Why Is Happines So Elusive?


Michael Batnick had a great post that explored why money doesn't make us happier. He cited several professional athletes who have talked about happiness coming an going despite all the money they make or other athletes simply not being happy. I think Mike and I take different paths to similar but not identical conclusions.

Clearly, a lot of money guarantees nothing as far as happiness goes. I write a lot of posts about trying to figure out how to be happy. One thing to consider is spending money on experiences not things. Phrasing it that way is a new thing but at the very least there is nothing new about buying less stuff, having more stuff is rarely the answer.

There is a concept in yoga, be in the moment. This idea exists elsewhere, I like to refer to it as life being about the journey not the destination. If life is a series of moments and you can make the most out of more of them without looking past the current moment, I believe that can help lead to being happier.

The picture accompanying this post is from Bryce Canyon National Park from October 2016. I love going to the parks and monuments to see the scenery, find a challenging hike and of course take a ton of pictures. This weekend we're headed to Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument to see the scenery, go on a couple of hopefully challenging hikes and take a lot of pictures. Like many things this sort of activity is financially accessible to everyone. As a microcosm, figuring out the simple (and maybe cheap) things to do that can make more happy moments will...make you happier. For me, it is similar with taking pictures of fire trucks or going to desert races to take pictures of trophy trucks. Spending time volunteering, doing an activity you like would stand to contribute to feeling happy, more frequently as well. Hobbies and volunteerism don't have to correspond to having a lot of money.

Finding this groove for yourself sets the stage for a smaller financial footprint (spending less money). I do think money plays a role in happiness in terms of having a bit of cushion which leads to not stressing about regular monthly expenses. One of the biggest things that couples fight over is money and frequently that centers on not having enough of it related to expenses. It is easier to reduce expenses than it is to increase income. You don't have to be wealthy to spend a little less, you're removing or greatly reducing a potential stressor or source of unhappiness.

The investment implication is being able to target a smaller retirement number. When you realize that a new car every four years, living in more house that you need and buying overly expensive clothes aren't necessarily keys to happiness you end up needing less saved which can mean you don't need to chase returns. Chasing returns exposes you to more risk which if it goes badly would mean potentially being less happy.