Can Money Facilitate Happiness?

Can money facilitate happiness? - struggling to meet basic needs is bad for mental health

We’ve all heard that money can’t buy happiness. But is there some sort of relationship between money and happiness? And if so, what does that look like, and can money facilitate happiness?

Meeting basic needs

Clearly, it takes money to meet our most basic needs like food and shelter. When those basic needs are on the line, it’s not surprising that this could potentially trigger mental illness. According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, people with problem financial debt are twice as likely to experience depression than those without financial difficulties. Problem debt is also a risk factor for suicide.

Mental illness, particularly more chronic illness that affects the ability to work, can have a significant detrimental effect on finances. Income may be erratic, and qualifying for disability can be a difficult and drawn-out process. Paying for medications and health services can be a huge drain. The Money & Mental Health Policy Institute says that one-quarter of British adults experiencing mental health problems also report problem debt.

I think at the low end of the income spectrum, it’s not about money increasing happiness; instead, it comes down to having a sense of security rather than the constant uncertainty about meeting those basic needs. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, having sufficient income security to meet basic physiological and safety needs is essential. That being said, money alone is not necessarily enough to ensure those basic needs are met, but having some form of universal basic income could play a role in meeting some of those needs.

How (some) money can facilitate happiness

What happens at the higher end of the income scale? A study published in Nature in 2018 concluded that globally, a yearly income of $95,000 was the average point at which life evaluation relative to income topped out. The satiation point for emotional well-being was $60,000 to $75,000 per year. Income above those levels was not associated with any further improvements. The exact amounts varied from region to region; in North America, $105,000 was optimal for life satisfaction.

I don’t believe that there’s a direct relationship between money and happiness, and while figures like these can give some indication of where money stops having a positive influence, income alone certainly can’t predict someone’s level of happiness. Once the basic needs are met, our attitude towards money and how we choose to use it can grease the wheels a bit on the journey towards happiness.

Material good vs. experiences

We live in a world with a strong consumer culture, and I have strong doubts about whether buying stuff can contribute to happiness. Yet I can see how people might turn to consumerism for a quick hit of temporary happiness in an attempt to compensate for a lack of happiness at a deeper level. However, there can be a better way for individuals to interact with our capitalist system.

One thing that money can potentially do is open doors for amazing experiences. Whether it’s travelling the world or putting your kid in the ski camp they’re super excited about, money can facilitate happiness by allowing us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do. Of course, this isn’t the only way to be happy, and there are many wonderful things to do that cost nothing at all, but in this sense, money can open up possibilities.

Money can also allow us to help others in larger-scale ways, and doing these kinds of values-consistent actions can promote greater overall joy.

So, to answer my question in the title, can money facilitate happiness? Well, I chose that wording specifically because I would give a qualified yes, I think that in some cases money can facilitate (but not directly lead to or produce) happiness when the right mindset is already in place. What are your thoughts?

Mental health coping toolkit

The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.

28 thoughts on “Can Money Facilitate Happiness?”

  1. I wrote on this topic back when I started my blog. I definitely agree that it stabilizes the sense of security. I live with anxiety and I’ve learned that maintaining stability through income and having my needs met, I am not in the survival mindset that I spent much of my life stuck in. Great post!

  2. Interesting post & question.
    My answer is simple. I’m on disability, one income. Set bills, set expenses that I must stick to. If I get a little break in the action, I do gift myself something in order to maintain my happiness (OR- at least stabilize my mood).
    The last “Big” purchase was my new quilt set and curtains for my bedroom. Before that, was my trip to visit my mom in Florida back in November.
    What frightens me is when my bipolar flares up, I tend to spend money that I shouldn’t.
    In order to avoid this – I keep a list on my desk directly in front of me at all times to remind me not to spend. Priorities must come first.

  3. I have always got back. But since this year, as you know, it has been a struggle and I don’t feel I have any stability at the minute and so with that feeling, it has affected my moods because I am worrying about paying bills. Part of these bills my savings have to cover. My savings are only going to last so long if all I am doing is taking out instead of putting in. Once I am in a position to be like before where I am getting by or better, then so will my mood, as until then, I feel I am on survival mode. If it wasn’t for my savings, I wouldn’t have a roof over my head now, or if still the roof, then no heating or hot water.

    1. That’s so scary, and a person without your good financial sense would really be in dire straits if faced with the same challenges that you’ve had to deal with.

  4. its a complicated question. money brings some problems and solve some.
    happiness doesnt depend on money but comfort does!

    you can be living a comfortable life and still be unhappy.

    btw just got your book.

  5. Basically agree with everything you wrote. People need a basic level of income to be happy and secure, but beyond that, things that money can’t buy (love, friendship, meaning) become much more important.

  6. I believe happiness is not simply lack of sadness and misery. Money, to a certain extent, removes misery and gives security, but this is not equal to happiness. So we can say a certain amount of money may be necessary for happiness, but it is never enough. In my weblog : I have a post about the biggest research of Harvard university on happiness and a good life:

  7. I think you’ve taken a good approach to this. Research does suggest that there’s a peak and a cut-off point to which money improves mental health and happiness levels. I think you can see the impact more with less money and the opposite effect happens (as you say with illness it can impact ability to work and finances and stress/depression/symptoms overall can worsen). I don’t think money would make me happy, partly because I know all the things that money can’t change or fix, but heck it would make me less stressy and worried all the time, and I’m sure many people would agree. xx

  8. aguycalledbloke

    An excellent post once again Ashley – with an excellent age old question. Can money buy me love?

    Okay, l know that wasn’t the question, as it was can money buy me happiness? No of course it can’t, but money can get you out of the shit and helps with the mobility and efficiency of convenience. it’s a hell of a stress if you are inches away from bankrupcy or debt or debt collectors, whilst money affords you to be in the black and not have to worry about ‘if’ you have enough for not just the roof over your head and food in your stomach, but if you have enough to ‘open the doors’ to new experiences or maybe a potential business venture which may stabilise your income, or to take on board training to further enable you ro increase your ability to keep your mind, body and soul busy.

    When you are working, the confidence rises and of course depression steers clear, BUt having said that l have been in many a time over my years in a very comfortable career and not been totally happy irrelevant to the money. If l am working a job l am passionate about and love, l am not depressed anyway.

    Money does facilitate happiness, but not directly, it’s an indirectness that can make you happier, but with no guarantee you will be forver happy. it just means you don’t have to stress so much, and the money awards you the comfort to improve your life, should you wish to take advantage of it.

  9. If I have the money, I’d get myself out of here and move to my dream Walden. No, it might not make me happy because life is more than just happiness, but it would make me happier than I am now.

  10. I agree with you and everything you said. Very well said 💗. I would love to be able to get a job I love and then have money enough to travel and do the things I want. Of course, feeling good in ourselves is the most important thing but it sometimes can contribute to happiness but you have to feel good about yourself too.

  11. I read a really good book recently called Happy Money. In it the author talks about people’s relationship with money and happiness.

    A funny thing happened. From all their research they found people are much, much happier when they buy experiences instead of things. Experiences are fun (or not so fun) in the moment, and they create a lasting memory.

    Things don’t last. You can buy a new Ferrari and be completely bored by it with a couple things. You will forget about it.

    While money and happiness are not directly related as you said, I think they do influence each other.

    Love your blog though, looking forward to seeing what you write next!

  12. Great post! “Once the basic needs are met, I think our attitude towards money and the way we choose to use it can grease the wheels a bit on the journey towards happiness.” This is so true! We find great stress when basic needs aren’t met. We all want to take care of all of our needs and some of our wants. I think most would be content with that. The danger is thinking more money will lead to more happiness and the development of a love or thirst for more money. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” In essence, balance is the key. I believe we achieve true lasting happiness in other spiritual ways.

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