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Don’t Fool Yourself: You Need Money to Be Happy

Don’t Fool Yourself: You Need Money to Be Happy

You need money to be happy. Yes, I said it. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psych 101? It’s a framework to understand our needs and how we first must meet our basic needs (e.g., food, shelter) before we can hope to fill our more idealistic needs (e.g., love, self-respect). It’s no different with money. Money can provide safety and security. It can provide opportunities for growth and experience.

But everyone says money can’t buy happiness.  For all the people who are living in poverty, who are wondering how they’re going to pay rent this month, who are worried there isn’t going to be enough food for dinner, who lie to their kids when they tell them the hole in their shoe is small and that nobody will notice, who can’t afford medical insurance for their children, or who can’t sleep because they are worried about losing their job, I say think again. If you are struggling to survive, you don’t want to hear about how money can’t buy happiness. It can buy food, pay the rent, and give you a little peace of mind.

When you are in survival mode, your dreams and goals go out the window. When you’re scrambling to pay the bills each month, you probably aren’t thinking about your higher purpose. Instead, you are swimming against the current and going nowhere. Picture a man floating in the water. You probably see his head merrily bobbing along between the waves. He seems to be enjoying a nice swim. What you can’t see are his arms and legs flailing desperately under the water trying to just keep from sinking.

When all of your energy is focused on surviving, you don’t have the time, energy, or ability to have a rich or meaningful life. So if you’re in debt or struggling financially, use some of your other 8 hours to focus on making some extra money. Get off the financial ledge.

Your other 8 hours are your passport to a better life. It’s up to you how you invest this time. You can waste them or you use them to live a more fulfilled life. If you are struggling financially, you NEED to use some of this time to get on more secure financial ground. If you don’t, it will be almost impossible to lead a fulfilling life.

Some of my happiest times are playing hide-and-seek with my daughter, chasing her at the park, and playing the “painful game” (FYI – I’m the one in pain!) with her. None of these activities cost anything, but here’s the catch. If I didn’t have enough money to meet my basic needs, I wouldn’t have the time, energy, or probably even the desire to do these things. Money is the foundation that life and experience sits on.

Don’t box yourself into the corner thinking life is about making money or being happy. You can, and must do both. They are not mutually exclusive. It’s not money vs. meaning. It’s money and meaning.

(Homeless Image by jamesfischerCC 2.0)

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Robert Pagliarini

Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with improvement, making the most of his time and energy, and inspiring others to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work and the co-founder of The Band of Brothers Foundation, a non-profit helping kids around the world.


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9:07AM PST on Feb 4, 2013


11:06PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

I think this article is a bit ridiculous. Of course we need SOME money, because everything costs something, and we have basic needs we have to pay for. But once those basics are paid and out of the way?

Hate to say, but a generally happy person will continue to be a happy person, with the bare minimum, and groucho barxo will continue to be a grouch no matter how much money above and beyond basic necessity is to be had.

2:36AM PDT on May 25, 2012

Money can buy things, but it cannot buy true happiness. I know from experience. Growing up I ever knew we were what the world calls poor. Our Home was always spotless clean even though Mother and Dad both worked outside the Home.We always had clean clothes, mostly new ones. We never lacked for food. Even though Mother worked we could be with her when we needed too. Daddy and Mother set a Godly example for us and were never mean to us. They never fussed at us. We knew what was right and did it. We had no fear of being hurt. We were in Church, in youth activities and had fun. We, as a family, spent daily time together in God's Word and prayer in family devotions. We knew Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. When you honor God, He honors you and meets your daily needs. The only reason there is poverty in this world is because mankind as a whole has sinned. That does not necessarily mean that the needy person has sinned. Many needy are living holy lives, but sin has been allowed to run rampant in this world and that affects every one. True happiness is found only in peace with God. You can have all the money in the world and not be truly happy. One of the richest men in the world has testified to this. I would rather have Jesus than have all the riches this world has to offer. You cannot take money to Heaven, but you can live such a life that others will also go to Heaven because of your witness and your love. That is more important than anything there is in this world to gain.

4:30PM PDT on May 18, 2012

I think that this type of article and it's views are totally inappropriate and out of touch with our present social environment. The gap between rich and poor has become totally disproportionate and has grown more so over the recent years.

Educate yourself by finding out how much is owned and earned by the top earning 1% .... perhaps even the tope 10%. I'm also sure that you know that they and their huge organisations are favoured by paying much lower taxes than others earning far less. Many of these corporations are involved in the war effort and benefitting from the misery of others.

When a huge percentage of a population is living in poverty, have poor health, poor education, low salaries, poor living conditions, etc it does nothing towards making for a equitable society. In the long run history proves that it can lead to the downfall of societies......

9:46AM PDT on May 17, 2012

For most people to get happiness, money is a necessary condition but not sufficient one.

Still a minute portion of folks can be happy without any money

9:39AM PDT on May 17, 2012

Not necessarily to be HAPPY, but perhaps to ease some BURDENS and make one more COMFORTABLE!!

2:16PM PDT on May 16, 2012

Thanks for the article.

10:59AM PDT on May 16, 2012

I disagree, I know numerous miserable wealthy individuals

10:34AM PDT on May 16, 2012

I've got peace of mind, everything. Except enough money. Most arguments I have with my other half is because we don't have enough money, the amount of relationships I've had that have broken down because we didn't have enough money. I suspect and disregard all those old sayings that are designed to keep us poor. You know; money is the root of all evil! Those old memes. It's easier for a rich man to go to heaven than....blah blah blah...camels..blah blah needles etc. Thats why we mustn't trust the church or religionists. They want our money! Or they don't want us to have any! They like us better when we're poor cos we're more malleable to their brainwashing.

6:53AM PDT on May 16, 2012

Ya maybe your right you cant live with out money but it does not buy happiness. Happiness is a frame of mind. and from experiance I would rather spend time with my poor friends than my wealthy friends. there is a differance in the way they think and have fun. Money seem to sap the life right out of people. and working them extra 8 hours a day may make your life more stable but it dont make you happier if you miss your childs birthday or time with your loved ones smiling and laughing. For some reason I dont see you as a happy person just some one out chasing the next dollar missing out on friends laughing and playing games.

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