''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.