Money Can’t Buy Happiness. Or Can it?

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When you can spare the time, go to Google, and type, ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’ and click on images. You will find a host of interesting memes and quotes. Please don’t do that now, for your presence here is valued, and your response is requested.

The title should remind those  familiar with the Beatles of the unforgettable lines

I’ll give you all I’ve got to give
If you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give
But what I’ve got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money
For money can’t buy me love

Love, perhaps. What about happiness?

May I request you to please answer,

What percentage of your top desires depend on money?

  1. Suppose you mentally list 3-5 things or changes that you desire in your life today.
  2. How many of them directly depend on money?
  3. If for example 3/5 desires depend on money, can you please list in the comments section as “60%“? Please don’t mention your wants/desires.

Let me do this exercise to illustrate.

What are my top dreams or desires today, if realized, would make me happy?

  1. I wish I would be cured of my auto-immune disorder. Money can’t do that!
  2. I have a rather personal desire which would change the way my family lives each day. Money can’t do that!
  3. I lived in a mansion as a boy and had oodles of space to play and think. I long for an independent house. Not in the outskirts of the city, but in the centre. This needs money, impossible amounts of money.
  4. I long for financial freedom. This involves increased cash flow or increase in net worth.
  5. If I had done this exercise about 20 years ago, I would have said, I want to live in a Tahitian island (surrounded by uninhibited locals, if you can catch my drift!)  as Marlon Brando’s neighbour.  Money could do that, but for a variety of reasons, I will now have to strike this off the list! FYI: Brando is dead and his estate – one of  the richest earning among dead celebs- does not include the island .

So that is four legitimate desires out of which two require money. So my score is 2/4 = 50%. Can we say 50% of my desired happiness depends on money? Wonder if it is 100% for young people and gradually drops as they age.

Can you please share your percentage score alone in the comments section?

What is the purpose of this exercise?

I wish I could give you some lofty reasons for requesting this information from you.  I wish I could tell you this is part of some physiological questionnaire that will provides insights in your personality.

Sorry, I can’t. On a visit to a clinic, I saw a poster for world happiness day (March 20th) and thought about how much money plays a role in it.

So I was curious to find out my score. I am curious to know yours. If you can empathize  with my curiosity, please do share your score. Perhaps we will all collectively get something to ponder about from the data.

I found the apt response to my first two desires in this quote:

Photo Credit: BK (flickr)
Photo Credit: BK (flickr)


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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of  He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras since Aug 2006. Pattu” as he is popularly known, has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management.  He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Pattu publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates  and associations(see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, TamilNadu Investors Association etc. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
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  1. I came up with 6 wants/desires and my score is 50%. This exercise was interesting, I expected the percentage to be higher. I do believe there are some things that money can’t buy, but money does give one access to things that can lead to happiness (indirect route).

  2. I came up with 6 wants/desires and my score is 50%. This exercise was interesting, I expected the percentage to be higher. I do believe there are some things that money can’t buy, but money does give one access to things that can lead to happiness (indirect route).

  3. Two quotes that came to my mind on reading the article:
    When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is.
    Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” — Woody Allen, director, actor

    My personal take:
    It’s good to have money, not to worry about monthly bills, children education. But it is not the ONLY thing. Like everything else food,health need proper amount of money but I am yet to find about how much is proper amount of money

  4. hi sir,

    my score is 2/5 = 40% , and im 35 , married , two kids.

    As i was reading this, i remembered a quote said by one of the insurance agent in one of the seminar I attended.

    ” Money may not buy happiness, …..but it can definitely reduce sadness and pain”…..hmmm that i think is true to a certain extent.

    anyways, this was a good exercise.

  5. 50% .. have heard /think on the lines quoted above by Praveen .. “Money may not buy happiness, …..but it can definitely reduce discomfort”..

  6. At this stage of my life, when health is playing along, I’d say 80% of my desires can be met with money alone.

    This number is bound to take a dive if, as I get older, my relationships, health and wealth do not work out the way they could have!

  7. 1. I want early retirement – Money 2. I want to build a home in a nice cool, calm, serene place to live rest of my life – Money 3. Want to help needy – Money 4. to provide best to my kids – Money 5. want my kids Happy – Not it came our 4/5 i.e 80%

    What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money.

  8. 2/5 hmmm 40%.. One being financial freedom, the other is to own and run a farm.. Don’t know when that will happen … 🙂
    Thought provoking Pattu Sir.

  9. Happiness from money is almost close to over 80pct. Immediately after meeting those imp, new needs n desires crop up. Lesson from yr quote is very valid. i.e. cease worrying about things beyond yr control.

  10. LOL money is a strange animal.
    Those who do not have it hunt and chase it to their end.
    Those who have it advocate to get rid of it.

    money can’t buy happiness and love; it damn sure can buy everything that I love and bring me happiness – Anonymous

    Happy people have tons of money in their head, but not in their heart; Practical people have the same under their mattress!

  11. I have only one wish , that is retirement and spending most of the time reading whatever I wish, it needs money , so mine is 100%

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