I’m willing to bet that every single one of us has, at one point or another, heard the phrase: “money doesn’t buy happiness”. In fact, it’s one of the most common money blocks out there—holding millions of women back from receiving the abundance they desire and deserve. I remember hearing it all the way back in kindergarten, and it’s stuck with me since!
Of course, we all know that we need money in order to address our most pressing needs and priorities—to feel stable, sheltered, and secure, and to put clothes on our backs and food on the table. But surviving isn’t the same thing as thriving—so where does the happiness piece come in?
Studies suggest that our wellbeing levels stay steady once we satisfy our basic needs (which amounts to a benchmark of about $75,000 a year, according to research by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School). When we find ourselves below that income level, our happiness takes a hit—but once we rise above it, it tends to stay the same. By that logic, scaling your earnings to six and seven figures won’t make much of a difference to your quality of life—but is that really the case, or is it just another way to stay in our comfort zone and keep playing small? Should we listen to the people who say wealth is more trouble than it’s worth, or go boldly in the direction of our next-level financial goals?
Here’s my controversial take on the matter: money can buy both happiness and unhappiness. And it all comes down to how well we know ourselves, how we manage our wealth, and whether or not we’ve taken the time to consider what happiness means to us.
The truth is, most people walk through life not knowing what would make them happy. They base their definition on past experiences and external measures of success rather than giving themselves permission to think outside the box and let their dreams roam free. So when wealth enters their lives, they end up either pushing it away or not knowing what to do with it—and believe money to be the source of their dissatisfaction. But that’s not the case at all.
In this post, I’m going to show you that it’s possible to use money as a tool for improving your wellbeing, no matter your income level. I’ll also share a few journaling prompts that will help you to define happiness on your own terms, so that you can connect with the deeper purpose behind your money goals—and use that purpose to fuel you on your path to financial freedom.
But before I dive into some of the most common myths and misconceptions that go along with the “money doesn’t buy happiness” state of mind, let me clear something up.
Happiness is one of life’s greatest mysteries—and it’s near impossible to find a definition of it that everyone agrees with. But in my eyes, there are two distinct types:
- The day-to-day joys and pleasures of life that make you feel good in the moment
- The deep sense of satisfaction that comes from fulfilling your purpose in life
When people tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness, they’re usually talking about the second type. And you might be inclined to agree with them—because on a surface level, unlike a shiny Range Rover or designer handbag, the things that make you deeply happy (such as family, connection, or health) don’t come with a price tag attached. But look a little deeper, and you’ll realize that money can assist with and alleviate all the stresses that prevent you from following your life’s purpose, and ever experiencing that deep sense of satisfaction.
When you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you’ll notice that self-actualization (which means achieving your full potential) is only possible after all of our other needs are met. That means there’s a fundamental condition on our happiness—and it has to do with our ability to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. I’d like you to keep this in mind as you read on.
Here’s what comes up for my clients when they hear that “money doesn’t buy happiness”:
1. Money won’t make you a good person.
This one is actually true—whether you’re making four or seven figures annually makes absolutely no difference to your moral standing. That’s because at the heart of it, money doesn’t have a moral value. Just like a car that gets you from point A to point B, money is a tool you can use to take action on your needs and desires. Having more of it doesn’t change the fact that it’s you in the driver’s seat. So if your moral compass is already in the right place, and you keep your values close to your heart, you have nothing to worry about.
Remember: by making more money, you can help more people.
2. Money can’t buy connection.
Many of our money stories involve deeply-rooted fear of abandonment. Maybe we wish that our parents had spent more time with us rather than working three jobs to make ends meet, or worry that our friends will turn away from us when we no longer share the same financial concerns. We hold ourselves back from pursuing wealth because we fear it will mean spending more time working, and less quality time with our loved ones. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By building a business that runs like clockwork, outsourcing and delegating tasks that don’t light you up, making smart investments that grow your wealth while you sleep, and setting boundaries that protect your work-life balance, you get to prioritize the relationships in your life, and stand in your power. (And newsflash— all of those things require more money!)
It’s also super important that you consider the impact you’re making on the world as a whole, as this will bring you closer to that deep sense of fulfillment I mentioned earlier. While classic markers of business success (like selling out launches, scaling to seven figures, or creating passive income streams) might not directly equate to happiness, they do represent the magnitude of your real-world impact. That includes the transformations you’re providing to your clients, the connections you’re cultivating within your community, and the legacy you’ll eventually leave behind to your loved ones.
Remember: by becoming wealthy, you multiply your impact on other people’s lives.
3. The best things in life are free.
Health is a commonly-given example in this case. And while it’s true that no amount of money can guarantee that you’ll live a long and healthy life, neither does having no money at all. And if you think about it, stressing about your finances raises your blood pressure like nothing else. There’s also nothing worse than having to choose between things we deem necessary—such as healthy and nutritious meals, and paying our bills on time. So, while health may not lie directly in the realm of our control, ensuring we have the financial means to cover our healthcare costs and open up our options when it comes to diet and exercise is. (One of my favorite teachers of the world’s most successful, Dr. Robin Sharma, has even coined the practice “two-massage protocol” because he believes we need two deep tissue massages per week in order to perform at the top level. The world’s leading High Performance Coach and the Founder of the High Performance Institute Brendon Burchard now sells supplements to improve brain health and performance. And trust me, they aren’t cheap!)
One of the most empowering and game-changing things you can do right now is to consider what abundance looks like to you. Personally, I’ve always been partial to luxury. I love to reward myself with high-end holidays and filling my closet with beautiful pieces—but I know these things don’t rank high on everybody’s priority list. For some, abundance might look like chartering a yacht and cruising down the Mediterranean, but for others, it means being able to buy seasonal farm-to-table produce or enrolling in a fitness membership you’ve been eyeing. The point is, knowing what wealth looks and feels like for you (and nobody else) will help you make the connection between health, wealth, and happiness.
Remember: by ensuring your financial freedom, you open yourself up to a healthier, happier life.
To sum up, wealth doesn’t determine happiness, wellbeing, or even success—but it does help you to attract and create those things and make choices that will enhance your life. And at the end of the day, all that matters is whether or not you are using your finances to lead a fulfilling life—on your terms.
I’ll leave you with a couple of journaling prompts for you to work through:
- What makes you feel happy? (Consider both day-to-day joy and deep fulfillment here.)
- What makes you feel wealthy? (Is it a thing, place, person, or feeling?)
- What are the things you value most? (For example: health, family, time to pursue your hobbies and passions, making an impact on people’s lives.)
- What lies in the middle of all three? What makes you feel happy, wealthy, and aligned with your values?
Once you find that overlap, hold on tight to it. That’s where your true happiness lies.