The Income of Happiness

A little while ago, a Facebook photo of a man promising to share his lottery winnings with who ever shared the photo was shared over two million times, making it the most shared photo in Facebook history (sorry HONY, but you’ve got to step up your game). Eventually, the hoax was uncovered when the two winners stepped forward to claim their prizes. But, for a fraction of a second, one man had allowed hundreds upon thousands of people to believe that they had become instant millionaires. It was far from the truth. Nolan Daniels was far from Mega Million winner.

This man, who built empty promises and dreams for many, caused an uproar of epic proportions. Every major news outlet covered this story before the hoax was uncovered, and they were more than thrilled to debunk this fraud after the truth was discovered. I am not here to blame him or try to understand the motives behind this ridiculous prank. People do stupid things all the time, much stupider and much more painful than this. Nevertheless, it raised a question that I’m sure must have been on the mind of many other people: Is there a price for happiness?

An article was published in light of these events (among others) by CNBC and Yahoo Finance titled “The Perfect Income for Happiness.” I have discussed my thoughts on this topic in the past, and far be it for me to call myself an expert on the topic, but the title jumped at me, and I just had to see what they had to say. I have come to expect that most Yahoo! articles published for their specific departments are articles that specifically publicize a certain product, and the curiosity surrounding the potential product they were trying to push got the best of me.

Of course, I was less than thrilled, but certainly not surprised to find a ridiculously ill researched article about the estimated cost per country that it takes to attain happiness. But, of course, they saved their backs with this sentence:

“Happiness” itself is not easily defined, and money, as the winners of this week’s Powerball jackpot will tell you, doesn’t always guarantee it.”

Now, as young (and at times as naive) as I am, money trouble is something I have come to familiarize myself. I have watched as people I love and admire struggle to make ends meet, to survive from paycheck to paycheck while caring for a large family with over bearing expenses. I have learned to budget my money, especially in order to pay for the costs of living in New York and financing my first novel. I’ve lived off ramon noodles for weeks at a time. I am aware of the financial crisis that our country has continuously been suffering from. I know people who are suffering financially in ways that breaks my heart.

And yet, I cannot help but ask this question: Is there really a perfect income for happiness? Of course, money is an essential, necessary aspect of life. I am not denying that. But can you put a price tag on your happiness? How can you say that once you reach a certain income, you won’t find yourself craving more? What is meant to indicate where the climb stops?

And, of course, the other question here is: Should money make you happy? Is that the be all and end all to the way you choose to live your life? High income= happy, fabulous life and low income = pathetic existence?

Maybe it is because I am yet to face the burden (and joy, of course) of running a home and keeping my family well fed and satisfied. But then again, maybe not. Maybe you don’t need to be over a certain age and with a certain amount of stress on your bank account and your wallet to understand this. Money is necessary. But, it shouldn’t be the start or finish to who you are or the way you live your life.

Even the most successful, wealthiest people will tell you that money cannot buy happiness. There is no such thing as a perfect income. It’s what you manifest from inside that creates happiness. Money can help you reach your material needs, but it’s how you decide to make your life count, with or without the money, that makes the difference.

Yet, I can’t help but ask: How would you react to winning the lottery? Go ahead and let that thought sink in. Does everything you think you know about life, about happiness and the key to living suddenly disappear?

Yeah…me too.