August 22, 2009

What if money can make you happy after all?

moneyWe hear again and again that money can't make you happy. But maybe it can after all.

“Just because money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t mean money cannot buy happiness,” says Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, in tomorrow's Boston Globe.

According to Dunn and her fellow researchers, it all depends on how you spend it. If you spend money "prosocially"—that is, if you spend it on others—you're likelier to add to your purchase a lasting sense of well-being. And spending on "experiences"—on a vacation or taking a friend to dinner—instead of material goods is likelier to put a spring in your step (this is called "conceptual buying").

One caveat: Everything in good measure; giving all your money away is not recommended by the research team.

Read the Globe article here.


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Nick's picture

Hi James,

interesting thoughts!

I believe that it’s not possible to make a general statement on whether money makes people more or less happy. Money comes with a whole set of new elements that may have good or bad impact on our happiness, and depending on how susceptible we are to every one of them, the conclusion will go one way or the other (i.e. different from person to person).

I recently made an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of what these ad- and disadvantages are. I invite you to have a look at and tell me what you think!

Thank you,


Erica Fredrick's picture

Thank you, thank you...this article verbalizes what I have been thinking for a long time. I think Oprah was one of the first advocates of the "money won't make you happy" belief. I have always thought that it really depends on who you are. If having money could help me to take my mind off of bills and be able to spend more time with my children, travel the world, and give back whenever I could...why would that NOT make me happy? Now, my cousin who is quite obviously as unhappy without money as he is with money...believes that MORE money will bring him the happiness he so diligently searches for day after day. For him, money will NOT make him happy. Great article!