They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but is that really true? Sure maybe happiness is a stretch, but money sure does buy more time and reduced stress levels. I can’t imagine there are very many people that with more time on their hands wouldn’t find that happy. Similarly, if their stress level was reduced that they wouldn’t be happier.
It was almost twenty years ago that I was in my beat up car I’d purchased for $500 racing between my day job selling parts at the car dealership to pick up food for my dog before my evening job packaging plastic dishes at the local injection molding factory. The officer that pulled me over for speeding looked at me, dressed in that over starched polyester button down uniform with an embroidered name badge, my face all frazzled and distressed from trying to do too much. Images flashing through my head – ‘how would I pay for the ticket, I can barely afford food’, ‘how will I feed my dog before work now’, ‘if I clock in late at my factory job, I could lose it’.
I spent the four and a half years of college working two or three jobs on top of a full time school load and still could barely make ends meet. Despite getting mostly A’s, the fact I fell asleep during the ACT test because I’d worked the midnight shift the night prior prevented me from getting most scholarships, like that one test somehow trumped everything. Needless to say, I’d come up with a hundred ways to eat potatoes at every meal and wasn’t below any job that could produce an income stream. Was my life unhappy, maybe not, but it was certainly stressful and difficult.
My college degree changed everything, set me on a path I’d never dreamed possible. I wish I could say I’d planned on college, though in reality not having money didn’t land me in social circles where that seemed possible. In all honesty, if my roommate hadn’t left his college application behind when he moved out and if I didn’t love filling out ‘surveys’, I’d probably never have applied, never have got in, and my life would likely be completely different than what it is today.
As I worked up in my career, leveraging the determination I’d developed earlier in my adulthood to barely make ends, I eventually climbed to a point that was the polar opposite of my prior life. There was no time clock to punch in or punch out, my attendance was on my own schedule. I no longer needed to race around to buy dog food or really any errand, I’d just click a few buttons online and pay for it to come to me. I lived in high end apartment buildings with built-in concierges that would handle my restaurant reservations and ticket purchases. I paid to outsource just about everything which bought myself time to spend exploring the world, enjoying my friendships and other indulgent first world pleasures. If there was something difficult or inconvenient, I’d just throw money at it to make it go away. Was my life happy, absolutely.
Having left the copious influx of cash of the corporate world behind to become an entrepreneur, I’m finding myself in a situation where throwing money at problems means taking money away from investing in my business, which means I’m not going to do it. As I find myself on the bus taking an hour to go what would only take 15 minutes if I had a car, I’m ever aware of how much time I’m wasting by my reduced income. My stress level is much higher as my productivity is hampered by all this wasted time. It’s easy for those with money who have never been without money to say – productivity is so much more important, just pay the extra $5 or $10 or $20 to make it disappear. Though what’s hard to realize when you have money is how many times you do that and how it adds up to $500 or $1,000 or more a month (if not more).
It’s in this space in my current life where I’m ever aware and reminded of the two worlds I’ve experienced – the world without and the world with. I am now delicately straddling each trying to balance the friendships and social circles of my most recent world, the ‘haves’, with the new constraints of my present world, the ‘have nots’, and I have to say it brings a lot of interesting things into question. What does really bring happiness? How much money is really needed to create the balance of throwing money to absolve challenges and enjoying love and life?
So I ask you my fellow readers, does money really buy happiness?