words, Oola is a lifestyle, as described in the first self-help book, Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World-The Seven Areas You Need to Balance and Grow to Live the Life of Your Dreams. A lifestyle, pursued by those with wealth and by those without.

Interestingly enough, we’ve come full circle. The search for balance is not only sought-after by people of all professions and financial status, it is also a money-maker itself. And, as the survey shows, money is happiness.

Related blog post: A Happy Place to Work is a Profitable Place to Work

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This blog was originally written by mConnexions Principal Strategist + Owner, Julie Holton for Think Tank of Three. Think Tank of Three is trio of women who’ve come together to help empower other women by offering collaboration, encouragement, and conversation. Catch the women on their weekly blog at and tune in twice monthly to catch their regular podcast. Have a topic you’d like covered? Want to join the discussion as a guest expert? Let the ladies know know!

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