More Money = Less Happiness?


Call in the quacks! The shrink. The counselor. Get the voodoo man on the line. The Rogue Economist is going soft and mushy…analyzing his own feelings and motivations…his own relationship with money.

It begins with a note from a dear reader: ‘What a pile of garbage. There is no correlation between happiness and money. None.

Oh yeah?

Half the world works just to survive. But the other half works to get ahead. It aims to get richer. Why so much effort if there is no connection — none at all — to happiness?

And why are so many people investing their money, if not in the hope that it will be fructified…making them wealthier?

Neither the Dow nor the price of gold budged on Thursday. You can interpret that any way you want.

There was no follow through on Wednesday’s big drop in stock prices. But there was no rebound either.

Mr Market, are you listening? We await further instructions.

More money, more honey?

Meanwhile, we have been making the case that the link between money and happiness isn’t as straight and sure as: More Money = More Happiness.

And it can be the other way around: More Money = Less Happiness.

There are three key decisions you make in life; having money doesn’t keep you from botching them up.

In fact, money can make the wrong choice more readily available to you. Neither high-toned hookers nor highly paid stock brokers make their calls in poor neighbourhoods.

We grew up poor…but not unhappy. We took from our childhood that happiness was independent of wealth. We drew our happiness from the home and the family.

And with this base of our contentment secure, we could go out into the world and face whatever challenges and hardships might come our way…confident that no matter what happened, our happiness was safe at home.

We began this series with an insight: If you want to get rich, you had better learn to like poverty first.

A man who measures his worth in material success may not be able to bear the risk of failure. In our case, we were largely indifferent to it. Money didn’t really matter much. So we could afford to take chances.

After law school, instead of taking the safe route — billing clients for nasty divorces or slick tax schemes — we started a business.

The only sure route to success

No matter what you do, it is hard to put your hands on serious money.

When you come of age, someone else already owns all of the money in the world. Its custodians and guardians will not turn it over to you readily.

Starting out, you won’t know what you have to do to make your business succeed. Most likely your business will fail; you don’t want to take it too hard.

Instead, you want to take advantage of it. Since you can’t know in advance what will succeed, eliminating failures is the only sure route to success.

The challenge is to fail early and often enough so you still have your nerve and your wits when you finally stumble onto something that works.

Even if you are able to separate yourself (again in a deep, emotional way) from material success, it still plays a role in your life. As we explained in this series, we want more wealth for a reason, even if we don’t know what the reason is.

When we undertake to get it we get a sense of satisfaction and delight when we succeed. It is not necessarily the money that satisfies us though; it may just be like the satisfaction you get from choosing the fastest line at the checkout counter…or cutting someone off in traffic.

Life is competitive. We want to win. And money is one way of keeping score.

The typical man has a job where he is told, more or less, what to do. He may earn a high salary or a low one. He may like what he does. Or he may suffer it, as he suffers a tax audit or a colonoscopy. But it will probably not get him any serious wealth or satisfaction.

You do not get either by going along with the flow. You get it by disrupting it. Like disruptive technology, you must change the way money is earned…and spent…altering the capital landscape of the planet. If you are to get more, relatively, others must have less.

This gives the competitive moneymaker a deep sense of reward even before he is successful. He is not necessarily the richest of men, but he is probably among the happiest.

Beethoven referred to him as the ‘free artist’. He does what he likes with no overseer laying the lash on his back and no Wall Street banker holding a million-dollar bonus in his face.

He would do his work even if it didn’t pay. For he is a builder remaking the world…not in his own image exactly, but at least with his fingerprints on it.


Bill Bonner
For The Daily Reckoning Australia

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Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
Bill Bonner

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slewie the pi-rat
slewie the pi-rat
2 years 20 days ago
“When you come of age, someone else already owns all of the money in the world. Its custodians and guardians will not turn it over to you readily.” once upon a tyme, [late 60’s] something like this, below, was making the rounds of utes beginning to try to make their way in the war-torn, draft-dodging US neighborhood maybe somewhere down the road a ways from where the utes grew up; maybe not. this: How do you define a rich person? A rich person is someone who can borrow half-a-million dollars. no, getting started is never easy for people, in general.… Read more »
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