I’ll let you in on a little secret: Being happy doesn’t depend on how much you earn, but how you spend your money.
We’ve all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness – Multiple studies have shown that beyond a certain (surprisingly low) income, happiness very little to do with how much you have. Yet, we spend all this energy worrying about how we’re going to buy that ridiculously expensive house, that car, that iPad, and all the bling bling in the world – only to find that when we’re finally able to afford them, they’re not gonna make us a whole lot happier. Kind of stupid, isn’t it?
The trouble with possessions is that we get used to them. Really quickly. How many of you look at your iPhone and marvel at its technological wonders and go “Wow! I really don’t need another gadget for the rest of my life! Love AAPL <3 <3 <3”. Nope. Instead, we aimlessly flick through our apps, lock and unlock our home screens, and complain about the shitty battery life that can’t even last you till lunchtime. Retail therapy doesn’t work – and the rest of your possessions aren’t going to make you consistently happy either.
Here’s my contention: I think you can be a helluva happy right now. At this very moment. WIth the income you’re earning. How? Pick up your phone and arrange to meet someone this weekend. For brunch, for dinner, for drinks, for a museum, for a picnic, for a concert. Oh, and offer to pay.
What?! But personal finance is all about saving money, is it not? How the hell am I supposed to save money when I’m friggin PAYING for people all the time? Die, you freeloading leeches, die!!! Just stop for a second and think for a bit here – what are you saving all that money for? I don’t know about you, but I only want two things out of being rich: security and happiness. I’m pretty confident that your financial security’s pretty easy to take care of with a basic savings and investment plan, that I’ve ranted about here previously. (In fact, this article writes that you can pretty much live a super happy and comfortable retirement by by investing $1,1,65 per month at 8% p.a for 35 years. Or, if you’re married with a spouse earning $50k per year, that amount drops to just $303 per month).
So security is taken care of, and with the amount of money left over, you just have to address the “happiness” part of it. And according to Laura Vanderkam, author of the upcoming book “All the Money In the World”:
“Planned pleasant experiences give you a triple happiness whammy. You anticipate them beforehand – and as any kid waiting for Christmas knows, anticipation is often as pleasurable as the experience itself. You live through your adventures, and then you savor the memory afterwards. Eating is, of course, one of the most pleasurable things people do. In one study in which women reported how happy they were at different points of the day, eating ranked just below sex.” (from this Yahoo Finance article)
The point is, experiences count. And if you want to be happy, then spend as much as you can on experiences. I don’t really spend a lot of money on stuff. I think I own like 4 shirts and 2 pairs of jeans that I pretty much wear over and over. I don’t own an iPad or a car (and I don’t see the need to own either within the next few years). I spend pretty much all of my guilt-free spending account money on dance classes, vacations, drinks with friends, and lately, exploring yummy restaurants throughout Singapore with amazing company 🙂 Last Tuesday, I had a bowl of steaming hot pho noodles with beef balls, got treated to a Ben & Jerry’s waffle with TWO SCOOPS of ice cream (zomg life win), and then sweated it out at a helluva fun dance class. I came home at midnight, and collapsed into bed with a huge smile on my face. And that, my friends, is happiness 🙂