“They say money doesn’t buy happiness. But money buys jet skis. Have you ever seen anyone unhappy on a jet ski?”
I don’t know which comedian to credit with this quote, but it always makes me laugh. Fresh off a 5-day lakehouse vacation with my family, full of jet ski rides, pontoon cruises, water skiing, tubing, and wake surfing, I can confidently conclude that yes, indeed money does buy you happiness.
Well okay, sometimes.
If you want to get a good laugh, check out the trolling I got when I posted this reel on Instagram about my family vacation.
Admittedly, I was a huge d*ck in my comments. But hey, I’m generally a good dude; I love people, go to Church every Sunday, give generously, and have never stolen a dollar in my life. But if someone attacks, you picked a fight with someone who majored in sarcasm.
If your first response to the title of this blog is, “Of course it does”, then let’s unpack when and if it does, and how to keep money in the right perspective.
Table of Contents
Can Money Buy Happiness? What I’ve Realized
Money solves money problems.Money does not solve relationship issues nor does it give you a better physique.
It certainly does not help you achieve a tighter spiritual connection to your Creator, which I consider the greatest wealth I possess.
It doesn’t help my boys perform more athletically and bring that joy to Kara (my wife) and I.
And mainly, it doesn’t stop douche bags from being douche bags; you know, the ones who add a “__” at the end of your Instagram handle and attempt to cold-message scam all your followers from a fake copied account?
You’ve probably seen the study that claims happiness begins to plateau after you receive an annual income of $75,000, an idea that has now been more or less disproven. In fact, there was one other study going so far as to claim, quite hilariously, that people with $10 million are measurably happier than those with a paltry $1-2 million.
Those poor little millionaires!
What are we to make of all this happiness research and its ties to income?
Matthew Killingsworth has studied data from more than 30,000 adults, far larger than previous studies of money and happiness.
He debunked the popular myth that there is no effect of money on happiness beyond $75,000 per year, but he did confirm a law of diminishing marginal returns to money.
Now what the heck are diminishing marginal returns?
For this, I have yet another story for you.
Back when I was in 3rd grade, the lunch ladies at my elementary school would make chocolate-covered peanut butter squares. You cannot convince me that there is any better food in this world than those choco-butter squares. NONE. These ladies nailed it! Strange enough, some of the kids in my class didn’t want theirs. Weirdos.
So they’d stack them up on my plate; sometimes the stack would have as many as ten. The first one, amazing. The second, pretty good.
The third, uhm, ok. The fourth? I’m not so sure I want it, but I don’t want to throw it out… The fifth? I’m about to get nauseous. Sixth? Seventh?
Fuck it. You’d have to pay me to eat it. Eighth, ninth, tenth? I’m throwing them away as fast as I can!
And that, my friends, is the law of diminishing marginal returns.
Definition: Once the optimal level of operational capacity is reached, the addition of any more input will only result in a significant decrease in output.
A study of thousands of millionaires led by researchers at Harvard Business School did find a gain in happiness that kicks in when people’s net worth rises above $8 million.
But the effect was small: A net worth of $8 million offers a boost of happiness that is roughly half as large as the happiness boost from being married. So what, in addition to being married, tends to make people happy?
The Pursuit Of Mappiness
One of the greatest happiness studies, in my opinion, is the Mappiness project, which uses technology to get direct feedback from participants while they’re in the moment.
Through an app, they get a push notification to remind them to enter what they’re doing, who they’re with, and rate their happiness.
Having sex, eating pizza, watching football with your friends? 10.
Lying sick in bed, doing meaningless work, folding laundry? 1.
The activities that make people happiest were found to be having sex (not surprisingly), exercising, and gardening.
People get a big happiness boost from being with a romantic partner or close friends, but not from being around other people, like colleagues, children, or acquaintances.
Weather plays only a small role, surprisingly, except people get a big mood boost on extraordinary days like above 75°F and sunny. People are consistently happier when they are out in nature, near a body of water, or in exceptionally beautiful scenery.
I know what you’re thinking. These are pretty obvious results and we didn’t need scientists to tell us. But there is an advantage to having data tell us something that there is no secret.
In our modern day world that shoves in our face everyday that we need material possessions to be happy, we can see through it to the truth.
Personally, I’ve been broke and I’ve been rich. I’ve been happy and I’ve been miserable in both situations.
I’ve driven a Ford Festiva where the tire fell off after traveling 65 mph on the highway, and I’ve driven a $100k Tesla that gave me no complaints. I can’t say a sweet car has that much effect on how happy I am.
I was pretty broke in my 20’s, maybe had a few hundred grands throughout my 30’s, and now I’m a multi-millionaire several times over in my early 40’s.
In my 20’s, I may not have had money, but I didn’t have any lower back issues, I had the freedom to do what I wanted at all times, and I was never tired. I recovered from lifting workouts in no time.
Now, I have plenty of money, but also have grown-man issues like an aging body. Every stage seems to have its tradeoffs, which is why they always tell you to enjoy the journey.
In 2020, I can say without any doubt that it was the happiest I’ve ever been. I know this was a tough time for many, and I know that for many it was an amazing time. For that entire summer, all travel was canceled and all we did was go boating, jet skiing, golfing, and watched Netflix and Chilled.
I made over $1.3 million automatically – passive income from all of my assets. It’s not that hard to figure out why I was so happy. I was with my family, in nature, not really working yet making great money, and spending more time with my wife than ever before. It was bliss.
Was I happy? Undoubtedly. Was I fulfilled? No. Not even fucking close.
Why You Should Chase Fulfillment
I wasn’t fulfilled despite being happy. I went to bed in a good mood but still felt empty. I was smiling all day yet felt that there was something missing.
I wasn’t serving anyone.
Don’t think of me as an ungrateful brat. Think about it. I’m telling you about the dream life I lived, yet I’m telling you I had a big piece missing inside simply because I wasn’t helping anyone solve their problems.
You see, several of my leaders on my direct sales team graduated, so to speak. They grew into their leadership, became independent, ran their own teams, and really didn’t need me anymore. Of course, occasionally I’d get sought out, but there were several long days of silence.
No one really needed Jack. Sure, I’d make some decent coin selling some properties, but no one ever came back and thanked me. It was a lot like being a sports referee. No one ever walks out of a sporting event saying, “Those refs called one heck of a game.” It’s always, “Fuck those refs, they blew it, they cost us the game!” If everything went well, I heard nothing. If anything went wrong, I’d be the punching bag.
It was the No-Credit-All-Blame game.
Essentially, I was not pouring into anyone. And there is no amount of money that can fill in that gap, that emptiness you’ll feel when you have some things going well in your life, you have some money, but you aren’t providing a guiding hand to those who are walking the journey before you. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. But I knew I couldn’t stay there in that magical period of maximal happiness. I had to find fulfillment.
This leads to the most important point about having financial freedom, having plenty of money: Flexibility.
You don’t need to make decisions based on money. You have, in fact, made enough money to the point where money is no longer a determinant of how you live your life. All your needs are covered; it’s the wants that need addressedl. For me, that financial independence gave me the freedom and flexibility to start my business, the Indestructible Wealth, which almost two years in, I’ve made very little money from, but don’t really care because I’m waking up and doing something I love, every fucking day!
I’m writing content, producing podcasts, publishing social media daily, and helping others make smarter financial and business decisions. This gives me fulfillment. Most days I ask myself why I’m not further ahead by now, but when I talk myself out of that and just focus on the process and the joy from talking about something I love, well, that’s the real deal.
One part of the Mappiness project that I still can’t wrap my head around is how miserable people are at work. They found that work was the second-most miserable activity, of 40 activities, and only being sick in bed makes people less happy than working. People apparently work far too hard at jobs with people they don’t like, and then are too afraid to quit because they need the money to be able to pay the bills. Why this is so surprising to me is because I absolutely love to work. TGIF? Nah. TGIM (Thank God It’s Monday).
This is exactly why your principal capital should be invested into passive income plays and not just growth. Multiple streams of automated income will give you the flexibility you need to not have to stay in a job you’d almost rather be home sick in bed than waking up every morning to commute to. It gives you the time you need if something bad happens in your life to take a step back, deal with it with all of your energy and focus, and come back stronger. It allows you to take your time in deciding what your next move might be. I had to take a step back for multiple months to figure out if I really had it in me to commit to building Indestructible Wealth over a multi-year period.
I’m not a country fan, but Zac Brown gives us a glimpse into what a happy life looks like in his popular song Chicken Fried: “Cold beer on a Friday night, jeans that fit just right, and the radio up. Well it’s funny how the little things in life that mean the most. Not where you live or what you drive or the price tag on your clothes.” Clearly, this guy has it figured out.
Big data tells us there are things that have been around for thousands of years that can make us happy that require little to no money. After reading several studies on happiness, I concluded that the modern-day answer to maximizing happiness could jokingly be summed up in one sentence: Be with your love, on an 80-degree and sunny day, overlooking a beautiful body of water, having sex.
My non-data driven answer is yes, this certainly will make you happy in that moment, but if you’re not helping other humans solve problems and make their lives better, you’re missing fulfillment. Fulfillment can only come from what you give, not exclusively living for yourself. Happiness plus fulfillment is the real deal.
How To Get There?
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