According to an age old aphorism, money can’t buy happiness. Let’s imagine for an instant that this is true: I’m guessing the majority of people would still rather cry in a mansion than out on the streets. Money may not guarantee happiness, but it does purchase security that allows for soul searching in a way that is not available to those struggling to find housing or food. In addition, speaker Michael Norton at TEDxCambridge argues you actually can buy more than security, you can buy happiness. It is just a matter of spending money on the right things, or, more specifically, for the right reasons.
Norton argues there are no items that should be on one’s “must have” list in case they win the lottery. In fact, winning the lottery proves to be a killer of relationships and leads to overspending and eventually debt. Instead, he advocates for the spending of money on others. He cites one study he conducted at the University of British Columbia where people were given money to spend either on themselves or others. The amount of money they spent didn’t matter. What did was who they spent it on. Those who spent on others reported feeling significantly happier throughout the day than those who bought something for themselves. What is interesting about this study is that the subjects were given the money they were to spend. Giving away something that is not yours is easier and does not entail the same level of sacrifice giving from your own belongings does. So, maybe spending on others does increase happiness if you spend on others, or maybe this is a flawed survey. Regardless, maybe we shouldn’t view the pursuit of money as negatively as we sometimes do. And, when we have money, maybe we should conduct our own personal experiments and spend it on others.