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Money Can Buy Happiness

Tyler Durden's picture


The oft-cited idiom that "money can't buy you happiness" - except in Phat Phong from what we hear - is summarily discussed by Michael Norton in this TED Talk as he notes that if you think that money cannot buy happiness then you are not spending it right. His point is (and his delivery is comedic yet clarifying) that money makes you anti-social or selfish (rather than happy) as we will tend to spend that money on ourselves (or the wrong things - a new Veyron perhaps?). But via experimentation (among people from Vancouver to Uganda) he discovered that spending money in a pro-social way will make you happy... So money can buy you happiness as long as you give it away once you have it - a noteworthy caveat - especially as Norton notes that the size of spending does not matter - as long as it focused towards someone else (and not, as he notes, in a dinner for your girlfriend with hopes of benefits later). In almost every country in the world, people who give money to charity are happier than people who do not give money to charity and interestingly spending-on-other-people made teams or people (sports or sales) more successful - of course, we assume taxation does not count as spending on other people.



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Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:27 | 2386054 mkanterm
mkanterm's picture

In the words of Daniel Tosh, "money can buy you a wave runner. And have you ever seen somebody frown on a wave runner?"

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:31 | 2386062 Ag1761
Ag1761's picture

Money buys me happiness when I exchange it for Phyzz

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:41 | 2386101 ihedgemyhedges
ihedgemyhedges's picture

Were I not married, I would exchange money for Phuzz, if you know what I mean.....................because once you're married, your money is exchanged for whatever she wants it to be exchanged for.............and phuzz becomes merely a result of how much exchanging she can do....

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:18 | 2386261 Nobody For President
Nobody For President's picture

Maybe you could buy a divorce that would make you happy...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:34 | 2386299 The Big Ching-aso
The Big Ching-aso's picture



I'm not seeing many happy poor people lately.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:07 | 2386430 AldousHuxley
AldousHuxley's picture

And have you ever seen somebody frown on a wave runner?"


Yes, this guy after he nearly drowned trying to ride it into a cargo van.



money as security and control is good = you control your own life

money as buying shit you don't need = short term fun, but long term less security and control = you are owned


It is not how much money you have but how much you have relative to others...your rank.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:04 | 2386331 SemperFord
SemperFord's picture

Divorced, worked for me :D

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:34 | 2386332 ihedgemyhedges
ihedgemyhedges's picture

Good point, except I would lose half of the assets that I would later be exchanging for phuzz and then paying alimony monthly not to get the phuzz that I get on rare occasion.  It's quite a conundrum.......

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:03 | 2386422 SemperFord
SemperFord's picture

Well, there is a reason divorces are expensive...because they are worth it!

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:08 | 2386435 ihedgemyhedges
ihedgemyhedges's picture

I'll give you the +1 on that because it sounds like you are now getting laid a lot...................

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 18:08 | 2386654 SemperFord
SemperFord's picture

LMAO!!! You are quite receptive because that is very true!!! You should change your name to Nostradamus or something! plus one for you!

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:27 | 2386055 vegas
vegas's picture

The only thing money can't buy is poverty.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:31 | 2386067 kindape
kindape's picture

we didn't evolve to 'be happy'. we evolved to satisfy those culturally/environmentally condoned activities that give us the same neurotransmitter cascades that caused our evolutionary ancestors to meet with success. In todays culture - that means (primarily) acquiring money. It doesnt have to be that, and it won' be that for much longer.  The digits we (think we) hold in the bank are like a squirrel putting nuts away. They dont make us happy, but we are 'satisfied' in that its what we think we should be doing. 

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:41 | 2386099 PhattyBuoy
PhattyBuoy's picture

Note to self ...

PhatPong vacation to emit some cascading neurotransmitters.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:30 | 2386310 The Big Ching-aso
The Big Ching-aso's picture



"Expectation is root of all unhappiness.  Keep this in mind with money or marriage."



Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:51 | 2386388 kindape
kindape's picture

The 'unexpected reward' when the squirrel discovers the nuts were filled with a non-caloric substitute will probably engender a neurotransmitter cascade of a different sort....

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:34 | 2386074 navy62802
navy62802's picture

Money can buy a certain type of happiness. Sure. Makes sense. Entirely depends on what kind of happiness you're talking about here.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:34 | 2386076 Alcoholic Nativ...
Alcoholic Native American's picture

"In almost every country in the world, people who give money to charity are happier than people who do not give money to charity and interestingly spending-on-other-people made teams or people (sports or sales) more successful - of course, we assume taxation does not count as spending on other people."

Sounds very scientific aaaaand it appeals to the libertaritian in me who hates paying taxes.


This is a good article.  Keep em coming Tyler.  You POS

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:03 | 2386200 Vampyroteuthis ...
Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

MDB must be proud of your stupid comments. Troll elsewhere.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:35 | 2386078 cossack55
cossack55's picture

I'm glad you Tylers threw that taxation caveat in there.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:55 | 2386162 Hagbard Celine
Hagbard Celine's picture

...deleted pointless statement of the obvious...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:40 | 2386094 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

Phay Pong no, Soi Cowboy maybe...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:44 | 2386115 junkyardjack
junkyardjack's picture

The government should raise taxes, then everyone will be happy...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:47 | 2386132 CH1
CH1's picture

TED has become a joke: Self-congratulatory posers, trying to define a slightly more hip status quo.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:49 | 2386134 Whoa Dammit
Whoa Dammit's picture

I once read that some Native American tribes had a custom that at the end of each year the tribe member with the most possessions/wealth had to give it all away. I think they were probaly pretty happy until we showed up.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:04 | 2386208 Vampyroteuthis ...
Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

The Native Americans had beads and trinkets to give up. Not much to miss. Giving up a mansion and a few BMWs. That would be something to miss.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:32 | 2386308 Canaduh
Canaduh's picture

It's called a potlach. The Amerindians of the PNW used to give away extraordinary amounts of material wealth. Destroying the potlach ceremony was considered essential to 'civilize' them.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:01 | 2386415 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

they were so selfish they were only giving it away to increase their status.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:30 | 2386318 Nobody For President
Nobody For President's picture

Horseshit. Try educating yourself a tiny, tiny bit about Native American culture in general and the Potlatch tradition in particular:


What was given away by the wealthiest was roughly equivilant to your BMWs - status was confered by the amount given.

In short, it was a really, really different mindset than what many on this list carry with them - call it the Yuppie brigade or whatever.

Of course money is important, until you have enough. The trick is defining what 'enough' is - some people will never get there, and probably never be happy.

So just for the hell of it, next panhandler you see, give them a yuppie food stamp ($20 bill) and see how that works for you.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:50 | 2386385 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

war mongers, slave owners, scalpers, no property rights and no reason, worshiping made up stuff like crow gods, those were good times. give it away before its stolen not a bad philosophy

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:10 | 2386225 Real Estate Geek
Real Estate Geek's picture

They had this whole continent all to themselves, and we "helped" them give it all away.  So what's the problem?


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:49 | 2386136 Coke and Hookers
Coke and Hookers's picture

So what he's saying is that the feelgood sensation from giving is true happiness - right? Is there any single lecture on TED that isn't total bullshit?

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:12 | 2386233 Real Estate Geek
Real Estate Geek's picture

Here's one that's not total bullshit.  It's called "How to Start a Movement," and it's only three minutes long. Enjoy.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 22:56 | 2387303 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

So, being selfish while all around you starve makes you feel good?  Check yer premises.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:50 | 2386146 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

Money can buy you silver!
Silver can buy you a defence against crazy inflation.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:52 | 2386152 zero_cool
zero_cool's picture

Seems like money earned vs. money given to the participants to spend is a critical factor that was not considered in this analysis.  I would posit that people spend money differently based on the mechanisms in which they receive it.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:52 | 2386156 freeasabee1
freeasabee1's picture

one can't get "happy", one can only be happy---you are or are not---now lets drink....

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:57 | 2386166 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

If you ain't got any, happiness is hard to find. But money alone and spending it on luxery doesn't buy happyness.
You can never spend enough.
If you can buy everything you need and a bit extra, you feel careless. And being careless helps to be less stressed and no stress creates room for happy moments.
But people think they need to feel happy all the time. And that's not possible.
Happynes is a moment. And those moments are whatS important in life.
If every moment in your life was a party, it wouldn't be called a party anymore.

People who are happy all the time only exist on facebook and on TV. They're not real.

To know happyness one must also know sadness.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 22:58 | 2387307 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Moderation in ALL things...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:56 | 2386177 cdskiller
cdskiller's picture

I want to make rich people as happy as possible. To do that, I have to force them to be charitable, because instinctively they try to keep as much of their money as they can and spend it on themselves which only makes them unhappy, which leads to their bitterness and desire to control everything and start wars, so what we need to do is force them to give 75% of their income over 500k to a charitable fund that would pay exclusively for the education and health care of fellow Americans who cannot afford it. Everyone would be so happy they would never stop smiling.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:59 | 2386187 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

bitterness comes when people expect that people adore them for what they've got but somehow nobody likes them or adores them and they feel left alone.
Friend and family and normal relations without bragging are the cure. Not giving money away.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:17 | 2386838 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

we get it, you are a tight ass,  Each year you must watch the first 10 minutes of scrooge and then turn t off,  since scrooge was right for fucking over everyone, being a tight ass, and never giving back to the community and its people, the rest of that story must really piss you off.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 23:00 | 2387311 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Making an observation about the state of things is NOT the same as condoning it; check yer premises.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:57 | 2386183 praps
praps's picture

Money can't make you happy, but at least you can choose your form of misery.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:58 | 2386184 batz
batz's picture


Spending money on other people isn't altruistic, what made them happy was the power from giving something that meant more to the person who received it than it did to you. 

Money doesn't buy happiness, but it buys power, and power brings happiness.


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:02 | 2386196 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

Never give money to people. They'll never thank you for it and when you give money to people they change.
I never give money away. I never give a loan to friend or family either.
To dangerous. When you give it to friends or family, you can lose them.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:13 | 2386237 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Sometimes it's the best investment possible for the money.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:17 | 2386257 Sudden Debt
Sudden Debt's picture

Nop, mostly it's never enough.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:07 | 2386812 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

utter bullshit.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:28 | 2386301 Offtheradar
Offtheradar's picture

Well spoken my friend.  I had to learn that lesson on my own.  Your dead on.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:06 | 2386810 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

wow , that statement just oozes with stupidity.  You are a very shallow and Im guessing lonely person.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:21 | 2386852 kiwidor
kiwidor's picture

that's a cultural thing.  other cultures , from my observations, will loan between family members, but there is a big 'honour' thing going on about the success of a business and paying back the loan.  (which is often interest free or very low interest)

there is also the expectation that once someone is set up, they will lend to someone else in the family.


i heard of an italian-australian tradition where the happy couple are bought a house by the extended family.  everyone chips in, and they get a mortgage free house when wed.  boy that would make life easier.

however, everyone with mtge free houses is expected to chip in when it's someone else's turn.  even so, this is way cheaper than paying interest to a bank.   pity anglo-saxon white debils can't get their selfish heads around it.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 23:02 | 2387316 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

How can WE eliminate suffering by following yer advice?

Check yer premises.  Possible solution:

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 02:36 | 2387521 Savvy
Savvy's picture

I will. I don't care if it's the drunk hanging outside the beer store or a family member needing to pay a bill. And I don't lend I give. If I have it. Two weeks ago I gave my kid $250 to buy riding boots, there was a rodeo dance she wanted to go to and I didn't want her taking mine. That Sat night 2 young women crossing the street were struck by a drunk driver, my kid was in that group but at the back of the pack because her feet hurt from dancing all night in new boots. Sad that money matters more to you than family and friends.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:19 | 2386267 BobPaulson
BobPaulson's picture

I have been called an idiot by friends when I tell them how much I give and I'm still below 10% gross.


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:03 | 2386423 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

your quite a guy

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:53 | 2386269 Offtheradar
Offtheradar's picture

Fuck that!  I earned it, I keep it.  Now if I didn't have income taxes to deal with, I would be more generous to the causes that are important to me.  Animal welfare.  A real misanthropist here!

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 23:03 | 2387323 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Taxes, ye shall always have with you; suffering too if you do nothing to alleviate it:


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:25 | 2386289 Offtheradar
Offtheradar's picture

Money does make you secure.  And a secure person is generally a happy person.  Hence, money does buy happiness.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:45 | 2386373 razorthin
razorthin's picture

What is happiness but freedom to not worry?  Yes, money buys that.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:08 | 2386815 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

money can also bring prisons, being enslaved by your "things" is no freedom. 

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:50 | 2386386 jag
jag's picture

Happy people are grateful. Grateful people give more to charity. Happy people make money, are grateful for it and tend to be more generous.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 16:58 | 2386407 blindman
blindman's picture
The Gary Null Show – 04/30/12
with guest max keiser speaking of price propaganda, the only prices
we know.
Webster Tarpley vs. Jonathan Kay on 911 Conspiracy

Historian and author Webster Tarpley explains the state sponsored false flag terrorism , This is an Excellent debate. So important for all of us Americans to? be able to access this information and be able to see what is happening here in America. Many Americans are blinded by the fear propaganda that the Neo-Cons have created. Wake up Americans and see how you are being used; We are giving away our country, our belief in God, and our freedom! Mass Media should be ashamed of themselves. They are suppose to be the watchmen on the wall. But they have sold out to the neocons too! You won't hear truth from Fox, or other mainstream media. They are too busy pushing propaganda for the Treacherous terrorists who have over taken the White? House.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:00 | 2386414 blindman
blindman's picture

happiness is money but money is not happiness.
there ya go.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:07 | 2386421 fiddy pence haf...
fiddy pence haff pound's picture

I guess that altruism pays off in many ways. Like, research has shown that chimps do nice things

because they think it will get them laid. Like Chris Rock says, guys have always tried to

give something to women: "do you want some dick?"


However, I don't trust charities. They tend to spend fools' money on renting office towers,

and jets and shmoozing politicians.

If anybody gives me the line 'give, it will make you feel better'

I'll  just tell them "I should be getting money, not giving it. I'm in danger of sleeping on the

street", and that's not far from the truth. I'd then say "there's a miserable, old rich f%&ker,

two streets down and third on your right. Go make him happy." or whatever.


It does make me mildly happy to give about 30 pence when a begger looks genuine enough.

Then I tell them "good luck", and I don't often see them again.


How many times have you heard stories of bums who were eating out of the dumpsters actually had

millions in the bank. That, my friends, is rich man's paranoia, a recognised condition, I think. I wish that

on all those bankers who are hoarding our money after having lost all their fake money.

RHCP: giveitaway, now!

This is so not Aynus Rand. The "altruism is evil" crazy bag lady. f^&^&k her, anyway.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 23:08 | 2387331 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Life will give you whatever you ask of it.  WHAT are you asking for?

Are you bring a thimble (instead of a bathtub!) to the well of plenty?

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:05 | 2386425 CURWAR2012
CURWAR2012's picture

OK everyone get in a circle and pass the 1 ounce gold AE to the person left of you. There, now don't you fell better?

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:13 | 2386456 blindman
blindman's picture

exchanging bacteria is good for the immune system.
herd immunity helps evolve a hardy species.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:19 | 2386443 fuu
fuu's picture

Also a good TED talk about money.

Dan Ariely "On Our Buggy Moral Code"

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:21 | 2386490 WillyWonka
WillyWonka's picture

"Money can't buy happiness - but it helps you look for it in a lot more places" - Milton Burle

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:22 | 2386503 European American
European American's picture

As well as Kilo of Gold.


Psst, psst...hey buddy, wanna good deal on a kilo..

over here...

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:48 | 2386577 Muppet Pimp
Muppet Pimp's picture


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:27 | 2386516 earleflorida
earleflorida's picture

The greatest gift one can make, is to give back to those less fortunate, but always anonymously, that of which pure altruism cannot deny your doings? 

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:03 | 2386803 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

Even if you are enabling them? Lots of less fortunate drug addicted people out there. you need to tune into "intervention" sometime. 


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:10 | 2386820 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

oh brother, wtf... lot of rich drug addicts too. Your point?  Your point is to give, its to give.  You seemingly cant wrap your head around that can you?  

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:29 | 2386871 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

feel free to enable all you want. again check out intervention. just giving for the sake of giving does not necessarily help. 

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 17:40 | 2386565 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Ayn Rand does not approve.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:01 | 2386798 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

That really depends. Ayn Rand advocated living for ones values. If you give money to someone or something you value then it would be considered moral by Ayn Rand On the other hand giving money to something or someone you do not value would be immoral. Kind of tough to disagree with that but I am guessing somehow you will.


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:13 | 2386831 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

Ayn Rand, really?  complete idiot, COMPLETE IDIOT.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:25 | 2386856 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

Perfect response coming from you. let the ad hominens begin.

She has a lot of good stuff to say on how happiness is achieved through reason, purpose and self esteem.

Guessing by your lack of logic and reason you probably should  check her out and take the time to read her stuff not just regurgetate and name call.  


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 18:01 | 2386632 blindman
blindman's picture

the issuance of money in the fiat regime has become
the structural mechanism to continue the old system
of monarchy with the advantages of title being the
functional equivalent of "money". the title of lord,
prince, king etc... indicating proximity to the god
head proffered the advantage to declare sovereign
rights. so there were revolutions and sovereignty was
otherwise codified and legalized but soon usurped by
banking, birth of mercantilism and globalization, now
debased by systemic fraud of the accounting and shadow,
off book/on reputation (title of imitation control of
the sovereign, god head) kind.
as they say it is good to be the king. (access to the issuer
of fiat legal tender or one of those primary dealers)
victoria secrets offers coupons for $12 underwear, women's, so
one can walk in and hand over the coupon and walk out with an
underwear. they call it a pair of under ware but it is just one
garment that partially covers the cheeks but all of the chooch.
so this is how they play. happiness is derived by certain parties
but not all parties experience this dynamic in the same way or light.
i don't know what this means but this is the way it is.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:12 | 2386826 crawldaddy
crawldaddy's picture

Happiness is not a place, its not a state of being, its a transient emotion , like the sweet smell from a flower.  It cant be captured, it can only be temporarily experienced and appreciated for that small amount of time.  People waste their lives chasing something that cant be obtained. 

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:27 | 2386864 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

"can't be obtained by me"  would be much more accurate.

Try reason, purpose and self esteem. It makes your life better and leads to happiness, a permament non-contradictory state of joy.


Mon, 04/30/2012 - 23:11 | 2387341 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

If purpose does not include alleviating suffering, is the World really improving?

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 02:41 | 2387523 silverdragon
silverdragon's picture

Money gives freedom and freedom leads to happiness. It also provides a feeling of security. When you have enough you realize you need to help those around you. It is not a bad thing.

Sat, 05/19/2012 - 10:53 | 2443152 geoffb
geoffb's picture

I have it on good authority that happiness is buying the dip. And we are all about to enter nirvana.

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