How Money Fits Into a Happy Life

Photo by Cristina Cerda on Unsplash.

Last week, Deborah Copaken (whom you might remember from this 2014 Billfold post and/or the Wayback Machine-collected comments) wrote an Atlantic essay titled What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion.

The piece includes a list of 30 observations, a full third of which address jobs and money:

4. Nearly every single banker or fund manager wanted to find a way to use accrued wealth to give back (some had concrete plans, some didn’t), and many, at this point, seemed to want to leave Wall Street as soon as possible to take up some sort of art.

5. Speaking of art, those who went into it as a career were mostly happy and often successful, but they had all, in some way, struggled financially.

6. They say money can’t buy happiness, but in an online survey of our class just prior to the reunion, those of us with more of it self-reported a higher level of happiness than those with less.

To be honest, the financial observations weren’t too surprising — yes, maternity leave is expensive and yes, women cover most of the costs of childbearing/childraising — and the two observations that might stick with me the longest are the ones about the way divorce affects the person who wanted the separation vs. the person who didn’t want the separation. (Not that all divorces include one member of each party; in some cases both spouses want to separate.)

Still, it’s interesting to look at Copaken’s list and consider the way money fits into a happy life. Do you agree or disagree with her pronouncements? I’m not exactly sure that having more money (or getting out of debt) has brought me more happiness — it’s the work I do during the day, the people I spend my time with, and the time left over to rest and relax that tend to make me happy — but having more money (and moving to a lower-cost-of-living area where I can do more with my money, like rent an apartment with its own washer/dryer) has definitely made my life easier.

What do you think?

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.