Do you remember that feeling being a kid on a warm summer night, the grass under your bare feet, and the freeing feeling of not having to go to school the next day?
For me, being happy is being free like on those summer nights.
We all want to be happy. It’s a full feeling. A feeling that connects us with others and deep into ourselves. Physiologically it’s pretty easy to understand – a chemical reaction happens in our brain, serotonin is released, and boom we feel great. Emotionally and spiritually it’s more complex. But how does money impact your happiness?
Studies show that the correlation between your salary’s impact on your happiness up to $75,000, and then it peaks at $125,000. Meaning that people are increasingly happy until they make $125,000 and then they plateau. This may be true for the participants in that study, but it’s not true for me and I am sure it’s not true for a lot of people.
SO CAN MONEY BUY HAPPINESS?
Definitely. Money can make you happier when you look at the simple fact that when we make money it makes us happy and when we have experiences and purchase things, using money – it can make us happy.
But it’s not that simple, as you can see below. There are an infinite number of stories of people who have made a ton of money but are miserable. The same goes for people who have very little, but still, find joy in their lives. You don’t need money to be happy, but it can make you happier.
Earning more, saving more, and investing more will help you lead a richer life. And a richer life will make you happier.Happiness is personal.
If you aren’t already happy, then money can only provide a temporary escape from you inner well-being.
For a different perspective, we recently recorded a Millennial Money podcast episode on the topic of money and happiness.
The more money I’ve made in my life, honestly, the happier I’ve gotten – but the money is only one factor – the means. The reason I am happier is because I have more control over my time. This means I can spend more time doing things I love, spending time with people that I love, and well, doing things that make me happy. You can actually use the money to maximize your happiness when you know how to use it.
WHY MONEY CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY
Here are the biggest making more money can make you happier:
Less worry and stress
More control over your time
More extraordinary experiences
The opportunity to give back
To understand how money can make you happier at a deeper level, I think we should look at two different types of happiness – short term and long term.
SHORT-TERM HAPPINESS COMES FROM FINDING YOUR FLOW STATE
You know that feeling when you’re sitting on the beach with a cold beer and feel one with the world? What about the feeling you get after seeing your favorite DJ or band and walking out into the crisp air after the show? What about the feeling you get when you’re in such a good conversation time disappears? Or maybe it’s how you feel when you buy that new handbag or a new truck?
That’s your flow state. When you are happy. Finding your flow state will make you happy, but it’s still fleeting. One way to maximize your happiness is to find your flow state every day, or as often as you can. It’s about doing things you love. This is the most beneficial form of short term happiness.
Unfortunately, so much of American culture has linked happiness with consumption – this is why we feel happy, albeit temporarily when we buy stuff. But that happiness rarely lasts. It’s surface level.
Making more money can open up more time and the freedom to experience your flow state. Money is freedom, as long as you have control over how you use it.
LONG-TERM HAPPINESS COMES FROM FINDING PURPOSE AND EXPLORING YOUR PASSIONS
It’s pretty easy to go out and buy short-term happiness, but long-term happiness needs to be cultivated.
As humans, we all essentially seek and require the same things to live a happy life – community, loyalty, love, excitement, curiosity, passion, and peace. To explore more on how to live a fulfilled life check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
At its core living a happy life means having more fun, richer, more meaningful experiences. It also means living a life full of meaning, passion, and purpose.
The more money I have made, the more time it’s freed up for me to following my true passions – like Millennial Money, where I share my passion for helping others with their personal finances. I also get to spend more time traveling the world with my wife, more time with friends, and more time exploring other projects the fulfill me. This makes me happy.
I know that my long term happiness has less to do with making money and more to exploring the freedom and connections it provides. I’ve made a lot of money mistakes and it took me awhile to learn this. Money can only make you happy if you also work on other areas of your life.
I feel very blessed and lucky.
I know that my success is not directly a result of hard work – it is more a result of building good habits, maximizing my value, and of course the luck of an insane bull market over the past 7 years. I truly believe that most people can escape living paycheck to paycheck and use money to live richer and happier lives.
“Happy Friday,” the woman at the checkout counter says, “We finally made it.” Every week feels the same in the corporate world – my friends are excited it’s the weekend, clients ubiquitously end emails with “have a nice weekend” or Happy Friday,” and everyone starts talking about their weekend plans by Thursday morning. This is the cycle.
But for some reason this past week when the woman at the pharmacy counter said it, I could tell she really meant it. I was struck by how tired she looked. That’s one of the things I notice a lot more these days – just how tired so many people look on a Friday. I could tell she desperately meant it when she said “we finally made it.”
Most people live their lives for the weekend. It’s not surprising since we’ve been conditioned since we were kids to look forward to Fridays and doing whatever we want on the weekend. In 3rd grade, I was even in a school musical called “Saturday” about the best week all day long.
But how much of yourself can you really pack into 2 days, especially when you have weddings to attend and date nights and kids and chores and laundry? There just never seems to be enough time for anything – to read that book you’ve been putting off, or reaching out to chill with one of your friends you haven’t seen in a while, to practice that guitar you bought two years ago, or take that last minute trip.
Now we slog through the week so we can go out hard Friday night, hit up the Saturday recovery brunch, a Saturday night and all that entails, and Sunday football on the couch. Then comes the dreaded Sunday night when you start thinking about the stresses of the upcoming week. 76% of American workers say they get the Sunday blues. It’s a real thing. I used to feel it all the time back in the day. But you might be saying – well I only work until 6 pm every day and I have evenings to hang out with my family, friends, and doing the things I love. But data shows that most people are so tired from work, they tune out and watch TV every night.
On average Americans are watching over 5 hours of TV every day! So a vast majority of Americans are disengaged at work and they come home to disconnect into a new Netflix show. I struggle with this too. Like most people, I run pretty hard and often struggle to chill as hard as I hustle. But this really got me thinking – when it comes to money, time is not all the same.
NOT ALL TIME IS THE SAME
The study of time is as old as time itself and its relationship to money is deeply paradoxical. Time is both more valuable for some reason when you are young and more valuable for others when you are old. To me, financial independence has always been about time, not money. My goal was to make work optional as quickly as possible, so I could have more options with my time. If you view money as the goal, then you miss the point. Money is infinite, but time is not.
1. When you work, you are trading your premium time.
How many times have you felt energetic, inspired, and awesome at 11 am on a Tuesday, only to be called into another meeting in a windowless conference room or another call about nothing? Or you’re stuck at your desk on a sunny 70 degree day even though you don’t have enough work to do. This is your “premium” time when you feel most inspired, creative, and alive.
While those moments can come at any time, if you work 5 days a week from 9-5, you are working 72% of the week, just to get 28% off. Just based on the simple math, you are likely spending a majority of your “premium” time working at your job. Of course, this is great if you love your job, but if you don’t, and most people don’t, then you are selling your “premium” hours for your salary or hourly wage.
According to Gallup’s annual survey of the American Workforce in 2017, 70 percent of employees in the United States are disengaged at work. They are just getting by. This just makes me so sad – that people resign to a job that they don’t like and spend the best hours, the “premium” hours of the best years of their lives, “just getting by.”
In an office building where I used to work, there was an investment firm where the partners almost always were traveling – but they needed to ensure someone was in the office during the day to take calls and receive packages. A woman who was in her mid-20’s sat behind a big glass door at a receptionist desk without windows. I walked by almost daily for 3 years and never saw her move and only very rarely saw another person in the office. She was trading the best years of her life sitting behind a desk just waiting for packages. She always just looked so blah.
You spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely heard the joke a few times in professional setting, always with a laugh: “I feel like I know you better than I know my wife and kids.”
This is why mini-retirements are so compelling because you can keep your job, but start reclaiming some of your premium time to do what you love. It’s also why it’s worth trying to retire as quickly as possible, so you can reclaim your own premium time for yourself.
2. When it comes to money, time is more valuable when you are young, because your money has more time to grow.
When it comes to investing, time is not equal and a lot of people are wasting it. It’s a well-known fact that the earlier you start investing the more time your money has to grow, so the larger it can grow. One dollar saved at 25 is going to be worth 2-3x more when you are 65 than a dollar saved when you are 35. When it comes to investing, every year earlier that you start makes a massive difference. This is why ideas like the Baby IRA are so compelling – if you open a Roth IRA for your baby at birth and max out the contributions at $5,500 every year for 30 years, your child will be able to retire when they are 30! Talk about a gift, haha.
This was one of the primary reasons I started saving as much money as possible when I was 24 and began to fast track financial independence because I knew I had time on my side. But no matter when you start or how old you are today, today is a better day to start investing than tomorrow. Waiting to invest is leaving money on the table and above all else, you are wasting the most precious resource of all: time.
3. Time is more valuable the older you get, because you get less of it.
Time gets more valuable as we get older for two reasons– we feel like it’s moving faster and we have less of it. Cognitive psychologists believe we as humans feel like time goes by faster as we get older because we have fewer “firsts” in our lives. By the age of 7, we have already experienced half of all experiences we will experience in life. Time moves slower when we are experiencing new things – it’s why when you travel time seems to move slower. But when it comes to working and our routines, those experiences are so comfortable – it’s why the weeks literally feel like they are flying by when we eat, sleep, work, repeat.
And not only does time feel like it’s moving faster as we get older, we have less of it. Time, becoming more valuable as we get older, is a simple concept, but unfortunately, but it doesn’t often align with how people value their own time or think about money in their lives. There’s no “I only have 20 more years to live” pay jump, bonus, or premium. In the corporate world, your compensation is based on how much experience you have and how valuable you are to the company, not how valuable your time is to you. You are paid based on how valuable you are to the market. And the market doesn’t care about you. If you don’t value your own time, no one else will.
With the recent passing of my 100-year-old great-grandmother, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own time left on this earth. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her 6 months ago at her 100th birthday, her mind as sharp as ever. When I asked for her thoughts on money, my great-grandmother who balanced her own checkbook every month until she died said, “What about it? I haven’t thought about money in over 50 years.”
At the end of your life what will you remember? What will you regret? As you get older, your dreams, and how you see the world will inevitably evolve. Your dreams of the past might even disappear, leaving unrequited trails of “what ifs” and “in onlys”. In her reflective book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, nurse Bronnie Ware, who works with people who are dying, shares their top regrets including “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” “I wish I didn’t work so hard” and “I wish I had let myself be happier.” She goes on to share that a vast majority of her patients had never accomplished at least half of their dreams, often because of their choice to keep working instead of following their dreams. Here’s Bronnie Ware’s TED talk which is inspiring and well worth 15 minutes of your time.
When we’re in the trenches commuting to work, pushing through the daily grind, worried about money and our future, it’s important to step back and question whether the time we are giving up for the money is worth it. And to remind ourselves to ask that question often, because what you want, need, and love will continue to evolve. You can always find ways to make more money, but you’ll never get back the time you are trading for it. This is why investing is the OG passive income because you make money without trading your time. So we should optimize our money for time above all else. Money is infinite, but time is not.
People are living longer than ever. In fact, I just saw a TV news report about a woman celebrating her 116th birthday who, until recently, was still mowing her own lawn. Exuding more vitality than many folks half her age, she made me wonder: What contributes to healthy aging well into our golden years—and perhaps even our centenarian years?
I decided to speak to Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, who has unveiled some of the determinants of aging well, having spent more than half of his life at the helm of the Grant Study of Adult Development.
One of the longest-running studies on human development, the Grant Study has closely tracked the emotional and physical health of 268 Harvard men as they aged since 1938.
Habits, not heredity, are more important for health
George has documented the findings of the Grant Study in three illuminating books. His first book, 1977’s Adaptation to Life, the now-classic tome on adult development, examined how the men were coping up to age 55 and identified various positive and negative outcomes. Aging Well followed 25 years later and showed that healthy physical and emotional aging from 55 to 80 is less dependent on genes and more on lifestyle choices, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco abuse, engaging in regular light exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, exhibiting an adaptive coping style and having a loving marriage.
Now, George’s latest book, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, published more than 75 years after the study’s start, follows a few dozen of the surviving men who are now in their 90s. Many of them, like the centenarian woman I mentioned earlier, are thriving far beyond conventional retirement. So what’s their secret?
“Habits formed before age 50, not heredity, are more important for growing old gracefully, well into our 90s and beyond,” George says.
All you need is love
However, even more important for positive aging and coping with stress is having warm, nurturing relationships. “Relationships can help us recover from a damaging past such as the bleakest of childhoods even many decades later,” George says. What’s more, strong bonds formed early in life have a protective factor down the road.
He’s found that positive emotions, namely love, is the key ingredient for healthy aging well into our golden years and beyond. “Having had a loving and stable marriage at 50 predicted mental and physical health at 80 better than did either exercise or weight,” he says. “Visceral things like the positive emotions of love, hope and joy affect our health.”
In fact, the effect of positive emotion on our nervous system is similar to the relaxation response triggered through meditation. Positive emotions, like love, reduce our basal metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and muscle tension, all leading to better health. In other words, love can literally heal and strengthen our heart.
One simple way of reaping heart health benefits and aging well is it to put ourselves into the loving embrace of others on a daily basis, George says, because not only does “heartfelt” love feel good, but also it’s good for us.
And, who knows, perhaps it’ll lead us to be thriving at 116 as well!
Over eight thousand years ago, the pomegranate became one of the first cultivated fruits. Since then, it has been symbolized with prosperity, hope and abundance throughout the world. The luscious fruit has also played – and continues to play – a pivotal role in many cultural wedding ceremonies. The bride would often be given a pomegranate with the wish of her having as many kids as seeds!Its name derives from the Middle French “pomme garnete” and means “seeded apple.”A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, the luxurious, scarlet pomegranate has traditionally been enjoyed for both its decorative beauty in holiday arrangements as well as for its delicious sweet taste and nutritive qualities.
Pomegranates are immensely popular worldwide and are considered a super food because they area powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. Full of flavor and nutrition, while low in calories, they are the perfect go-to snack for anytime. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium, a key mineral that assists with fluid regulation, and is associated with lowered blood pressure,reduced risk of stroke, and increased bone health. Pomegranates contain an incredibly high level of the three polyphenols – tannins, anthocyanins, andellagic acid – potent antioxidants that have been found to promote healthy cell growth, fight inflammation, and reduce certain cancers.
When purchasing pomegranates, select ones with firm and taut skin. While a smooth outer skin is more aesthetically appealing than a blemished one, surface abrasions do not affect the quality of the fruit. Pomegranates should feel heavy when picked up because they are full of juice. They naturally range in color from a medium to a deep red. Whole pomegranates will last for several days when kept away from sunlight at room temperature and up to three months when refrigerated in plastic bags.Once cut, the seeds can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen up to six months. A simple trick to easily de-seed a pomegranate is to cut off the crown and cut the pomegranate into sections. Next, place the sections into a bowl of water and scoop out the insides. The “arils,” or the glistening white jewels of the pomegranate, will sink to the bottom while the rind and white membrane will easily separate and float to the top. Strain the water and enjoy the arils,seeds and all! They are a simple delicious snack that can be enjoyed alone,squeezed into a juice, or baked into whole grain muffins. My family and I often sprinkle them over our salads, oatmeal, and yogurt.
But first,a warning you may want to heed from my 4 year-old son before cleaning and eating pomegranates: “be sure to wear a black shirt so if you squirt yourself it won’t stain!” This lesson was only learned after many early mornings where he and my husband would eagerly dash downstairs to the kitchen, donning matching white tees, to dive into the pomegranates. Soon afterwards, with sated bellies and taste buds, all that would remain is a whole lot of rind – and two ruby-stained tee-shirts!
Pomegranate and Pear Christmas Salad
1 bunch fresh organic spinach, washed and torn into small pieces
2 TBSP pomegranate seeds
1 pear, halved and thinly sliced
¼red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 TBSP gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 TBSP pecans, chopped
Toss spinach with red onion slices in a large serving plate. Fan out pear slices from center of the dish. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds, gorgonzola, and pecans on top. Serve with simple balsamic vinaigrette or your favorite dressing!
It can be destructive or healthy—the choice is up to you
I can’t live If living is without you I can’t live I can’t give anymore
I remember the first time I heard these lyrics, sung by Mariah Carey—a cover of a desperately emotional ballad that equates intense longing with an ideal form of romantic passion.
From Billboard music charts to blockbuster films, popular culture perpetuates this notion that true love is an uncontrollable feeling of being “swept away.”
Though this kind of unbridled passion has an enormous appeal, both in popular culture and in life, “it can be harmful to our well-being and relationships,” says Robert (Bob) Vallerand, Ph.D., past president of the Canadian Psychological Association and the International Positive Psychology Association.
In his new book, The Psychology of Passion, the social psychologist reports an all-consuming or “obsessive passion” is associated with not trusting one’s partner. Those who are obsessively passionate toward their lovers are insecure and preoccupied with protecting their egos rather than being attuned to their partners, he says. They tend to be defensive, controlling and have to win all the time.
Not exactly the stuff of Prince Charming.
Obsessive passion is as detrimental to a relationship as having no passion at all. In fact, women in relationships with obsessively passionate men reported feeling less satisfied sexually and overall, Bob says, despite what popular culture would have you think.
Of course, in the throes of early romance we may feel distracted and focus on our partners at the exclusion of everything else. We might while away time daydreaming at our desks instead of drafting those important memos, or mentally replaying every word from our most recent conversations. And we feel butterflies in our stomachs just thinking of our partners.
What would life be without these exhilarating experiences? It’s healthy to savor these moments. However, problems arise when we are stuck at this stage and don’t develop. Our relationship stagnates and often falls apart, research finds.
Cultivating a healthy passion
Relationships with a “healthy,” or what Bob calls a “harmonious passion,” are those in which we are in control of our emotions. We retain our identity, maintain balance, experience greater intimacy, and handle conflict better—all of which leads to a more mature relationship, according to Bob’s research.
Fortunately, we can learn to cultivate harmonious passion. Instead of losing yourself in a new relationship, maintain the friends and interests you had before the relationship began. It’s tempting to dive into a new love and forget about everything else in your life, but certainly not healthy for your sense of identity. And when the intensity of an early love dissipates (or disappears), you’ll need the rest of your life to fall back on!
In order to maintain your identity, reflect upon your unique strengths and interests, Bob says. Find something you both enjoy and share it with your partner. Research shows that engaging in exciting activities together increases attraction. And of course, you should try to avoid serious competition, which may be destructive to the relationship, Bob says. The point is to have fun together, not to win.
So, if you’re a chess wizard or your partner is a competitive swimmer, you might want to avoid those activities. This is about connecting, not winning!
Finally, find time to share something good that you experience with your partner every day. This is another simple way to build a healthy passion, Bob says.
And when it comes to those dramatic love songs, perhaps you can look to them for entertainment, not emulation.
Most of us know that children learn through play, but so do teens and adults! Humans of every age learn best when given the opportunity to play and experiment with something new without being worried about making mistakes. We’re often told that to improve our performance and experience greater success, we need to play to our strengths. But it’s hard to play to our strengths without first having the opportunity to play with our strengths in a risk-free environment. Doing something fun and new with your strengths at least once a week will not only deepen your understanding of them, but also help increase your sense of well-beingand life satisfaction. Once you’ve identified your highest character strengths using the VIA Survey, why not try some of these playful suggestions? You can do them on your own, but like most things, they are even better when shared with others.
Strengths Survivor – You’re stranded on a desert island with only your strengths to rely upon. List the ways your highest strengths will help you survive. Or try this game with one or more friends and talk about how your different strengths will complement each other and help you survive together.
What’s On Your Happy List? – Make a list of at least ten things that you absolutely love to do. Next think about how your strengths are connected to these activities. Chances are the activities that you love the most are so satisfying because they provide you with the opportunity to make use of some of your highest strengths. Jot down any interesting connections you make to help you remember why you love the things you do.
Hail to the Chief – Yes, it’s true. You’ve been unanimously elected to serve as the leader of your country because of your unique combination of character strengths (We did say this was a fantasy, right?). You have an excellent staff and cabinet to help with the parts of the job that are a struggle for you, so you’re free to focus only on what you do best. Describe how each of your highest strengths will help you to be an excellent Leader of the Free World or Head of State. What strengths are you going to need to borrow from others in your cabinet of advisors?
Strengths Superhero – How would a superhero with your unique combination of strengths serve as a force for good in our world? For example, a superhero with two of my favorite signature strengths, Forgiveness and Perspective, might fly around helping people see problems and conflicts through the eyes of others. Just like Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Truth” that forces people to be honest, my superhero might possess magical “Frames of Forgiveness” that enable the wearer to view the world through other perspectives and then experience understanding and empathy. Please don’t forget to give your new superhero a name worthy of their amazing strengths and powers!
Lucky Strength of the Day – Write down each of your highest strengths on a separate slip of paper. Fold the pieces so you can’t tell what they are and put them in a bowl. Pick one strength to be your “lucky strength of the day” and focus on it all day long. Look for opportunities to use it in different situations, especially in regards to any challenges you encounter. Every chance you get, ask yourself, “How can my strength of __________ help in this situation?” Make note of any new insights you gain about this strength. Keep your jar on your desk or table and repeat this game until you’ve had the opportunity to focus on each of your strengths at least once. This game might also become a lifelong strengths practice for you. For a different challenge, try this game using your lesser strengths.
Can’t decide which one of these activities to do? Turn it into a game of chance! Write the names of each of these activities on a separate strip of paper. Put the strips in an envelope or bowl and then close your eyes and choose one. Vow to play whatever game chance places into your hand for the day. Working, or rather, playing your way through these suggestions is sure to bring you deeper understanding…and a few chuckles as well.
Remember, children are especially receptive to learning through games. Check out my free guide 10 Great Games to Help Kids Learn about Their Strengths (available at https://www.allourstrengths.com/resources) for fun and easy ideas especially for the school-aged set.
Now let’s all get out there and start playing withour strengths.
By Sonya Tinsley-Hook, founder of All Our Strengths