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Does money make you happy?

By Sam Instone - March 09, 2016

[Estimated time to read: 2 minutes]

Do you think about money a lot?

Will money help you to be happy?

Where should you put your time and energy?

These are questions asked by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of a 75-year study on adult development. He knows what drives happiness and satisfaction…

When asked about their important life goals in a recent survey, over 80% of Millennials (a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000) said simply, to get rich.

But does money actually make us happy?

It’s obvious that money matters – we need it to pay the bills, to support our retirements, to buy the things we enjoy and to support those we love.  But happiness, the magical range of emotions from contentment to intense joy, is at the heart of all that we aim for in our lives. It’s worth knowing what can help us achieve it, and what might matter less than we expect.

For many of us, the pursuit of happiness boils down to the chase for some blend of wealth and high achievement. Too late, we discover that these aren’t the seeds of happiness. 

So what does matter?

For 75 years, researchers at Harvard have tracked the lives of 724 men to try and answer that question.

They watched entire lives unfold; from teenagers into old age – asking every two years about their home life, their health and their careers (one of them went on to become the President of the United States).

A study like this is rare.

It has gone on for so long that the remaining 60 participants are in their 90’s, and the researchers are beginning to follow the children of those already studied.

So what did they learn from the tens of thousands of pages of information generated?

The secret to happiness didn’t revolve around wealth, fame or high achievement.  

One of the clearest results from the study was that "good relationships keep us happier and healthier."

And as an international expat, I can relate to this. 

Finding a balance between our work, our relationships and our environments. 

Of course, money can play an important part in enabling this and it is of critical importance to not let it get out of balance.

The full TEDx talk is only 12 minutes, so find some time to listen and learn more about why relationships matter to our happiness  and the secret to a happy retirement.