Why Doesn’t More Money Make Us Happy?

“I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they can see it is not the answer.”

-Jim Carrey

In a recent ESPN article about Kyrie Irving leaving Cleveland, former teammate Channing Frye said “happiness comes and goes in the NBA.” Wait, what? These guys are playing the game they dreamed about their entire life. The league’s median salary is $2.5 million. How does happiness come and go?

In the last three years with the Cavaliers, Kyrie went to three straight finals, won one of them, and made $50 million over that time. But it wasn’t enough to keep him happy.

There was a report out today that Rob Gronkowski, super human tight end for the New England Patriots “didn’t enjoy himself in 2017.” Gronk’s base salary was $8 million last year, or $500,000 per game. But it wasn’t enough to keep him happy.

Regardless of one’s bank account, happiness comes and goes in the NBA, in the NFL, and in life.

I can understand why Kyrie and Gronk weren’t happy, despite all the money they’re making and the houses that they’re living in and the cars that they’re driving. One of the best and worst things about the human mind is how quickly we adjust to a new reality.

Dan Gilbert, social psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness showed that people who recently became paraplegics are just as happy one year later as people who won the lottery. Relative to where we thought our happiness would be after winning the lottery, we adjust downward, and relative to where we thought our happiness would be after losing our legs, we adjust upward.

In Judd Apatow’s Netflix special, he spoke about the Porsche he got and what little joy it brought to his life. The joy you get in buying a Porsche doesn’t come on the day you buy it, it comes from imagining how you’ll feel on the day you buy it.

More money doesn’t provide more happiness because just like buying a fancy car, we overestimate how happy we’ll feel when we finally get it. It’s an internal buy the rumor sell the news event. And I can only imagine the pain and disappointment that comes from making more money and then realizing that isn’t filling the hole you thought it would

Another reason why more money doesn’t necessarily make you happier is because of the stress that comes with lifestyle creep. The more money you make, the more money you spend, and this is an incredibly difficult thing to keep in check.

One of the best lines I’ve ever seen on money comes from David Enrich’s The Spider Network. One of the character’s father said, “Money can’t make you happy, but it does allow you to be miserable in comfort.” 

I love money and the freedom it affords us, I just think that people overestimate how happy they’ll be when they make more of it. I think most people reading this will agree with this concept in theory, but not in practice. Like many things in life, it’s an idea that is hard to truly believe until we experience it for ourselves.

It’s difficult to be happy if you don’t have enough money. If you’re constantly stressed about paying your bills or putting food on your table, there’s not much room for happiness. But once you’ve got the basics covered, more doesn’t go very far.