When I think back over the times that money has made me unhappy, unsurprisingly, the lack of it has always seemed to be the main problem.
There have been times when I’ve stressed over not earning enough to cover the basics. This is a truly horrible place to be, and it’s not usually possible to fix it quickly. I remember feeling like my very survival was threatened – food, shelter, and my physical safety all felt like they were on the line.
Kind of connected (but not really) have been the times when I was earning OK, but I spent it too fast on more than the just basics. Yes, both problems can be solved by earning more. But I’m definitely one of those people who find that earning more has a way of becoming spending-even-more, unless the actual spending is addressed. These were the times I felt stupid, and ashamed.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that the connection between the two types of unhappiness is this: Each time when I figured out what to do, it was the figuring out that made a difference to how I felt.
It didn’t matter what the plan was. Once I had a plan that seemed feasible, I felt safer; smarter; more in control. Even if putting the plan into action didn’t work out like I thought it would. And it hardly ever did. There were dead ends, surprising twists, and unexpected windfalls, but the answer always came from somewhere. And while it did, I felt happier.
Which ties in with research about how money can make you feel happy. It’s not about the amount you have, it’s about the level of control you feel; both over how you get it, and what you do with it.
Without this sense of control, no amount of money will make you happy. Even super-wealthy people without a plan fret about their money.
We’re sold the story that happiness and money are incompatible. That in order to be happy, we shouldn’t think about money at all.
The science says different. Money can make you happy – just plan on it.