Part 2 – The Science of Happiness and Money

June 24, 2022 by David Christianson

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Last week we talked about the scientifically-measured Principles of Money Happiness, based on the research of Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending and my own book Managing the Bull 2022.

As a refresher, here are the principles we mentioned:

1.    Buy experiences;

2.    Make it a treat;

3.    Pay now, consume later;

4.    Buy yourself time;

5.    Invest in, and share with, others.

In today’s column, we will talk about buying yourself time and maximizing the enjoyment from investing in others.

Most people know that they are happier when doing things they enjoy, and relatively less happy when they are doing unrewarding or undesirable chores, obligations, commuting and even - dare we say it - work.

So, clearly one way to be happier is to spend more time on things that bring you joy, and less that feel like drudgery.

Given that fact, here is a startling statistic. Millionaires tend to spend more time on chores, working and commuting than non-millionaires. That includes things like housecleaning and yard work, which could easily be delegated for a reasonable cost.

It’s ironic, and perhaps one of the reasons why the correlation between income and reported happiness flattens out at around $80,000 of annual income.

That means that people are happier as their income rises, but that steep curve from, say $20,000 to $80,000 of annual income rises very slowly for incomes above that level.

Smart people with disposable income use that money to buy themselves time, by paying experts to do things for them that do not bring them joy. Those chores might include bookkeeping, income tax preparation, car washes and repairs, house maintenance, cleaning, yard work and the rest of the list.

Here is my rule - If it gives you joy; do-it-yourself. If not, find someone you can pay to do it. Period. If you can overcome your innate guilt about this, it’s a practice that will provide guaranteed happiness.

Dr. Dunn talks about the concept of Time Affluence and setting up a “You Index” on which you keep track of the number of hours per day that you spend unhappy. Ask yourself why, answer that question and use that knowledge to make the necessary changes in your daily life.

It is better to give than to receive.

We have all heard that statement and many of us know it to be true. It turns out that the science not only proves this to be true, but suggests that this tendency to altruism is innate.

Dr. Dunn and her associates have conducted research on preschool children as well as adults, which shows quite conclusively that people of all ages are happier when they share.

Don’t forget that you can give time instead of money and derive the same joy.

The happiness of giving and sharing increases when there is a connection to the receiver, free choice to give and knowledge of the impact that the gift creates. Many non-profit organizations understand this concept, as you can see from their solicitation style.

Here’s the kicker - spending on others lowers blood pressure. That has now been proven and repeated in many experiments. True story.

So, if you want to decrease your blood pressure medications and be more joyful, ask yourself this question: “What’s an example of a giving experience that left me feeling good?”

Give, rinse, repeat. You will be happier and healthier. The science says so.

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.


David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is recipient of the FP Canada™ Fellow (FCFP) Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada.  He is a Senior Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance

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