As a kid, I often heard my parents say things like the love of money was the root of all evil and that you can’t buy happiness. To an extent, I still believe this, but that belief comes with some conditions. I don’t mean to say that rich people are always happy and poor people are sad, but my question today is how much does money influence happiness and are the best things in life really free?
What Are the Best Things in Life?
The answer to that question depends on what stage of life you’re in. To my daughter, sleeping late, eating donuts for breakfast, ice skating, and watching cat videos on YouTube would be the best day ever. For some of my 80-year-old plus patients, being able to get through the day without pain or asking someone for help with basic life skills makes a wonderful life. To me, the best things in life are love and having positive personal relationships, security, and good health. Can those be bought with money or are they really free?
Love and Personal Relationships
One of the most attractive things about my husband was the fact that we shared many of the same hopes and dreams for the future. By my mid 20’s I was way over the bad boy stage and looking for someone to build a life with. However, one of my biggest requirements for a life partner was someone with work ambition. If Jim had been a ski bum looking for a sugar mama, I wouldn’t have given him the time of day.
I believe you can’t always choose who you love, but you can choose who you want to spend your life with. For me, that required someone with ambitious career and life goals, not necessarily money, but the desire to work and be self sufficient.
I think relationships can work for people who don’t have much money, but there is always the pink elephant in the room that creates stress about finances. Money can’t buy love, but it certainly helps when you don’t have to take calls from collections and wonder how you’ll afford lunch money for the kids.
Although the world is a crazy place, most days I don’t feel worried about being a victim of violence. When I think about security, it usually involves financial security. That includes a safe place to live and being able to pay for all basic necessities without worry.
Knowing I have enough savings to get me through most any emergency is a very powerful thing and certainly adds to my overall well being. Also, having multiple streams of income means not having to worry as much if one of them dries up.
I also know that by having life insurance, my family would be OK financially if something were to happen to me. It would be rough for them emotionally, but they would be financially secure.
Building an emergency fund, having extra streams of income, and life insurance all involve money. Security and financial peace of mind is certainly not free.
Up until my 30’s, I didn’t have to worry much about my health. I’ve always exercised and eaten fairly well, so there were never any issues. As I’m getting older, I notice that good health is much harder to maintain. I feel better when I splurge on a few expensive items like juicing, organic produce, and high quality meats, and I think money spent on a gym membership has improved my health tremendously.
Fortunately no one in my household needs expensive medical treatment or prescription medicines, but I would spare no expense if those were a key component for maintaining health. I also would not go without some type of health insurance, which is certainly not free for anyone making a decent income.
I talk to people every week about their health. A problem I see often is the illusion of health because of denial. If you never go to the doctor for a physical or otherwise, you don’t know what might be wrong or need improvement. While, this certainly saves money, it’s not being healthy. Unfortunately, good health is not free. It takes lots of work and can be very expensive.
Are People Who Get Things For Free Happier?
One argument I hear from working people like myself is how much easier low income people must have it because of all the assistance programs available in this country. If you don’t earn much money, you can collect welfare, obtain food assistance, get section-8 rent payments, and have Medicaid for no cost medical care. Wouldn’t that make life grand?
I can’t say from personal experience, but I do work with a number of people from this demographic group. Without a doubt, they have the same fears, worries, and even greater obstacles than people in higher socioeconomic groups.
Low wage jobs often give no sick time, meaning you can’t afford to go to the doctor or take your kids to the doctor. Transportation is always an issue, and section-8 housing is not always safe. It’s really hard to worry about parent teacher conferences or funding an IRA when someone is being stabbed in the apartment next door. Yes, lots of these situations are based on poor personal choices, but getting social services for free does not equal happiness.
Are the Best Things in Life Really Free?
I have to say no. People don’t need millions of dollars to be happy, but they do need enough to pay for basic needs with a few non-necessary splurges thrown in. It also helps to have positive relationships and good health. A study from a few years ago says $75,000 is the right amount of money needed to buy happiness, but I think it depends on a few more variables. I know people who are perfectly happy on $40,000 a year and some who make ten times that but are still miserable.
Do you need money for happiness or are the best things really free?