A Reason Why Money Buys Happiness

Image by Michael Kooiman

A 14-hour flight back home: I was beyond anxious to take her out to dinner. I refused her cute attempts at spoiling me with anything I wanted which would take place sporadically, in moments of pure love and happiness. I instead focused on a budget to spend on her and my family. I took the necessary route to buy much needed household appliances, food…I also took my uncle for a mini shopping spree; albeit, one of sheer necessity.

My uncle, my mother’s younger brother, recently arrived from Haiti. His presence added an extra light to the room. He was unaware that South Korea was 6,000 miles away. We both arrived at the same destination and yet our stories were so distinct, so far apart.

In the span of three weeks, I drove him to GED classes every morning. I immediately noticed his strong will to assimilate into American society and that essentially yanked the cash out of my wallet.

Spending money on my family brought more happiness than spending money on me.

My optimistic uncle was extremely driven to make the best of his new circumstance.
And it felt great to show emotional and financial support. I was, in retrospect, happy. I was able to savor familial pleasure. I spent my money, in my emotional opinion, right. Nothing motivated me more than the simple acknowledgement of love.

No incentives needed!

In regards to achieving and sustaining happiness, each situation is different and it’s certainly more complex than simply spending your money on someone else. I find regular friendly actions just as emotionally appealing. I gulp pleasure in opening doors, saying hello to complete strangers or giving up my subway seat to the elderly.

The social relations combined with my productive output elevated my sense of happiness. I was at home, not just in the physical sense—but spiritually. Of course, one must always exercise fiscal responsibility and literally “giving your last” is a topic for another time.

Does money buy happiness? Yes and No!

I found an interesting video on “human universals” regarding happiness (with money) and the cultural differences. I was quite excited about the TED posting because I flew back to Korea extremely satisfied with life, more energized, and more willing to contribute to the human condition. The high emotion stemmed from sharing what I have.

The following video explains the dynamics behind “buying happiness.” It’s an intriguing insight into the cognitive and cultural aspects of how we spend our money that essentially determines whether happiness is gained or loss.

Michael Norton, associate professor at Harvard, explains the benefits of gaining happiness through pro-social spending. What do you think?

  1 comment for “A Reason Why Money Buys Happiness

  1. Annette
    May 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I guess it is what you do with it, if it gives you satisfaction. I think it's a joy instead of happiness which is a momentary satisfaction.

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