How much money do you need to be happy?

This is the second part of my previous post related to money: Does Money Bring Happiness? It would help if you read that post before reading this.

If you have read the earlier post, you know that research suggests that (a) money can bring happiness only up to an extent (to improve poor life), not beyond that (b) money spent on experiences results in more happiness rather than money spent on possessions.  Let’s keep theories and research aside, and consider some real inspiring stories of people experimenting with money. You might have heard about Mark Boyle aka The Moneyless Man. He was influenced by the film Gandhi, and has been living without money since 2008. Initially he started it as a one year experiment to live without money, but then has continued to live without money. He has written a book titled ‘The Moneyless Man’ and he runs an online community called Freeconomy. In his Guardian article he writes about what he learnt while living without money. This is a beautiful insight that he shares:

More than anything else, I discovered that my security no longer lay in my bank account, but in the strength of my relationships with the people, plants and animals around me.

He has been interviewed by many magazines/periodicals and many of his talks, interviews are available on YouTube as well. I am sharing one such interview with him from 2010.

You can search for ‘Mark Boyle’ on YouTube to watch his interviews and talks. If you’re really curious, you can also read about Charles Einstein and his book ‘Sacred Economics‘. Charles Einstein discusses history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism. My own experiments with gift economy are largely influenced by this book.

I have yet another interesting story that I can share. During my travel in the Himalayas in February last year, I met a young man that I’d refer as SP in his early 20’s. He came from a well-off urban family. He however, had decided few years ago that he would not buy any new clothes for himself. He simply requests his cousins and friends to give their old clothes to him and he is managing it quite well for the last few years without buying any new clothes. Instead he spends that money for his travels across the country. I was quite impressed by this guy and decided not to buy new clothes as long as I can. I did visit malls while shopping for my family members, I did get tempted to buy few shirts, trousers as I browsed through the stores but I resisted the temptation and once I came home I actually forgot the stuff that seemed pretty attractive in the store. I discovered how many clothes I have that I have hardly used. In the process I realized that I was purchasing lot of clothes impulsively based on what attracted me, rather than what I needed.

I actually kept my resolution for 20 months, and I had to buy new pair of jeans when my last pair of jeans gave up 2 weeks ago. I do not want to stop buying new clothes altogether, but I would perhaps buy them more judiciously now given what I have learnt from my own experiment inspired by this friend of mine. By the way, the featured photo that you see with this post is captured by the same friend SP. 🙂

The reason I am discussing these stories and real life examples in details because I think most of our beliefs about ‘enough money‘ are mostly psychological. There is never enough money as such, you can still run after it despite having half-a-dozen mansions and cars and you may turn your back to it without actually possessing any significant assets as such. “I do not want money to dictate my life, work & happiness” is a conscious, thoughtful decision and it has very little to do with the actual amount of money that you have in your account. Of course, it will vary from an individual to individual and I don’t really expect most people to do what ‘Mark Boyle’ is doing: living his life without money!

I am not at all against money, nor am I advocating ascetic, frugal lifestyle. By all means you should earn plenty of money rightfully and spend it on things that offer you comfort or joy! However, I think money should not be the reason to hold you back from doing what you are really interested in,  from your own self-exploration. It should not prevent you from figuring out what you really want to do!

I see this fear/apprehension about money in many individuals while they are contemplating career change, or pursuing their interests or while self-exploration. I have faced this fear myself and I cannot say that I have overcome it completely. However, I knew that I would not be happy if I didn’t do the things that I am interested in – and it’s a pretty long list for me. So I started doing what I wanted, despite my fear!

I am happy doing my own thing now. I am defining my own work and then I am doing it wholeheartedly. I am doing what I really love and what I strongly believe in: I am trying to follow my Zen path! Moreover, I am happy my life is not hectic. I am happy I can schedule long & lovely lunch meetings with my friends. I am happy I can go for those long walks. I am happy to spend more time with my kid. I am happy that I am doing things that I wanted and in the process helping people when they are confused about finding and following their own path.

It is not just about me, you can also find or create your own opportunities and work based on your own interests & skills with some enterprising efforts. And if you need any guidance, I’d be glad to offer it! 🙂

  • Divya Gupta

    Got reminded of a beautiful sharing by someone that is, “Money is a good till the time it is a servant for you, the problem comes when it becomes the master.”

  • Urmila Samson

    I like your honesty about your own experiments.

    It is neither possible nor desirable to lose fear. Nor is it possible or desirable to be happy all the time. It helps not to shun or pursue fear and happiness. They are but guests in your home! These experiments help us over time to learn to treat them as such!

    • Yes, absolutely! These experiments help us get more insights about ourselves and our behaviour, and over a time to make changes as desired! 🙂

  • Annie Gregory

    ‘Enough is good enough’ as a professor of mine used to say. I think one saves a lot of money and time from the stuff in life to spend on the experiences and moments, as you also observe.

    • Right @Annie! However, sometimes we forget why we earn & save money and accumulating more and more seems to be the only goal.

  • Roy

    “Health is the true wealth”. As long as you are fit and fine, you can experiment with your choices, curtail your idiosyncracies and learn to be happy with your surroundings and your interests. But reality bites when your health fails. Unfortunately some of the best treatments & doctors demand money & lots of them….And thats’ when Money becomes important.

    • Right @Roy! We often take health for granted until it deteriorates badly.

      However, there is no guarantee that all the saved money can still help, for all we know someone healthy may just die in an unfortunate accident.

  • Atul

    For me “what is the money involved in what you are doing ?”is a question that has come in as an infection as it can be for many.It is not a question that is my original question? More original question is the value that will get imparted to the world out of my work and how it will be used by people to bring out a shift in their lives in terms of finding answers to their questions.

    • Yes – value seems to be core to your work.

      This discussion is more about “How much money we need” for our needs & wants!