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The Truth: Money Does not Buy Happiness

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It is commonly suggested that money buys happiness, and it is easy to pass on the overstated phrase as fact. For years, the “American Dream,” penned first in 1931 by James Truslow Adams, has been the driving force of Americans’ motivation. J. T. Adams believed, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ” This, coupled with the U. S. Declaration of Independence, which reads that “all men are created equal” with the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” fuels the fire that Americans are motivated by wealth and happiness. This fire, however, does not cease to consume. Americans earn paychecks, blow them on items that please them, and then the process repeats, ever slightly decreasing in pleasurable activities with each revolution around the cycle. Happiness itself is an emotion; it is not something that one can simply buy in a store, like groceries or medicines. Tangible objects cannot fulfill an emotional need, such as happiness, but rather the objects slowly create bigger voids in emotions, if left unaddressed. So, in truth, money doesn’t buy happiness. It is quite the opposite of the aforementioned statement. Money, or, materialistic objects, doesn’t buy happiness because the excitement of the purchases wears off, because those purchases are distractions that keep people from their goals, and, finally, because the more things one has, the more they will crave more, tangible objects.

More often than not, people who purchase things are not satisfied after a short period of time. The exhilaration of a recent purchase will dwindle. As the most prominent example in America, a business giant such as Apple releases a brand new iPhone every year, now with prices upwards of $750. Hundreds of thousands of people line up and wait for the new iPhones to come out so that they can purchase them, even though they did the exact same thing the preceding year. Apple consumers are discontent with the iPhone that they have had for one year. They economize money for twelve months just to shell it out on a brand new cell phone. And this happens every year. The process is known as the hedonic treadmill theory. Stephanie Rosenbloom, a New York Times author defines the hedonic treadmill theory as “a phenomenon in which people quickly become used to changes, great or terrible, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness. ” (par. 37). It is like when the human body becomes accustomed to the temperature in a room. At first, walking in a cold, air-conditioned room after a working in the yard on a hot summer day feels incredible. But, after a while, the room begins to feel cold and the person must put on a jacket or a long sleeve shirt to warm back up. What this means is that when, like most of the American general population, consumerists make a new purchase, the delight of that purchase diminishes. This leads to an individual who never ceases to purchase more things all in an attempted effort to fulfill their own personal desires.

Now, everyone has monetary goals. Whatever those investing goals are can and are hindered by what individuals purchase. For example, everyone wants to become a millionaire. According to Dave Ramsey’s investing calculator, if one invests the money with an annual growth rate at just ten percent for giving up one Starbucks coffee a week, they will have over one million dollars after forty years. While that may seem like a long time, if one started at the age of twenty years old then they would be more than millionaires by the age of sixty, years before the average retirement age. But, in the words of Juliet B. Schor, a writer for the New York Times, “What [Americans] acquire and own is tightly bound to their personal identity. Driving a certain type of car. . . living in a certain kind of home. . . [this] create[s] and support[s] a particular image of themselves to present to the world” (par. 2). Schor goes on later in the article to write, “. . . many [Americans] are continually comparing our own lifestyle and possessions to those of a select group of people [they] respect and want to be like, people whose sense of what’s important in life seems close to [their] own” (par. 3). What this means is that Americans quickly brush off their goals in order to obtain social status. They will stop at nothing to project an advanced image of themselves, even if that means they cannot grasp their goals.

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