All my life I have been listening to the phrase money doesn’t buy happiness. Now George Monbiot from TheGuardian (featured in Wednesday’s Commentariat) tells me the same thing. What utter nonsense.

Of course money per se doesn’t bring euphoria, although you could be forgiven for thinking so when you see the reaction of most people when they win the lottery. Let’s face it, I have never seen anyone or heard of anyone who hasn’t been extremely happy when the recipient of some windfall. However, it does have to be used wisely and can bring unhappiness if it is not. We have all heard of instances where greed or indulgence has resulted in less than a satisfactory lifestyle. Consumerism for its own sake or the benefit of the neighbours, is a pathway to unhappiness and insecurity. Also the degree of happiness provided by money is always in direct proportion to the amount already held. An extra million dollars would make little difference to someone like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, but make, dare I say, you or me extremely happy.

I can honestly say that all my life, the more money that I have had, the happier I have been. However there is also a rider to that statement because to really appreciate anything, one must have gone without it. To appreciate peace, an experience of war is necessary. To appreciate food, hunger should be felt and so it is with money.

The main thing that money buys is independence. It allows you to do exactly what you like within the realms of social conscience. You are not constrained by employment, so you can live and travel wherever you wish. You can lead a comfortable life and pay others to look after you. You can afford the best of everything from food to transport. You can live a healthier lifestyle by having the time to live less stressfully and
without the undue worry that we lesser mortals have with day-to-day concerns about paying bills.

Money even buys health for God’s sake. There’s a whole industry out there that costs a fortune to keep you healthy. Have you been to the dentist recently or paid some physio or been to hospital? Money also gives you the time and wherewithal that enables you to endow good causes and give to charities. So it empowers you to spread happiness even further. It allows you the time and expense, to entertain friends. It allows you to pursue your interests without the burden of considering cost. It buys education and the whole world of enquiry that follows. Yes it has certainly bought me happiness. As the man said, “I have been rich and I have been poor and rich is better.”

From a purely personal point of view, money has allowed me to retire in limited comfort, to go sailing, learn to fly, swim all the year round in my heated pool and keep fit, pay for radiotherapy, have time to read and learn, and time to undertake voluntary work. However, a lifetime is so restricted that I shall die frustrated by the lack of money to enable me to do so many of the things that I should just love to experience. I still get extreme pleasure every time I swim in my pool or drive my modern (but second hand) car. In the last five years I have purchased a mobile phone, a TV, a VCR and a computer. I am still in awe of the technology and the happiness these items give me is not diminished every time I switch them on.

Lastly, if money does not bring happiness, why is it that there are so many people in relentless pursuit of it?

Peter Fray

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