Growing up, we often heard that “money can’t buy happiness.” While I understand the why we were told this, I don’t fully agree with this statement.
It’s true that buying material possessions like a fancy car, designer clothes, or a luxurious house won’t necessarily lead to happiness, especially if you lack meaningful relationships in your life or people to share them with. However, I believe that money and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive.
When you have financial security and good relationships, money can contribute to your happiness. If you use your money to not only purchase things you VALUE but also to alleviate stressors and pain points in your life, it can lead to a happier life.
But…before you can use money to enhance your happiness, you must first understand yourself and what matters most to you. Very few people actually know the answer to that and use money for status signaling (this will not bring your happiness)
So how do you figure out what you truly value and what brings you happiness?
Let me walk you through an exercise I do with my clients to help them discover their values and priorities.
Note: I did not create this myself, this comes from George Kinder and is known as Kinder’s 3 questions. Ask yourself all 3:
1. I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you change your life? What would you do with the money? What would you change about your life?
The goal of this question is to help you identify what changes you would make in your life. Would you stop working, travel more, spend more time with family, or buy a bigger house? Your answers can reveal a lot about what you value and what’s most important to you. And is also will show you what you do not like and would stop doing.
2. You go and visit your doctor who tells you some troubling news, you only have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no idea when that final day is. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?
This question may seem morbid, but it’s an opportunity to reflect on what you would do if you knew your time was limited. By considering this scenario, you may discover what truly matters most to you and what you’ve been putting off. Maybe you would work less and be with family more. Maybe you would visit a few places you always have dreamed of. Dig deep here.
3. This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront this. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done? Who did I not get to become?
Most think this question would be about what you would do on your last day, but it’s not. It’s more about the regrets you have, the version of yourself you did not get to become, the things you missed out on, etc.
After answering these three questions, look for common themes in your responses. Many people often realize that they want to spend more time with family, travel, work less, or pursue a more fulfilling career. These answers can help guide you on how to use your money to improve your overall happiness.
Now after doing this, take it a step further. Review how you currently spend your time and money. Do they align with your answers? If not, consider making changes that will align with your values and priorities. This exercise can be powerful and transformative, so try it with your family and loved ones to discover what truly makes you happy.