Health & Wellness Articles

Can Money Buy Happiness?

How Your Bottom Line Affects Your Outlook

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''The best things in life are free, But you can give them to the birds and bees, I want money, That's what I want, That's what I want.'' In 1959, these words were written by Barrett Strong in a song called ''Money (That's What I Want).'' The song was later made famous throughout the United States and the UK when The Beatles covered it in 1963.
One year later, The Beatles again topped the charts with the hit song, ''Can’t Buy Me Love.''  When asked about the meaning of the lyrics, Paul McCartney said, ''The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won't buy me what I really want.''  However, when reflecting on the perks that money and fame had brought him, he was to later comment: ''It should have been 'Can Buy Me Love.' ''
Paul McCartney and The Beatles are not the only ones who have contradictory views around the age-old question, ''Can money buy happiness?''  Put another way, ''Does money, or lack thereof, impact how happy we are?''  Psychologists, philosophers and ordinary folks have debated this question for years.
In the last decade, the field of psychology took a dramatic turn from only looking at mental illness, to exploring what makes people feel fulfilled, engaged and happy.  This Positive Psychology Movement has produced an expansive amount of researchers who are looking at things such as happiness, positive emotions, optimism and healthy character traits.  At some point, every one of these top researchers explored the effects of money on happiness and positive emotions.
What we are finding out is that happiness is the ultimate currency.  Not only do happy people enjoy life more and have more fun, but they also practice positive lifestyle habits and have stronger immune systems.  When faced with illness, happier and more optimistic individuals have been shown to be more proactive in their medical care, more compliant with treatment and medication, have quicker recoveries and show better health outcomes.  So, if we want to be healthier and happier, it’s worth figuring out where money comes into play.
When we talk about happiness, we need to look at it from two separate aspects--life satisfaction as a whole vs. moment-to-moment moods.  I can be satisfied with my overall life, yet still have moments when I am not happy.  Vice versa, some folks can be dissatisfied with their current circumstances and wish for change, but still have many moments of joy throughout the day.  Interestingly, money affects our feelings about both aspects of happiness.
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

Member Comments

    Very good article. Sums things up nicely. While nobody wants to be dirt poor, being filthy rich is wholly unnecessary. The drive that causes people to pursue wealth and power at all costs is destructive. Many of today's CEO's are narcissists, not a good thing. Balance, moderation and harmony are the keys to a happy life. - 10/23/2014 9:50:02 AM
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it can make your misery more comfortable.

    Money makes opportunities and choices available to you. - 12/16/2013 9:14:57 AM
  • The saying is not, ''Money is the route of all evil'' but "...the LOVE of money is a ROOT of all kinds of evil." 1Timothy 6:10. This scripture essentially agrees with the author basic premise, which shows that God gave us the answer to this question about 1900 years before psychology was invented. Thanks be to God. - 5/6/2013 11:21:43 AM
  • The saying is not, ''Money is the route of all evil'' but "...the LOVE of money is a ROOT of all kinds of evil." 1Timothy 6:10. This scripture essentially agrees with the author basic premise, which shows that God gave us the answered this question about 1900 years before psychology was invented. Thanks be to God. - 5/6/2013 11:17:53 AM
    I was pretty poor once, living paycheque to paycheque. Every month was spent trying to find a better job, trying to spend less than $50 per grocery run, trying to figure out which bill I could go without paying and not get dinged too hard for.

    That is stressful, scary and uncomfortable. Creditors calling, eating macaroni because it's all that is left and wearing the same ripped pants every other day sucks.

    Then I got a better paying job (that I hate)


    I can pay bills, eat dinner, go see friends, go visit my family members and not worry about it killing me financially.

    I may hate my job but it gives me benefits and now I can finally afford to get my horribly painful wisdom teeth removed!

    money bought my happiness. - 2/13/2013 3:45:56 PM
    "Money is the route of all evil." It's misquoted again. It's "The love of money is the root of all evil." Big difference. Obviously, you can have money and be very moral. You can have no money and be immoral. It's where your heart is that is important.

    Having been in a financially comfortable position and now not so much, I definitely agree that as long as your basic needs are met, your level of happiness won't change. However, having financial means certainly can buy a lot of fun and create more options for your life. - 1/21/2013 11:00:55 AM
  • Definitely found that Harvard study interesting. So often it is stated without qualification that "money can't buy happiness", pointing to the wealthy man who isn't as happy as the poor man. However, below a certain point a LACK of money can definitely deplete our ability to be happy with the stresses and worries associated with lacking basics like food and shelter. Very few would be measurably happy while starving, sick, and homeless - and happy happy joy joy talk about money not buying happiness won't change that. - 1/18/2013 4:48:26 PM
  • "Money can't buy you happiness but it can buy you a yacht so you can sail right up to it" - Johnny Depp :)

    Great article, I enjoyed it. Good reminder to appreciate what we have and to be more generous in things we do. This attitude really can make us happier! - 1/15/2013 9:40:56 PM
    I think too much money can buy unhappiness.

    I've never had enough to know if it can buy happiness.

    I know from experience that too little can buy unhappiness. - 1/15/2013 5:16:34 PM
  • No, money can not buy happiness but you can rent it. - 1/15/2013 3:30:50 PM
  • Firstly, I would define the word, " Happiness', as a feeling that most of the things is in your life meets your goals.If we look at what happened in Newtown I don't think that any amount of money could ameliorate the pain of loss suffered by the parents who lost children. However, there are degrees of, ' Happiness" where money can enhance one's life, as stated in the article.Happiness depends upon many stages of life: in some instances money can ensure that you have the best medical care, can hire a full time aide/house keeper if you need assistance so that you don't end up in a nursing home. At a certain age the fact that the past looms larger than the present which means that we understand that illness and death are in our future in a very palpable way won't change if we have lots of money. What money can do at this stage of life is to help one go on trips and be able to afford other types of entertainment as a barrier against thinking negative thoughts relating to aging.
    Creature comforts help us feel secure, especially if we have the money to pay for them.I think that there is a balance between having large amounts of money and accepting the challenges that LIFE throws in our path when we least expect it. There is no doubt in my mind that havmng enough funds to be secure is related to happiness although that doesn't necessarily happen.

    Elizabeth, - 1/15/2013 11:14:35 AM
  • I think the key is "once basic needs are met." After a certain point, more money doesn't add to happiness, but it's very hard to be happy when hungry or homeless or without the ability to pay for medical treatment. - 1/15/2013 9:59:56 AM
  • Money cannot buy happiness, but all poverty can buy is misery.
    I tried poor and I tried rich.
    Rich is better. - 1/15/2013 2:56:01 AM
  • My happiness has never depended on money, in fact, many of the happier times in my life have been during the years when sacrafice and struggle were the daily norm. After acheiving some amount of success and money I bought some cars and toys like a boat. I got bored of these items and just sold it all and now have ample reserves. I keep it simple and am much happier this way. - 10/29/2012 10:46:44 PM
    The quote from a celebrity:
    "I've been rich and I've been poor, and rich is better!" :-)

    As a young couple, my husband and I struggled and made sacrifices in order for me to stay at home with our children. I would have given up many things to have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom---and I did.. Yes, we made do with a single income, and pared our expenses to the bone. It is not the choice of everyone, but the choice was right for me, for my husband, and for our children. The best decision I ever made.!!
    Indeed, having more money --- or being home with children, (a true career by the way) was a no brainer to me. Love and sacrifices can reap greater reward than lots of money.
    ... - 10/29/2012 2:34:28 PM

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