This blog is about money. Investing money, saving money, spending money. And happiness.
I like to think of happiness as the pleasant payoff that comes about from experiencing emotional, psychological, and spiritual contentment. I’ll talk more about this shortly.
For now, it’s worth your while to toss around the idea that, more than net worth, it is our thoughts, perspective, and emotional connection to money that tie into our balance of mind, and set the stage for happiness.
A Brief (Exceedingly, Genuinely, Brief) History of Money
What is money? It’s a claim check, a token, exchangeable for goods and services. Physically representing this abstract concept called ‘money’, is paper, coin, plastic, and digital assets, none of which have any functional use except to represent monetary value.
Hop into your time machine and visit ancient Japan and you’ll find they used the Koku, a unit of rice, to represent money. India and China used cowry shells. And Mesopotamia counted shekels; a term applied to the weight of money, as measured in barley and silver. Then along came Gutenberg who, in 15th century Europe, invented a gizmo called the printing press that eventually led to the creation of paper money. Some five centuries later, plastic debit and credit cards arrived and now, digital dough.
Whatever its form, money is a tool. It buys you stuff. It provides the means to put a roof over your head, feed your family, support your children’s education, fund retirement, and give to charity. Or buy socks. Or the wool or cotton to sew your own socks. And if that’s the case, then a sewing needle and/or sewing machine. Or anything else you wish to buy.
Warning: Rant Ahead
However it’s put to use, money has value. And we feel good and we feel right when we maximize money’s value, knowing that our money has been wisely spent, that we haven’t wasted money or overpaid, and that our hard work has been justly rewarded.
The problem is, it’s not always so simple to maximize value in a consumer society where it’s all too easy, and encouraged, and cheered on, to get sucked into playing a game in which whoever has the most or the latest or the hottest or the coolest or the newest wins, buying into bigger is better, clinging to the more, more, more motto, addicted to the endorphin rush that accompanies purchase after purchase after purchase, believing that you can’t get no satisfaction if you’re not living in a monster house, driving a luxury car, wearing the latest fashion, or sipping a ridiculously over priced coffee concoction every morning.
Paying the Price for Following Jones
Why do we do this? Why do we covet thy neighbor’s stuff, insist on keeping up with the proverbial Jones, spend more than save, take on more debt than is smart or manageable, and in the process harm our self and maybe our family through relentless money worries that lead to heartburn, headache, stress and other afflictions not legally required to be disclosed by a merchant’s legal or moral fine print?
Enough is Enough
Leo Tolstoy, the writer, poetically said, “… seek among men, from beggar to millionaire, one who is contented with his lot, and you will not find one such in a thousand … today we must buy an overcoat and galoshes, tomorrow, a watch and a chain; the next day we must install ourselves in an apartment with a sofa and a bronze lamp; then we must have carpets and velvet gowns; then a house, horses and carriages, paintings and decorations.”
Decades later, echoing Tolstoy, Lewis Lapham, a perceptive writer (what true writer isn’t?) born into a wealthy family stated, “… no matter what their income, a depressing number of Americans believe that if only they had twice as much, they would inherit the estate of happiness promised them in the Declaration of Independence. Nobody ever has enough.”
If nobody ever has enough, is happiness a pipe dream?
Here’s what I’ve learned: Money does not enable, facilitate, nor buy happiness. But your relationship with money … what you do with your money … how you manage your money … informed by your personal values and life priorities, may just lead you to a place where you do have enough. And when that happens, when you think and feel that you have enough, you will be content. And because you are content you are one of the lucky ones who is paid off in the currency of happiness. A tall order? Absolutely. Can it be done? Absolutely.