THE BLOG
05/12/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Happiness And The Money Factor

Happiness seems to be the catchword for 2010. We're either looking for it, think we've finally found it, or are reluctantly redefining our personal meaning of the word. Then too there are those who feel they know what would make them happy but are almost afraid of saying what they truly believe will bring about that state of being. In other words they're hesitant to say that more money is a significant factor in being personally happy.

I would never discount peace and contentment inducing happiness factors like meditation, prayer, love, friendship, or charity. Nor would I say that everyone's idea of wealth is the same. However, I just don't agree with the idea that money isn't really necessary for a happy life. In this respect I am completely in synch with Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and star of his own HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In the PBS series, This Emotional Lifehe, along with famous and not so famous people, talked about happiness. It was inspiring and eye-opening to take a peek into the individual ideas of what constitutes a happy life for others.

For me, Larry David's assessment of what produces happiness made perfect, practical sense. Asked what he believed would make a person happy, Mr. David immediately mentioned the 'M' word, money. That, along with a job you like, sex, a nice place to live, and some type of spiritual belief, (not necessarily in that order), made up the sum of real happiness, he said.

Now money on its own doesn't guarantee happiness. I think we can all agree on that. Having money won't automatically bring joy. We've all heard sad stories of lottery winners who wind up dead broke and miserable a couple of years after getting their millions and of wealthy people who have inherited money and use it to finance addictions and an insane lifestyle. The paper bills and the coins which make up a monetary system have no magical power on their own to create a happy life for those who possess them. But...

It is what you do with the money, how you use it to enhance your life, that helps on the road to personal happiness.

Money, if used correctly, can definitely add to your happiness quotient. I never have held with the old axiom "Money can't buy you happiness" because it can certainly purchase a better life. I am not talking about going on major spending sprees or being completely unwise in your financial habits. I am talking about the ways you can use money to make life easier and more fulfilling.

Sometimes money can be used to enhance a career. People who are in the arts know this all too well. The actor on Broadway who is waitressing to pay for acting, singing, and dancing lessons, not to mention the rent, could certainly benefit from more money. Cash in this instance could be used to buy time which allows that actor to focus solely on a career and nothing else. The money then becomes a 'patron of the arts' so to speak.

And speaking of careers, how many would use money to change a job they dislike to one that is fulfilling and enjoyable? A friend of mine who taught high school for 15 years used an inheritance from her aunt to leave teaching and pursue a dream; she opened an antique shop. The money bought her a new career enabling her to become a happier person because she is doing what she has always wanted to do.

Saying you need money to be happy is really not that far from the truth. Money buys you things that can make your life more secure. As a college student I drove a car that got me from point A to point B but I was always worried about it breaking down. Every rattle that shook the car added to my stress level. Because of my fear, I began to dislike driving. However, when I graduated, got a good job, and was finally able to buy a new, more solidly built car, my attitude towards driving changed. I felt secure and a whole lot safer. Money didn't buy me happiness; it bought me security and peace of mind which alleviated stress and made me feel happier.

Believing that money is a necessity for your happiness is not wrong. You're not greedy, you're practical. You are aware of how a certain amount of money can impact your life in a positive way and that allows for happiness.

Larry David is right on track when he says that money is an important component for happiness. It is not the only component to be sure, but it ranks right up there at the top. We need to define the connected idea of money and happiness in a new light. The GPS of wealth, it seems, can help you find more happiness. Money is not actually buying it- it is simply allowing good things to happen because of it.

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