In my life I have gone from being poor to poorer, back to poor and then to middle class. Growing up, my family perpetually hovered over the poverty line. All of my clothes were hand-me-downs, as were all of our vehicles (well, except the one that was bought from a junkyard for $50. It wasn’t bad until it left me, my mom and sister on the side of the road). We had a roof over our heads, though, so we were wealthier than some.
All of that is to say that I understand poverty and the mindset it creates. We had it better than a lot of people, that’s for sure, but I know what it’s like to grow up thinking that one day — one day — you’ll be rich and you can buy all of the things that you want. You’ll have a big house and nice cars and so much more. You’ll be rich and you’ll make sure people know it.
To give an example, when I was a teenager and started making my own money, I would always make sure to get to-go cups if they had the restaurant logo on them because I wanted people to see that I could afford to eat at said restaurant. “Ha!” The cup would say, “that’s right, I can afford to eat at Bono’s!” (which is pretty fancy to a broke teenager…) That is what poverty does to you.
Then I met my soon-to-be husband and his family. He was raised in a middle class household with parents who were of the idea that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. When we started dating, his parents still used the microwave they were given as a wedding present 20 years prior (it finally broke a couple of years ago. RIP sweet old microwave…). They didn’t have a huge house or brand new cars, but they took care of what they had and made it home. They were happy with enough.
And that’s when it hit me: If you can’t be happy with enough you’ll never be happy with more, because at some point more becomes still not enough.
Ambition is not a bad thing and wanting more or better is how we progress in life. However, if you’re so caught up in how you’re perceived by others that you forget to live your life you’ll never be truly happy. The happiest people I know are the ones who work hard, can pay their bills and splurge when they want.
I’m not saying that poverty should be cherished, either. Living in poverty is sad, frustrating and at times soul crushing. It creates issues for people that last a long time. Although I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a kid and the empathy it taught me, I still often wonder who and where I would be had I grown up in a middle class or wealthy family.
So, I would say that money buys happiness to an extent. Studies have shown that money (and the lack there-of) is the biggest reason for divorce, and although having enough money to live comfortably takes away some of that stress, having more money than you know what to do with can ultimately cause even more stress. Especially when you live beyond your means or when that money stops coming in.
The love of money can quickly turn to greed, which can then harden the heart. You can’t truly be happy if you obsess over and worship money. You become numb to the world, which can mean even your family and friends, in your pursuit to have everything you need and some. You will take jobs that you hate because they pay more. You will throw yourself into it so much that you lose any semblance of a life.
It is much healthier in the long run if you have a job that you love but doesn’t pay exorbitant amounts of money, than a job that you abhor but pays more than you can spend. How can you be happy if you hate something that takes up such a substantial part of your life?