Money, money, money
Happiness is spending?
When we ask people : What are the things you would like to have to be happy today? Many answer “money”. However, studies show that in many rich countries the increase of the gross domestic product (GDP) over decades has not increased the subjective happiness of the inhabitants…
So why do we want money?
- Money is an element associated to the fact of being able to do what we want, to forms of freedom. This financial freedom is an element favourable to happiness
- It allows us to live some of our passions. Facilitating the existence, it sometimes also helps to realize our deepest aspirations.
- Money is also associated with security. In a period of insecurity, its presence and its accumulation reassure. It not only helps to make ends meet, but also provides a margin of safety in the face of an uncertain future.
- In short, money represents more than material goods.
But then why doesn’t it make us really happy?
- Hedonic habituation means that we are sensitive to change for a while, but we get used to the gain. An improvement of the financial situation will have positive effects for a few months… to which we will eventually get used, thus cancelling the perceived happiness. Conversely, unemployment is correlated with a decrease in subjective well-being.
- Major economic cycles, recessions, recoveries, seem to have a more obvious influence on happiness than long-term growth. What matters, therefore, is stability and access to employment, or the loss of it, which counts much more than an increase in GDP.
- Comparison is a negative factor for happiness. Thus, the happiness of the inhabitants of a municipality where the disparities are strong, is less. On the contrary, municipalities with smaller differences in living standards promote the subjective well-being of the population.
“To avoid becoming a slave to money, the ancient sages affirmed, we must, as soon as our basic needs are satisfied, know how to limit our material desires in order to give more space to our family, our friends, our passions and our inner life.” Frederic Lenoir.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break through walls to steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and where thieves cannot break through walls or steal!” Gospel of Matthew ch. 6.