Can Money Buy Happiness?
One Lawyer's Doubts

Can Money Buy Happiness?  One Divorce Lawyer’s Doubts:

Can money buy happiness? The short answer is not at all. And Yes. Money can most definitely buy happiness.

Now, we are, of course, talking about a first world problem here in that most lawyers have their basic needs met don’t we? We are very likely to have shelter, food and clothing. Despite this, for many, financial worries are still very much part of our day-to-day existence.

From the time we are in law school, we imagine a time of easier circumstances. We think that things will be easier when we make a good living as professionals. We imagine a life of great things, beautiful homes, and awesome vacations. Yet, is that how it goes for most of us?

As we earn more money, have things gotten easier for us? Do we live in the lap of luxury? Are our worries less? Are things less complicated now that we earn a better income from when we were students?

For most of us, despite an increased income, we are no less worried about money. It is weird, because when we were still students thought that the answer was yes to the question, can money buy happiness?

For some of us, our money worries have only increased since becoming professionals.

Can Money Buy Happiness? The Killer Debt that Kills the Soul: 

From the time we are offered our first credit card in law school, we are continually overtly and covertly pressured to mortgage the sanity of our futures by buying consumer items, upgrading our vehicles, and upgrading our homes.

Our greater society suggests that the more money we have the happier we will be. Yet, this is not the truth is it? Could we go so far as to say it is a huge lie? Probably.  This huge lie is continuously fed to us everyday in our economy. In fact, our economy depends on that huge lie to function. 

Does our happiness increase when we buy a bigger house? Does it increase with that better car? Does it get better with a new computer? Well, we thought it would, but now we have to go to work to pay for it all. 

Can Money Buy Happiness? . . . It Can Destroy It

In order to answer the question: Can money buy happiness? We need to consider the opposite. Can money and what it means to you in your life destroy your happiness. 

I certainly think it can. It has, in the past, destroyed mine.

When I consider the question: can money buy happiness? I remember how stressed I have been regarding how money (and more like the accumulation of debt associated with money) has caused me great difficulty in my life. Problems with money have had a huge impact on my happiness and that of others close to me.

Studies show that regardless of actual income, debt can increase a person’s chance of developing clinical depression and anxiety. So, the answer to the question, can money buy happiness, is that problems with money can certainly buy unhappiness

Can Money Buy Happiness? Advertising that Makes Sure Money Will Destroy Our Happiness: 

No matter how much we make, we are encouraged by our advertising saturated culture to continuously consume and upscale our expenditures. 

So, how do we avoid this problem? We need to stay away from consumer debt of any sort. 

If we find ourselves in debt, we need to climb ourselves out of it until that is done. 

A really awesome website that talks about how we should consider ourselves in a total state of emergency until we are out of debt is *Mrmoneymoustache.com. Here is a guy who, despite no longer being a student, more or less continued his student lifestyle for a number of years. Instead of continuing to slog away at his job and covering ever-increasing expenses, he has bitten those expenses in the bud early. Now he works when he wants to and enjoys his family a lot more.

He stayed living like a student so he could live the luxurious life of spending time with his family, doing what he loves, and not being a slave to the consumer culture. The really neat thing is that he admits to wanting all the new upgrades too. At the same time, he has a discipline that has gained him a powerful freedom. He now shares his freedom with others so that they can design a life that is on purpose and without crushing financial problems.

How to Money Can Really Buy Happiness: 

Mr. Money Moustache has it down. Spend our time on our love, contributing back to humankind, and our relationships rather than working to pay for stuff. 

So many people in western culture, instead of spending time creating our relationships with those we care about, we spend most of our time working to pay for the stuff we have shopped for. We then shop even more and spend more time working for the more shopping we just did and so on. We reward the continuous working we do by more shopping. And the madness continues. 

If you look and see what people like Leo Babatua (Zen Habits) and Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Nonconformity) are saying (and I have a hunch they are truly happy at least a lot of the time) that we have to have less debt (or no debt) in our lives. This is the way money can buy happiness. Not that we need more of it, but that we need not to owe it in the first place.

Of course when I first looked at what Leo Babatua was saying, I thought “yeah, well it is fine for him because he is all radical about this stuff.” But when I learned more about him, he says he started out every bit as a disaster about accumulating debt and getting stressed out about it as many of us have.

Leo says it took discipline and being strict about getting rid of his consumer debt, but he sounds happier, and he certainly spends more time with his family. He also appears to be living a life of being an awesome role model for his 4 kids.

So, can money buy happiness? Yes it can. Yet, not in the way we may think. It is more like owing it can trap you.

So,now what?

One of my favourite websites about money is called Mr. Money Mustache.

In addition to that, the 2 Simple Ways to Make Sure Money Does Not Destroy Your Happiness:

Rule number one: 

Think of Consumer Debt as a Set of Handcuffs That Will Destroy Your Happiness, Freedom and Well-Being. 

Stay away from using consumer credit. Period. 

What is consumer debt? It is when you use credit to buy stuff like your car, computer, vacation etc. 

If you are not disciplined enough to use credit cards and then not pay them off each month, then don’t use credit cards. Or use one of those cash secured credit cards.

Don’t buy your car on credit. Don’t buy your computer on credit. Don’t buy your holidays on credit. 

Some would say don’t even buy your home with the use of credit.

And if you have consumer credit. Get rid of it. Period. As Mr. Money Moustache says, continue to consider your life in a state of emergency until the debt is paid off. What he means is get rid of all luxuries until you have no consumer debt and can actually afford them.

Rule number two: 

No Matter What Make Sure You Start Saving At Least Some of Your Money All Of the Time 

Save at least something of what you make all the time (even if you are still a student and it means you save $25 per pay cheque form your part-time job). 

The magic of compounding interest can work for or against you. So make it work for you. Even if you only make a little bit, save a little bit and don’t go backwards by using credit and making interest payments. 

So there it is. 

by Val Hemminger, divorce lawyer 

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Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.