Does Money Equal Happiness?

Money = Happiness?

Happiness is reflected in the ratio of one's accomplishments to one's aspirations, said William James, a noted 19th century philosopher and psychologist. His quote would suggest that when it comes to feeling happy about our lives, we can try to keep adding to our list of accomplishments or we can simply lower our expectations. The latter choice seems completely unreasonable in the modern world, especially when you consider research by HF Clark that indicates that no matter what level of income people in the United States reach, they want about 25 percent more than what they have - and that figure remains constant no matter how much their income rises throughout the course of their lives.

Americans, by nature, have always been known to strive for better and bigger. The conspicuous spending & consuming nation has turned into a nation of obscene disposability....We thrown away on a whim....This includes people as well as tangible goods. Why??? How many individuals have taken stock of what is Better for themselves.... How often does ego and fear prevent Americans from vacationing or meeting friends for a cup of coffee....Europeans vacation one month a year. The vast majority travel during this period. Holidays consist of a week not one day. Good food, good friends, and good conversation is of value....Americans~ are working themselves, literally, working themselves to death while espousing the philosophy of balanced life. Do the majority of Americans know what constitutes substance and personal fulfillment? Have they analyzed why they need to make more money.... Why they want more. How many individuals realize the true price they are paying - fiscally and psychologically? Talk to a person who lived through the great depression of the 30's....They will talk about the working together, sharing and values. While it is true depression-era folks washed off tin-foil and reused it. Later in life they could enjoy an occasional $2.50 meal at the local all-you-can-eat restaurant. And felt a pride that they were made of sterner stuff.... While always aware of the value of a dollar and how quickly it could disappear they did have one major indulgence. Spoiling their children's the Baby-Boomers who regularly dined at trendy restaurants, splurged on $500.00 dinner, and proceeded to travel with money yet to be in their pocket. This generation, traveled well, bought what and everything they wanted and saved little thinking "There is always tomorrow." They had more experiences, money .etc than their parent but pride of accomplishment...a satisfaction building values.... The Me Generation??? What legacy did this "me" generation leave for the brand-conscious Generation Y, those -- born between 1979 and 1994 – who have carried their parents’ credit cards since elementary school and have spent freely for most of their lives? How much of a jolt will they be given when they graduate from college with six-figure debts to repay and realize that the wellspring of financial support their parents provided has suddenly run dry? Is this the generation who could ask why do I have 200 pairs of shoes but cannot afford to own a place of their own? Is this the generation with no hope of building something solid i.e, working toward a home where family and friends gather to build warm memories and traditions.

A study by Bergstrom and Gidehag, a pair of Swedish economists revealed in 2004 that, "Most Americans have a standard of living which the majority of Europeans will never come anywhere near." Avoiding excess and waste have been cornerstones of European and Asian cultures. For example, while living in Paris, the apartment hall way light was on for 3 minutes if you could not unlock your door in this timeframe, oh well, you would be forced to open your apartment without the aid of light. Rome, Hong Kong and many other countries automatically activate the electricity. Waste is often considered a character flaw and viewed shamefully.... And in places like Norway, the haves and have-nots are hard to distinguish. Wealth is simply not flaunted, so those with low-paying jobs seem to live lives in a similar fashion to those with one million Norwegian krones in the bank.

An ACNielsen report in 2005 indicated that Europeans' top priorities in spending their money are going out and enjoying life with out of home entertainment (i.e. vacations, dining and culture). The second most popular spending choice among consumers in nearly every European market was debt repayment and putting money into savings. But Asia Pacific ranks as the highest saving region in the world.

This certainly points up a stark contrast to Americans who have become viewed globally as "rich spending junkies." Status and excess thrive, and the trend toward bigger is better seems to be escalating - from gas-guzzling SUVs to wide-screen televisions to transforming modest homes into McMansions. We have more modern goods than anywhere else on the planet – cars, computers, audio-video equipment, brand-name athletic shoes – and still, we want more and we want it now, so we defer to lenders who are all too happy to help us. "For everything else, there’s Mastercard" has become something of a national mantra. Overall, the U.S. is an affluent society, where credit cards and revolving debt have become insidious staples of everyday American life. They are the tools necessary to bolster shaky money frameworks in order for people to keep up with the Joneses. Everywhere we turn we are encouraged to follow a yellow-brick road paved with pre-approved credit lines, payment plans and low monthly fees. Credit cards are welcome nearly everywhere – movie theaters, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, taxi cabs, car dealerships, funeral homes, doctor's offices, and even at the IRS.

Is the quality of life superior in America? Why do many of those who immigrated to the US for opportunities while admitting the opportunities miss the quality of life "back Home." Anxiety and depression is rampant.... Our 'quality of life' is leaving American's isolated, depressed and anxious. The solution work harder, kill the spirit within. Fight the joy of simple pleasures...misses the simple social events that will not enhance the drive for MORE.... Think of the Jones's not those who truly count. Professor Drazen Prelec, who studies the psychology of money at the Sloan School of Management, says that "When the credit card bill arrives, people find paying it extremely unpleasant - worse than paying parking tickets." But in a nation where we barely make enough money to cover our bills and we put every extra cent toward minimum payments on our credit cards, how are we supposed to save any money?

In order to get control of spending and credit card debt and learn how to save, we need to delve into the psychological ramifications of what money means to us. We need to determine the way money functions in our lives and define our attitudes about money. People today tend to believe that money leads to happiness - money can give us things that will put a smile on our faces. But contrary to that opinion, there is little connection between income and happiness. People with high incomes -- even those who've won lotteries or have been listed in the top 100 richest Americans -- are not statistically happier than those with middle incomes. And a boost in income may make us temporarily happy, but once we adapt, we tend to need an even bigger fix. Over the past ten years, depression rates have continued to rise. Teen suicide has tripled, divorce rates have more than doubled, and violent crime keeps escalating. With those statistics in mind, it is clear that economic growth has not helped national morale. In fact, it is has only exacerbated our keep-spending culture.

Any good salesperson will tell you that most purchases are made on emotion not logic. The way we perceive ourselves and others definitely affects the way we spend our money. Studies show that people with low self-esteem engage in more impulse spending and buying of things they don't need. Some people buy things for the sake of popularity and pleasing other people. They equate gifts – for themselves and others – as defining who they are as people. But aren't gifts supposed to be given out of love, not to meet expectations? Others use shopping as a pacifier when they feel upset or depressed or as a means of revenge - to justify what they feel was unwise, overspending by a partner.

Susan Wright of New Mexico State University says that "spending habits have five parts: a drive that causes you to go to the store, a stimulus that attracts your attention and encourages you to buy, a decision to say yes or no to the temptation, an act, and a consequence."

People who understand why they spend money can learn how to tighten the reins on their spending behavior. The best way to take control of spending and buying habits is to start by leaving credit cards at home or in a safe-deposit box and pay for purchases with cash, a check or use a debit card. Before you make a purchase, contemplate your motive. Try to find the root or the underlying emotional truth of your spending. Remind yourself that money – or lack of – does not determine who you are, and your worth as a person has nothing to do with how much money or how many things you have. If you take these aspects under consideration, you might find that your unconscious, limiting beliefs are what have been keeping you from being financially successful - and from saving money and paying off debt, as well.

The goal is to feel less of a need to generate positive feelings by buying things and stop shopping for unnecessary items. Therefore, set a realistic budget and stick to it. Plan your shopping in advance. Never borrow more than you can reasonably pay off. And seek out ways to reduce your credit card interest rate. Chances are all these efforts will build up your self-esteem and help you to develop a more positive attitude about yourself and your relationship to money.

In the end, hopefully you'll experience a greater satisfaction with life and discover that happiness is less about things and getting what you think you want and more about wanting what you already have – a sincere connection to yourself and others and basking in simple, ordinary pleasures.