Stop Telling Me That “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

We’ve all heard this adage over and over again from relatives, friends, professors, and co-workers:

“They may be rich, but, you see, money can’t buy happiness.”

I know that when people say this, they mean well. They are trying to promote a value system in which money is not the pinnacle of a person’s existence. And I do follow their logic momentarily.

Well, sure. Money does not directly buy you a magical happy potion that makes all of your problems disappear.

However, we live in a capitalist society where many people have to live paycheck to paycheck just to survive. The 1.6 million people in the US make $7.25/hour, federal minimum wage; in most parts of the country, minimum wage is not enough to live off of. As of 2012, 45 million people or 14.5% of the American population were living below the poverty line. 670,000 Americans are homeless and a startling total of 48 million Americans go hungry each night. In a world where so many people are struggling just to get by and obtain the bare essentials, such as food and shelter, money might not buy happiness, but it can certainly go a long way.

Money can buy food, clothes, and a warm place to stay for the winter. It can buy phones which help us to communicate with loved ones and save us in emergency situations. It can help you get a haircut so you can look presentable for a job interview. Money can give you all the simple things we take for granted. 

When I hear someone say that money can’t buy happiness, I wonder about their background. I imagine that they must have been incredibly lucky and privileged growing up. They don’t know what it’s like to not know if you’ll have a house in a few months. They’ve never eaten McDonald’s $1 Happy Meals everyday for 3 months because that’s all they could afford. They’ve never had to decide between replacing their only pair of jeans (which just ripped in the crotch) and groceries for the month. And, they’ve certainly never had to do any of these things while going to work or school, and pretending that everything is okay.

When you go through these circumstances, you’re not wishing for happiness. You’re wishing for money. Sometimes, you’re just wishing for $5.

I’m not ashamed to say that, first and foremost, when I grow up, I want to be rich. I don’t need to be “rolling in cash rich,” but I want to have enough money that I will never have to worry. I want my kids to be kids and never have to make some of the decisions that I’ve had to make. I don’t think that makes me greedy. I want a better life for both myself and my children. Money may not buy me happiness, but it will make happiness attainable.