It is a time old debate – does money buy happiness? The stigma that accompanies a person who answers ‘yes’ is that they are materialistic. (In this time and age of reawakening our minds to what’s really important in life, being materialistic is one of the worst thing a person can be called.) I’m not afraid to say that I think money buys happiness but I also don’t think happiness is something you can physically hold, like an iPhone 6S or an annual pass to Disneyland. So, if money doesn’t directly buy happiness, what would you say it buys?
In my opinion, what money buys is security and independence. By security, I’m not referring to trust-fund babies being able to crash their new Mercedes without consequence. Nor saying that the amount of devices you own is a measure of your happiness. This security I’m referring to is one you wouldn’t understand unless you lost it. This security is the confidence that you can cook a meal a day instead of seeing how far you can make one meal stretch. And this independence I’m referring to is the freedom to buy brand name products instead of knock-offs at clothing stores or even at grocery stores. Money gives to its owner options and choices that are otherwise unobtainable by the impoverished.
The problem with having this ‘key to happiness’ is that some people abuse the key and open the wrong doors. But more regularly, people stumble blindly through these newly unlocked doors. In his article, “Can money really buy happiness? If yes, then how and if not, then what can bring happiness?” Ross Simmonds writes:
Yes, money can buy you happiness. The issue is that a lot of people don’t understand what they should be buying to result in happiness. Most people are spending their money on things that aren’t related to long term happiness. … People are making purchasing decisions that don’t translate into happiness everyday in its pursuit.
He goes on to speak about how horrifying the new social norm of retail therapy is. This act which feels so commonplace is an abuse. Even I, a person who isn’t completely financially secure, am guilty of this abuse. I know that when I hit a wall of procrastination, my first instinct is to go online window shopping. Retail therapy is a perfect example of this abuse of security – an abuse only money can afford. In The Grapes of Wrath, after seeing how families with nothing gave the few coins they had to a family who needed the money to bury their late child, Ma says “Pray God some day all the kind people won’t be poor.” Although The Grapes of Wrath was written in 1939, this issue of wealth changing people is seen today in media – for example, ‘reality’ TV stars. In John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society, he details what he has defined as the dependence effect. In short, this effect is when the people who are supposed to satisfy the consumer’s needs begin to stimulate them. Thus, the consumer is caught in this endless cycle of wants. And I believe that is where the shift is in priority when people have money. You can only enter this cycle with money, which means that the people who can’t afford this cycle also aren’t jaded by it.
When I attended another high school’s homecoming, many people spoke to me about how absurd Fountain Valley High School’s homecoming tickets were. I was totally fine with paying for my school’s homecoming ticket at its price without hesitation but if I went to another school would I be as willing? Although my financial status didn’t change when I transferred to FVHS, I immediately accepted the prices of my school’s functions because that inherently expensive environment was what I knew to be standard. In all honest, I didn’t expect both homecomings to be so equal in entertainment. I expected to have less fun at the other school’s homecoming, mostly because I’d know less people there, but also partially because it’s monetary value was lower. So I was convinced by, what Galbraith calls, the production to spend more money. More importantly, I was convinced that I wanted to spend more money.