September 5


Money Can’t Buy Happiness? Let’s Debunk That Myth Once and For All!

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Money can’t buy happiness, or so the saying goes. But who actually said it? The origins of this popular phrase are unclear, with some attributing it to the comedian Spike Milligan and others to the novelist George Lorimer.

Regardless of who said it first, the idea that money and happiness are not directly correlated has become a widely accepted notion.

While it’s true that money can provide us with certain comforts and conveniences, studies have shown that beyond a certain point, increased income doesn’t necessarily lead to increased happiness.

In fact, some research has suggested that people who prioritize material possessions over experiences may actually be less happy in the long run. So what is the relationship between money and happiness, and how can we use this knowledge to live more fulfilling lives?

Key Takeaways

  • Money can provide us with certain comforts and conveniences, but beyond a certain point, increased income doesn’t necessarily lead to increased happiness.
  • Prioritizing experiences over material possessions may lead to greater long-term happiness.
  • Understanding the relationship between money and happiness can help us make more informed decisions about how we spend our time and resources.

Historical Perspective

The phrase “money can’t buy happiness” is a popular adage that has been around for centuries. While the origins of the phrase are unclear, it is believed to have been first used by Benjamin Franklin in his 1758 publication, “The Way to Wealth.” Franklin wrote that “money never made a man happy yet, nor will it,” suggesting that happiness cannot be bought with wealth.

Over the years, the phrase has been popularized by various public figures, including the writer Henry David Thoreau, who said in his 1854 book, “Walden,” that “wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Similarly, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie wrote in his 1889 book, “The Gospel of Wealth,” that “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.”

Despite these historical perspectives, a 2010 Gallup poll found that money can indeed buy happiness up to a certain point. The poll found that people with an annual income of $75,000 were the happiest, while those earning more than that did not experience a significant increase in happiness.

However, it is important to note that happiness is subjective and cannot be measured solely by income.

The Relationship Between Money and Happiness

Money and happiness have been a topic of discussion for centuries. While some people believe that money can buy happiness, others argue that it cannot. The truth is the relationship between money and happiness is complex and multifaceted.

Studies have shown that money can increase happiness up to a certain point. Once basic needs are met, additional money does not necessarily lead to increased happiness. In fact, studies have found that people who focus too much on money and material possessions tend to be less happy overall.

However, having enough money to cover basic needs and some luxuries can contribute to life satisfaction and evaluative well-being. This means that people who have enough money to live comfortably and enjoy some luxuries tend to rate their lives as more satisfying.


Experienced well-being, or day-to-day happiness, is also influenced by money to some extent. People who have enough money to do things they enjoy, such as travel or hobbies, tend to experience more positive emotions on a daily basis.

The Impact of Age and Income

Age and income are two factors that can significantly impact the relationship between money and happiness. While young people may believe that money can buy happiness, older individuals tend to place more value on non-financial factors such as relationships, health, and personal growth.

Income also plays a crucial role in determining the relationship between money and happiness.

While individuals with low incomes may struggle to meet their basic needs, those with higher incomes may experience diminishing returns on their happiness as they accumulate more wealth.

Financial security is also an essential factor in determining happiness, as individuals who feel in control of their finances tend to be happier than those who don’t.

However, it’s important to note that money can provide a sense of control, which can impact happiness positively. For example, having enough money to cover unexpected expenses can reduce stress and increase overall well-being.

Additionally, individuals who have the financial means to pursue their passions and hobbies may experience a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Culture and Well-Being

Culture plays an essential role in promoting well-being. In many cultures, people believe that money can’t buy happiness. Instead, they focus on social connections, community involvement, and emotional well-being.

For example, in Japan, people practice “ikigai,” which means finding purpose in life and living a fulfilling lifestyle. This lifestyle emphasizes the importance of finding joy in the little things, such as spending time with loved ones, enjoying nature, and pursuing hobbies.

In contrast, some cultures place a higher value on material possessions, leading to a more materialistic lifestyle.

This lifestyle may lead to higher levels of stress and lower levels of emotional well-being. For instance, in the United States, people often equate success with material wealth, leading to a culture of consumerism and a focus on accumulating possessions.

Anonymous giving is another cultural practice that promotes well-being. Studies have shown that anonymous giving can increase happiness and well-being. This practice allows people to give without the expectation of receiving anything in return, leading to a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Overall, culture plays a significant role in promoting well-being. By prioritizing social connections, emotional well-being, and finding purpose in life, people can live a fulfilling lifestyle that promotes happiness and well-being.

Experiences and Happiness

Experiences can bring more happiness than material possessions. A study by Cornell University found that people are more likely to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than material things. This is because experiences provide memories that last a lifetime, while material possessions can lose their appeal over time.

Travel is a great way to gain new experiences and increase happiness. According to a study by the University of Surrey, people who travel are happier and have a more positive outlook on life. This is because travel provides a break from the routine of everyday life and exposes people to new cultures and ways of thinking.


Motivation can also play a role in the happiness that money can buy. When people have a clear goal or purpose, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and satisfied with their lives. This can be achieved through experiences such as volunteering, pursuing a hobby, or learning a new skill.

The Value of Money

Money is often associated with happiness, but it’s important to understand the value of money beyond just its purchasing power. While money can provide extrinsic value in the form of material possessions and experiences, it’s not the only source of happiness.

Intrinsic value, or the value that comes from within oneself, is just as important. Pursuing meaningful goals, cultivating positive relationships, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment are all sources of intrinsic value that can contribute to overall happiness.

Giving is another way that money can bring happiness. Research has shown that giving to others can increase happiness levels, as it can create a sense of purpose and connection with others.

According to Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, and Nobel Prize winner, money can contribute to happiness up to a certain point. Once basic needs are met, additional money may not bring significant increases in happiness. This is known as the “diminishing marginal utility of wealth.”

Overall, while money can provide some level of happiness, it’s important to recognize that it’s not the only source of happiness and that intrinsic value, giving, and personal fulfillment are also important factors to consider.


In conclusion, the phrase “money can’t buy happiness” is a common saying that has been around for many years. While it is true that money cannot buy happiness, it can certainly provide a sense of security and comfort.

Having enough money to pay for basic needs such as food, shelter, and healthcare can alleviate stress and anxiety, allowing individuals to focus on other aspects of their lives that bring them joy.

However, it is important to note that money alone cannot guarantee happiness. It is up to each individual to prioritize their values and find meaning in their lives beyond material possessions.

Ultimately, the relationship between money and happiness is complex and multifaceted, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It is up to each individual to determine what brings them happiness and how they can achieve it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

Can money buy happiness?

Money can buy happiness to a certain extent. Studies have shown that people who have enough money to meet their basic needs and have some extra for leisure activities are generally happier than those who struggle to make ends meet. However, beyond a certain point, money does not necessarily bring more happiness.

Who first said that money can buy happiness?

The origin of this saying is unclear. Some people attribute it to Benjamin Franklin, while others believe it was first said by the philosopher Epicurus. However, the saying is more commonly known as “money can’t buy happiness.”

Who says money can’t buy happiness?

Many people believe that money cannot buy happiness. This is because happiness is subjective and cannot be measured by material possessions. People who have everything they want may still feel empty and unfulfilled.

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