Conversation 5 – Money and Happiness

Kendice Marshall

Professor Ewa Barnes

Introduction to Critical Thinking 100

 05 October 2023

The ongoing discourse on the correlation between money and happiness prompts us to examine the intricate relationship between financial prosperity and genuine contentment. While it is widely acknowledged that money enhances the quality of life, this essay asserts that happiness remains elusive through wealth alone. True contentment, it contends, is rooted in experiences, meaningful relationships with friends, family, and significant others, as well as the selfless act of 

The paralysis of choice, as explored by psychologist Barry Schwartz, describes the overwhelming impact of an abundance of options on decision-making. In a world saturated with choices, individuals often experience decision paralysis, leading to stress and dissatisfaction. Despite the perceived benefits of autonomy, the fear of making the wrong choice or missing out on better alternatives can hinder decision-making processes, particularly in consumer culture, where numerous products and services compete for attention. He states in his TED TALK “Choice has two effects…. one, paradoxically it produces process rather than liberation people find Choice difficult … paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices…. two, even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice we end up less satisfied with the results of the choice then we would if we had fewer options to choose from.” Schwartz highlights how the pursuit of more choices may paradoxically diminish overall satisfaction and well-being.

Money undeniably enhances the quality of life by providing access to basic necessities, healthcare, education, and a comfortable living environment. Research consistently shows that financial stability contributes to overall life satisfaction. For instance, a study by Kahneman and Deaton (2010) found that happiness increases with income, but only up to a certain point. Beyond a particular income threshold, the correlation weakens, indicating that the link between money and happiness is nuanced. The CBC article states, “People’s emotional well-being, or how they felt on a daily basis, didn’t improve as they made more than $75,000, but their life satisfaction, or how happy they were with their life overall, did.”  The article also states “And the reason why simply getting more money doesn’t make us happier is because there is a psychological phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation”: “Over time, we get used to that change in our life and our expectations change and our lifestyle changes — we adapt,” Lyubomirsky says.”

 Real happiness is often found in experiences rather than material possessions. Psychologist Thomas Gilovich’s research suggests that people derive more joy from experiences because they become an integral part of one’s identity and contribute to a lasting sense of fulfillment. Travel, adventures, and shared moments with loved ones create lasting memories that outshine the fleeting pleasure of acquiring material goods. The foundation of true happiness lies in meaningful relationships. Studies consistently show that individuals with strong social connections are happier and healthier. Family, friends, and romantic partners provide emotional support, companionship, and a sense of belonging that transcends monetary values. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies on happiness, underscores the importance of relationships in determining a fulfilling life. Beyond personal experiences and relationships, genuine happiness is often found in selfless acts. Helping others, whether through volunteering, acts of kindness, or charitable donations, has been linked to increased levels of happiness. Michael Norton’s research at Harvard Business School highlights that spending money on others amplifies happiness, creating a positive feedback loop that extends beyond individual wealth. 

In conclusion, while money undeniably contributes to an enhanced quality of life, it does not guarantee happiness in and of itself. True happiness is a multifaceted concept that extends beyond financial prosperity. Experiences, meaningful relationships with friends, family, and significant others, as well as the selfless act of assisting others, form the bedrock of a fulfilling life. As individuals navigate the pursuit of happiness, it becomes clear that the richest and most enduring joys lie in the intangible aspects of human existence.

Works Cited

September 2, and 2014. “Doing Makes You Happier than Owning – Even before Buying.” Cornell Chronicle,

Gillespie, Patrick. “Money Really Can Buy Happiness, Harvard Prof Says.” CNNMoney, 20 Nov. 2015,

‌Mineo, Liz. “Good Genes Are Nice, but Joy Is Better.” Harvard Gazette, 11 Apr. 2017,

Schwartz, Barry. “The Paradox of Choice | Barry Schwartz.” YouTube, 16 Jan. 2007,

Stieg, Cory. “From the “Perfect” Salary to Keeping up with the Joneses, Here’s How Money Really Affects Your Happiness.” CNBC, 26 May 2020,

Leave a comment