Can wealth make you happy? If you don’t have much money it’s tempting to think that it can; if you know you have plenty, you’re probably wondering why it doesn’t.
The fact is, wealth alone is the wrong measure to be looking at when it comes to our happiness, and here’s why: In every area of our lives, our ultimate fulfillment comes down to one thing.
The real question we need to be asking
Before you know whether money will make you happy, you first need to be clear on your values.
Your values in relation to your wealth is something we look at in depth at our BeWealth retreat, but in a nutshell, values are those things which are most important to us. They provide all of our upfront motivation in life – you can pretty much guarantee you won’t spend time or money on something if it’s not of value to you.
Values are usually single words or short word phrases like love, achievement, pleasure, joy or freedom, and while they’re nouns, they’re usually things that you can’t put in a wheelbarrow. It’s not books that you value, for example, it’s education.
Using the wheelbarrow test, is money a value? Probably not, because money you could put in a wheelbarrow. It’s what money provides you that’s actually important to you.
That tells us that money in itself can’t be one of our values.
How can you know what is? Take a look at what you choose to spend your time, energy and money on.
If you’re always squirrelling funds towards your next holiday, it might be that you value travel, or adventure, or sunshine. If your amazon wishlist is longer than your arm, it’s a fair bet that reading, learning, or escape is one of your values.
And the books on your shelf are another great clue. Maybe you’re obsessed with spirituality, interiors, or rich imaginative worlds.
Your values are what bring you joy, fulfillment, and happiness.
When you know your values, your relationship to money changes
If money is an area of your life that’s currently causing you stress, looking at it through the lens of your values can give you fresh clarity into what action you need to take.
Say you’re fretting about money because there just never seems to be enough left over at the end of the month. When you think about your values, perhaps you find that security is something that’s really important to you. You want to know that if something unexpected happened, you’d have the funds you needed to fall back on.
If security’s important to you, you probably want to spend some time and energy learning about budgeting, money management and insurances. Perhaps you want to have a chunk of cash earmarked as a “rainy day” fund – like 6 month’s worth of living expenses – so you know the mortgage will be paid no matter what.
Or perhaps helping the environment is a really strong value of yours. Setting up a regular donation to an amazing organization helping preserve ecosystems, plant trees, or support indigenous communities might be a way to feel incredibly fulfilled about where your money is going. Volunteering a few hours a week to clear up a local beauty spot would cost nothing, and yet be a big investment in your happiness.
Whether you’re donating five dollars a month or investing tens of thousands, the fact that your money is aligning with what matters to you is what will ultimately lead you to happiness.
Can wealth make you happy? It’s what you do with it that counts
When we feel stuck, small or uncomfortable around money it’s often because we’ve been taught to use it in a paradigm that doesn’t line up with what really matters to us.
What we’ve learned about money is often outdated, and not particularly useful for us. That is, if we were taught anything about money at all! It’s not uncommon for women to be very successful at work but not understand anything about how money actually works.
After all, it’s only relatively recently that women have actually been allowed, from a societal perspective, to be involved with money. In the UK, it wasn’t until 1975 that a woman was allowed to open a bank account without her husband’s permission. To say nothing of the fact that for millennia, commerce was a strictly masculine domain – one in which we simply didn’t have a say.
When you consider that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, going back for hundreds of generations, were not allowed to learn about or handle money, it makes sense that historically we don’t have power around it.
But things have changed dramatically for women in the last hundred years. It’s time for that shift to start to take root in the realm of our finances.
Build the future you want to see
If you’d like to explore a new way of thinking about money that empowers you to have the impact you’d like in the world, come along to Wealth Insights. Registration opened this week and you can read the full details and book your place here.
Our intention is simple. To support professional women to handle the day-to-day so they can unleash the bigger impact they feel called to make in the world.
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