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Lottery riches are only one component of happiness

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Lottery riches are only one component of happiness

Let's cut right to the chase here. How much money is enough? How much would make you happy this holiday season? We mean really happy.
A million? $10 million? $100 million? The age-old question of whether money can buy happiness plays out in the headlines daily.

" Jewel Whittaker, wife of the lottery winner who took home the richest undivided jackpot in U.S. history a lump-sum payout of about $113 million after taxes now says she regrets his purchase of the ticket that won the $314.9 million jackpot. Since winning two years ago, her husband, Jack Whittaker, 57, of West Virginia has been arrested twice for driving under the influence and ordered into rehab, faces charges that he attacked a bar manager, and is accused in two lawsuits of making trouble at a nightclub and a racetrack.

" Indiana Pacers star Ron Artest earns more than $6 million a year, but he didn't seem very happy that November night he was brawling in the stands in Detroit.

" The main character in Madonna's upcoming children's book, Lotsa de Casha, is an Italian greyhound who has all the money in the world. Guess what: He's not happy.

" And is Bill Clinton, who became a best-selling author this year, happier now that he's in the richest 1% for the first time in his life, as he confessed at the Democratic National Convention this summer? Maybe. Maybe not.

Billionaire Richard Branson, who always appears to be having a pretty good time with his money, is hosting a new TV show this season called The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best.

He says money is not the only motivation that keeps these young people striving, week after week, for a job with him.

"It's rare to find people motivated only by money," he says. "If so, they're rather sad people. Money, to most, is just a byproduct."

And it's a byproduct that more people have. There are more wealthy Americans than ever: The number of households with more than $1 million in net worth (excluding primary residence) has risen to a record high and at a record rate, research released in November by TNS Financial Services shows.

According to TNS' annual survey of wealthy U.S. households, the number has shot to 8.2 million as of mid-2004, a 33% increase over last year. It's the largest increase ever recorded by the study, which began monitoring this group in 1981.

But again, are they any happier?

Star Wars director George Lucas looks at it this way: "Money can buy pleasure, but pleasure isn't happiness. Happiness is a feeling that goes beyond pleasure."

Says psychologist Stephen Goldbart of the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute, a San Francisco Bay Area clinic that helps people deal with their bounty: "When people come into money, it challenges everything. How much is the money going to drive my life or am I going to drive my life?"

Goldbart has clients write a mission statement, "what will give you satisfaction and meaning and purpose to your life. It's all rather hollow without connection to others."

Taking a look at the richest of the rich the top of Forbes' billionaires list they at least appear happy. And driving their own lives.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Paul Allen, the list's top three Americans, are in the news almost daily: Gates giving away millions through his foundation, Buffett amusing investment groups with folksy tales about how he made his billions, Allen playing with his interactive music museum in Seattle.

Maybe at the billionaire level, happiness is assured.

But most studies on the money/happiness relationship find that money does not buy happiness. It might make your life easier, but it doesn't buy happiness.

A report from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation even found an inverse relationship between money and a child's happiness. More middle-class children said they were happier than their wealthier classmates.

Branson understands. "My parents were rather puritanical, and they brought me up to switch off the light bulb in the hallway before going to bed. So I still feel guilty if I spend too much on myself."

Satisfaction can be cheap

Not that being a billionaire doesn't come in handy. He tells the story about how his father became ill while on vacation, and Branson was able to hire a helicopter to get him to the hospital.

But how much money is enough to bring true happiness? Branson is philosophical.

"You can only eat one breakfast or one lunch or one dinner a day," he says. "You can only eat in one kitchen. So you don't need a massive mansion. If you actually look at what you need in a year, you don't need to be a multimillionaire to get satisfaction in life. A billionaire and someone who earns $150,000 the difference in satisfaction would not be that much different."

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org, the massive Internet bulletin board, agrees. "Once you make a comfortable living, how much extra stuff do you need?" His Web site's revenue is projected to be $11 million this year.

When asked, most people say they don't need much, although the pleasures of $1,000 Frette sheets came up now and then.

"You can have all the money in the world. You can have everything under the tree that you ever wanted. And if you're sitting there alone, you are the saddest, loneliest human being on the planet, and there is absolutely nothing that money can buy that will fill your soul," actress Jamie Lee Curtis says.

Family comes first

Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter) has seen firsthand how too much money affects a family's happiness, for better and for worse.

"The great thing about money is you can send your kids to school and not worry about it," he says. "You certainly have nice dinners. And you don't have to live in a place with mice and rats," as Columbus did when he was starting out in New York City.

"But the only thing money provides is a level of security. We never had nannies for our kids or cooks or any of those things. It takes away from family life. I'm very devoted to not doing that. I learned it by seeing other families in the film business sort of destroy their families by having too many other people around. The kids didn't know who their parents were."

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks says "happiness has always been my family, and I've had one of those since I was born."

Like Columbus and Hanks, Clint Eastwood says happiness comes from relationships, not money.

"Money can't buy happiness, but it can certainly alleviate discomfort," he says. "Happiness to me is my wife. You see, all that .45 Magnum stuff in the past prdvented people from knowing that I'm a romantic."

Richard Ball, a professor in Haverford (Pa.) College's department of economics, knows where all these people are coming from.

Ball attempted to answer the money/happiness question in Absolute Income, Relative Income and Happiness, a paper he presented at the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies conference in Philadelphia last month.

His findings? A person's happiness is affected much less by income than by marital status, health and the protection of civil liberties in his or her country.

But one of Ball's other findings is that being better off than your neighbor makes you happier still. He calls it a "purely psychological phenomenon," relating it to the feeling people have when they see one lane of traffic moving when their lane isn't.

Ball also says "choosing the right pond" is important to someone's happiness, just as much as how much you make. Some people are happy being a small fish in a big pond. Others are happy being the big fish in a small pond.

Supermodel Gisele Bündchen says it's a trade-off.

"I was as happy when I had no money, when I came to New York when I was 15 and jumping over the subway gate because I didn't have enough money for the tolls, when I was eating McDonald's every day because that was the only thing I could afford. I was as happy then as I am now," she says.

"Now I have financial security, but I also have a lot more stress. With a lot more money comes a lot more responsibility. And in the beginning, I knew people liked me because they liked me as a person and not because I could help them or because they need money."

'Your spirit inside'

Actor Beau Bridges says the topic of money and happiness was a topic of a recent sermon at his church. "In the end, the stuff that we own isn't important," he says. "What's important is your spirit inside."

Then again, there are the people who still think money buys, if not happiness, things. Lots of things.

TV personality Star Jones, who just married Al Reynolds, caused a ruckus when her wedding became an over-the-top production, registering at Geary Beverly Hills and Tiffany along the way.

One item on Jones' "wish list" was a George IV-style silver tray. The price: almost $11,000. Also on the list: gilded plates, baroque-style silverware and the aforementioned Frette sheets.

Whether she's happy has yet to be determined.

Tiger Woods, who has made millions and millions in his career, says he's content with his life now. "I am now doing what I love to do for a living, competing and playing golf," says the recently married Woods.

With his Tiger Woods Foundation and annual clinics, Woods says, he now gets the chance to make other people "happy about their lives and the future of their life."

He says he wouldn't give it all up for two times or three times the money. "There's no price on that, my life, my friends."

Psychologist Goldbart says the one good thing to come out of 9/11 is the fact many people with money stopped to ask the question: "What is it all about?"

"The rich have become more like everyone else, which is a good thing" he says. "It's gone from hubris to humility."

USA Today

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11 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by markp1950.
Page 1 of 1
Coastal Georgia
United States
Member #2653
October 30, 2003
1866 Posts
Posted: December 27, 2004, 3:12 pm - IP Logged

I believe one has to be content with his or herself to appreciate money and what it can bring. 

I am happy with my family, happy with my life and my job, but have way too much debt. If I had money to pay off my obligations, THAT would make me happy beyond compare.

To have financial freedom that a windfall would bring-- If one is already happy, then that would be icing on the cake.

 If one acted like Jack Whittaker did, then they are asking for trouble.






    unseen's avatar - 4eyes
    louisville, Ky
    United States
    Member #4928
    June 3, 2004
    142 Posts
    Posted: December 27, 2004, 3:26 pm - IP Logged

    money doesnt buy happiness but what it does give is a sense of security and comfort in one aspect. I can find ways to be happy with or without money but there are so many more options if I had more money

    But the article hits the point. I had a friend that was a software developer or consultant or something and at 25 he was making six figures but was miserable with his job and his life and was working 60+ hours a week. He finally quit and went to doing something he enjoys which is working on and fixing up automobiles. His income shrunk to around 27-30 thousand a year but he loves what he's doing.

      United States
      Member #5122
      June 18, 2004
      68 Posts
      Posted: December 27, 2004, 6:06 pm - IP Logged

      The rich and famous may claim money isn't important. But if this is so then why don't they give most or all of it away and return to a middle class or poor station in life? Richard Branson and Tom Hanks can give it all away and live in a trailer under a bridge by an urban slum. Why don't they if money doesn't truly give them happiness?

      The rich give just enough away to charities, etc. to keep themselves in the headlines and I'm certain the amounts they give correspond to the tax write off they can claim.

      Hollywood stars never negotiate for lower salaries and other compensation when they make more and more movies. No, they continually ask for more - tens of millions more. They know their money and resulting lifestyle gives them happiness. Sure they may want to sound down-to-earth and say none of that is important but their actions speak louder than their words. And because it is extremely unlikely they will end up working at a supermarket checkout or out on the street they can go around saying money isn't important because they now have security and certainty in their lives and indeed the yness to do so.

      People have to find some sort of happiness in their lives regardless of their income or assets because there is no other choice. You may want more but you have to make do with what you have. But apart from some religious people, like monks, who elect to live a life of poverty, no one who is offered a higher salary at work or get a lottery windfall or even happen to find money on the ground for that matter will decline taking it because they are already happy with what they have.

      The future is always uncertain even if the present seems secure. It only makes sense to have as much as you can to deal with future uncertainties and enjoy opportunites in the present. Happiness comes from having choices now and the resources to deal with the future.

      Self destructive behavior can happen to anybody for any given reason. Wealth only magnifies this problem and being poorer could never prdvent it from happening.

        ayenowitall's avatar - rod serling4.jpg

        United States
        Member #4416
        April 22, 2004
        1075 Posts
        Posted: December 27, 2004, 8:02 pm - IP Logged

        I've had times of relative prosperity in my life, and I've had times when I was dirt poor. There were happy and unhappy times in both cases. All in all, I think I'd rather be happy or unhappy with plenty of money in my pockets. It's a lot easier to derive pleasure from the more sublime aspects of life when you have the basics of food, clothing, and shelter covered.

        I don't begrudge or berate anyone for being wealthy. I'm just trying to get my shot at a bigger piece of the pie too. I don't have a lot of desire for material things. I'd be happy to just get hold of enough money to quit working and do some traveling at a relaxed pace.

        I suppose there might be a level where money might stop returning happiness and start causing problems. That probably varies greatly with the individual and his or her ability to handle money.

        Clint Eastwood seems to have captured the essence of the question in a nutshell when he said,  "Money can't buy happiness, but it can certainly alleviate discomfort." So when you step up the the counter and put your money down to buy your next lottery tickets, ask yourself: "Do you feel lucky?"

        Good luck,


          Lee's Summit, Mo.
          United States
          Member #6519
          August 26, 2004
          192 Posts
          Posted: December 27, 2004, 8:38 pm - IP Logged

          All you have to do is follow the principle of noblesse oblige.  It is the duty and responsibility of the noble, the highborn, the wealthy, those of high social standing and great celebrity to exhibit good example, behavior, morality and generosity towards others, particularly the less privileged.  Just take the money, maintain your personal integrity and you'll have nothing to worry about.  And, and spend your time trying to improve your chances of hitting the jackpot instead of how to handle the jackpot money...of which you have none.

            Maverick's avatar - yinyang
            United States
            Member #8242
            October 29, 2004
            1133 Posts
            Posted: December 27, 2004, 8:39 pm - IP Logged

            >> Star Wars director George Lucas looks at it this way: "Money can buy pleasure, but pleasure isn't happiness. Happiness is a feeling that goes beyond pleasure." <<


            And how much would make me happy? Well first the better word is "more comfortable". So I'd say $500,000 or $1 million, but since I have projects in mind, I'd prefer $50 million to $100 million (after taxes).

              Columbia City, Indiana
              United States
              Member #2978
              December 9, 2003
              381 Posts
              Posted: December 27, 2004, 11:31 pm - IP Logged
              From the article:

              Richard Ball, a professor in Haverford (Pa.) College's department of economics, knows where all these people are coming from.

              Ball attempted to answer the money/happiness question in Absolute Income, Relative Income and Happiness, a paper he presented at the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies conference in Philadelphia last month.

              His findings? A person's happiness is affected much less by income than by marital status, health and the protection of civil liberties in his or her country.

              Well, now; this is interesting. 

              "A person's happiness is affected much less by income than by marital status, health and the protection of civil liberties in his or her country."

              This bears repeating, because each of Mr. Ball's examples are, more often than not, directly affected by income. Statistically, more marriages break up over financial issues than for any other reason; more than half of America's population cannot afford health insurance, and so must forego needed medical attention due to their inability to pay for services, tests and prescriptions, and the level of protection of one's civil liberties is directly commensurate to the caliber of legal counsel he is able to afford.

              I agree with only one point from this article: Money can't buy happiness, but only because happiness is an intangible concept and not a product; happiness is relative to a person's present circumstances and his goals for the future.  Personally, I am much happier with money in my pocket than I was without it, but then, I understand that money is also an intangible concept. The cash in your pocket is not money; it's a representation of money. It's a promissory note guaranteed by our government against the federal reserve. It's how we keep score in order to maintain class distinction.

              Those of you who have not read my previous posts on this subject will label me a cynic, and rightfully so. But those who are familiar with my ongoing commentary will understand that I am a cynical pragmatist, who embraces capitalism as necessary, indeed integral, to our way of life. In my opinion, the majority of those who chant, "Money isn't everything" do so because they don't have any, and usually resign themselves to being satisfied with what they have.

              Please don't overlook my point; I am not criticizing poor people. In fact, it hasn't been that long ago that I was so destitute that I literally couldn't afford to file bankruptcy. In all fairness, I must admit that satisfaction makes many people happy but, for those of us who are determined to win the game, "good enough" is simply not good enough. We crave success, and all its spoils, and success is measured by society in terms of the acquisition of wealth.

              Unseen makes an important observation: "I can find ways to be happy with or without money but there are so many more options if I had more money." This is key to understanding capitalism and the benefits it brings to all of us, regardless of our present individual stations. How many times have you said to yourself, to your wife or to your children, "We can't afford it," or, "I'd like to go, but I don't have the money," or something similar? It's true; Money Can't Buy Happiness but, in any capitalistic society, the amount of money you can raise at any given moment in time will directly determine your ability, and the degree of freedom you have, to move about within that society. Money is not an end in itself, but only a means to an end; money is a tool we use to obtain what is important to us, whether it's a new television set, a swimming pool, a vacation, a larger home, food, medical care, new clothes, solitude or even social position.

              With the relatively recent emergence of a global economy, it should be obvious that money really is everything, because everything in our lives depends upon it. Capitalism is now practiced in 95% of the world's trade economies, and to condemn, deny or to otherwise shun it as undesirable or evil is, well, foolish, in my opinion. Without money, there would be no research, and therefore no discovery, of any new technologies in medicine, communications, food production, transportation or any other market which produces the goods and services we take for granted today. Emerging markets would no longer emerge, since consumption within those markets would be impossible without the necessary profits from sales to support them. 

              Phokas: You state that the rich and famous give away only enough to keep themselves in the headlines and to take advantage of America's tax code for charitable donations. I have two questions: 1): What percentage of your income did you donate to your favorite charity last year, and 2): Why do I consider this to be any of my business? The correct answers are: 1): It's none of your business, and 2): You don't. The point is that it's your money; you can do whatever you want within the confines of the amount you possess. Wealthy people will say money isn't important to them because they already have it. Other things in their lives move up on their lists of priorities, and the acquisition of wealth moves down. If everyone suddenly stopped watching movies and television, movie stars' priorities would quickly change, since their income is ultimately derived from the tickets we buy. Somehow, Tom Hanks would need to earn a living in order to care for his family any way he could manage it, so would his first priority be his family, or clocking in on time at the factory so he wouldn't be docked a half-hour's pay? It can be argued both ways but, after all is said and done, he couldn't provide for his family without an income.

              Money is an essential element to our happiness and comfort, but it's not the answer to all of life's problems and obstacles. That's why God gave us the power of reason, and didn't charge us for it.

              Phokas said, "Happiness comes from having choices now, and (from having) the resources to deal with the future."

              Wiser words were never spoken.

              Come, Pinky; we must prepare for tomorrow night...



                Member #0
                January 1, 2000
                0 Posts
                Posted: December 28, 2004, 8:16 am - IP Logged

                wow who would have though the whitaker name be brought up it only has been less than a week since we heard about his poor misfortunes, hey sports people are paid to much these days, and so are singers  while they all make millions police fire and rescue, armed forces and emts who save lives protect us are paid crap this is what is wrong with society we embeleshed these people making millions when these heros save lives and and protect us.

                i love to win big lottery as well as others would but not into the lime light if i was a winner, even that 18 or 21 year old girl who won a 40million you dont hear from peolpe  put themselves in lime light but those who are , the first to complain about it.

                over 40k of people reported to die from tsunammie and only got 15mill from usa heck if i had it i help to but these billionares and people with over 50million could lend a bigger hand you cant take money with you.

                read matthew 6:19 -6:24

                matthew 19:21- 26

                  Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                  Chief Bottle Washer
                  New Jersey
                  United States
                  Member #1
                  May 31, 2000
                  23267 Posts
                  Posted: December 28, 2004, 9:16 am - IP Logged

                  I got a headache trying to read all that red text.  Maybe next time you can post using regular text so we all can read it - thanks.


                  Check the State Lottery Report Card
                  What grade did your lottery earn?


                  Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
                  Help eliminate computerized drawings!

                    Coastal Georgia
                    United States
                    Member #2653
                    October 30, 2003
                    1866 Posts
                    Posted: December 28, 2004, 9:43 am - IP Logged
                    Quote: Originally posted by Todd on December 28, 2004

                    I got a headache trying to read all that red text.  Maybe next time you can post using regular text so we all can read it - thanks.

                    May I also suggest spell check so we can understand you a little better, TCB ?






                      Milwaukee, WI
                      United States
                      Member #3131
                      December 27, 2003
                      665 Posts
                      Posted: December 28, 2004, 11:42 pm - IP Logged

                      Not being a holy-roller...

                      But money and everything "you own" is really not yours. It is given to you to manage while you are alive. If you spend your life saying the money is "mine and you can't have it" God will say Heaven is mine and you can't have it.... It IS more fun to give than to recieve...

                      Live well but don't live like a pig....

                      There are 2 ways to live like a pig...

                      One is to live in a dirty run down place not caring about the way you live.

                      And the other is being so interested in having all the "good things" around that nobody else cares.

                      I went out to a restaurant one day with Scott and Steve they are both pretty well off..   Scott and I were there first, and Steve comes in, bragging that he made $35,000 in the stock market over the last couple of days....

                      Later when it was time to pay the bill, Scott left a VERY good tip, and Steve berated Scott for leving the good tip...

                      On another day Steve said how, as a working man, that I contributed nothing to society, while I should be sooo happy that I was GIVEN a job by the rich man...

                      Steve did teach me a very valuable lesson... How I DON'T want to live...