Is There Really a Link Between Money and Happiness?
Right from childhood we have heard from elders that money cannot buy happiness. During childhood most of us took it with a pinch of salt because we thought when parents have lots of money, they can buy lots of gifts for us and we always felt gifts brought us some joy.
During childhood, our needs were mostly simple; in childhood innocence, the relative costs of goods were mostly non-issues. A marble or a top costing a few pennies owned by a neighborhood poor boy may look to be too attractive for a rich boy who has a few automatic toy cars worth several dollars. He may even be willing to exchange his toy car for the wooden top!
So, in childhood, possessing something that we loved to have, gave us joy irrespective of the item's worth in money. We also knew another fact of life in childhood at the back of our minds. Whatever that gave us joy had only a transient and relative worth. We were ready to throw away a teddy bear that we carried hugging all day long, the moment we come across of a new, more attractive and novel toy!
The source of transient pleasure - money or possessions?
As we grew up and lost our childhood innocence, we also forgot what we learned from at the back of our minds about happiness. In childhood, we were willing to throw away things we were formerly attached to; we never calculated their money value. But as grown ups, we start clinging to our possessions. Even if we have lost the pleasure of our possession, we develop attachment to them. We think thrice before discarding something, because we had spent our hard earned money in acquiring them.
Did the money bring happiness when we originally acquired the possession? It appeared to be so. Did the money ensure the presence of happiness for ever on our possession? No it didn't. Did money act as a hindrance in getting rid of what we no longer consider as pleasure giving? Sometimes it looks to be so!
So, it is clear that the pleasure or pain that we associate with something is actually related to our attachment to the possession. But our conditioned mindset that tells us that acquiring and possessing gives us pleasure. The more we increase our cravings for such possessions, the more we run around to earn money to afford them.
Does lack of money cause unhappiness?
It seems to be definitely so. A poor man who is always short of money to fill his stomach with 3 square meals a day is definitely unhappy. One who does not have money to buy cloth to protect him from heat or cold is definitely unhappy. Thus some amount of money that can ensure supply of basic human needs of food, clothing and shelter can definitely ward off unhappiness.
Does excess supply of money ensure happiness?
Obviously not. The needs, wants and greed of a person always seem to grow in proportion to the money he/ she already possesses; with excess money comes the worry to protect it and maintain it; with excess money, one gets used to excessive luxuries and any worry about the likelihood of losing them makes one spend sleepless nights.
Is there happiness in hunting behind money?
For many people, it seems to be so! Businessmen work days and nights losing timely food and sleep to earn more and more money. They build palatial houses, fill them with the best and latest gadgets but they do not find time to relax and enjoy what they painstakingly built. They possess the latest music system but are not gifted with a good music sense or time to sit and relax to enjoy the music!
Is there happiness in hoarding money ?
It seems to be so for the category of misers! All their joy lies in accumulating money and seeing a hefty balance in their bank account but any idea of spending the money to enjoy what others generally consider as enjoyment gives them only sorrow!
They are prepared to go any length to sacrifice their comforts, economize their essential needs, deny near and dear ones access to any goodies, just to have the pleasure of accumulating their money in bank; all their concern is in the future when something may go wrong, at which point of time they think the money they accumulated will be handy. Ramakrishna Pramahamsa says that the accumulated wealth of misers would only get squandered away by unworthy sons, in medical treatment, in court litigation or by burglary. So, it looks the accumulated money of a miser seems to have potential to bring transient happiness to those who squander it!
The secret behind money and happiness
A happy- go-lucky man, middle aged, who always seemed to be joyful, shared the secret of his happiness with those who were curious to learn from him, as follows:
"I have somehow grasped the fact right from childhood that it is simple living that brings happiness; I have made it a point in my life to make consistent efforts to simplify life; be it food, clothing or shelter. Be it work, materialistic comforts or travel.
"Make your needs less. Shun luxuries. Never compare yourself with any one else of your peer group. Consequently, your need for money becomes less. When you don't need money to possess goodies that you don't really need, you lose any idea of linking money with pleasure. So, you don't have to run around and exert yourself to earn more and more money that you really have no need! When the pain of acquiring money is removed, you have the pleasure of leading a peaceful life."