Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness… But I know What Does

Every day, I interact with people from all over the wealth and income spectrum.  

Money does impact happiness… up to a point.  

We’ve all heard about various studies that observe the happiness of people at different income levels. Certainly, once someone’s basic needs are met, money has a diminishing value. If you give $1,000 to someone who is barely making ends meet and can’t pay their mortgage that month, they are going to be ecstatic. If you give $1,000 to someone with no debt and earning $200,000 a year, they will be… moderately pleased perhaps.  

When I say that money doesn’t buy happiness, it is because of my personal observations of the families I speak with. 


When I see UNHAPPY families, they tend to have these financial traits in common:

1. They don’t talk about money. 

I can tell when a couple has not discussed their financial situation together. I will ask them questions like, “About how much do you spend a month?” or “Describe the lifestyle you want in retirement.” I can tell when their spouse is just as surprised as I am to hear the answer. 

This can make partners feel distant or even opposed. To work together you have to talk together. 

(FYI I think talking about money should be wayyy more normal – I talk more about this concept here)  

2. Their spending doesn’t support their values. 

If a family is wasting their money on things they really don’t care about… they know it. And it brings about feelings of shame, regret, and frustration. Finger pointing to wasted dollars begins to ensue.  

Spend your money. Really – please, I insist you do. But your spending needs to be directed towards things you actually value. 

3. They don’t have a plan.  

Uncertainty breeds fear. I’ve seen people with large incomes stash away tons of money into their retirement plans, but to what end? They don’t know when they can stop, so they face the same insecurities that someone with a low income feels. 

Having a well formulated plan with an advisor removes the question of, “Am I doing enough?” 


When I see HAPPY families, they tend to have these financial traits in common:

1. Their money is not part of their identity. 

I love it when I see a family who is sticking to their plan and saving automatically to their investment accounts as we agreed. And then – they let the plan just… be. They don’t check their portfolio daily. They don’t obsess over their returns. They do what they are supposed to do (save regularly) and don’t worry about the things they can’t control. 

Their money is healthfully detached from their self-worth and identity. 

2. They are content. 

These families appreciate the work their advisor does for them. They appreciate their home, their car, their jobs… they are not always looking for what’s next. They aren’t asking what does their neighbor have? How early did their cousin retire? They simply enjoy the present moments because those are all that is guaranteed. 

3. They have good relationships with their kids. 

This one might seem a bit out of left field, as it’s not really about money. However, this characteristic has been such a defining factor for many of my clients’ happiness.  

My happy clients have set a financial plan in action early and revisited it as necessary, so they can focus on their families. That is their real investment, and what I feel is one of the biggest determinants of their future joy. 


Everyone is going to experience joy in different ways and from different things. I just don’t want ANYONE to think, “I’ll be happy when….” 

… I have $50,000 more saved. 

… I can retire at 55. 

… I get my next raise. 

I just know – I KNOW – you will get to those milestones but happiness with allude you unless you invest outside of your portfolio and into yourself and those around you.