Spending on Happiness

I would like to re-visit the topic of sharing and generosity after reading an article published by Professor Michael I. Norton and his colleagues at the Harvard Business School on how money leads to happiness.

Their main findings are: Although people believe that having money leads to happiness, studies suggest that they are happier if at least some of the money is given to others.

They noticed that while people spend so much of their time trying to make more money, having more money didn’t seem to make them that much happier. They conducted a number of studies and saw that when people spend part of that money on others (giving gifts to family and friends, donating to charities) rather than on themselves (buying better televisions, cell phones etc.), they in fact become more satisfied with their lives.

They found that it was not the absolute amount—that predicted their happiness. In other words, people don’t have to be wealthy and donate hundreds of thousands of money to charity to experience the benefits of sharing. Small amounts of money given to others can and do make a difference.

The studies were conducted in the United States but this is a trait already practiced by most Filipinos. This is perhaps the reason why Filipinos are a happy people, in general. We are poor as a country and as a people. But we have strong family ties and most Filipinos, no matter how little they have, share with the rest of their family. This is a wonderful trait that makes us different. This is why so many of our countrymen leave their families to go abroad to earn a good living. It is usually not only for themselves but also to be able to share.

What we need to remember though is that we cannot share what we do not have. We already have the wonderful trait of generosity. However, it becomes negative over the long run when we end up giving away everything to the extent of not having anything saved up for the future. Sure, we are happy while we are helping but what happens when the time comes to retire and we have not prepared for retirement. We end up expecting those we helped to help us in return. This, in return, reduces their own capability to prepare for their own retirement.

What I am trying to say is to be moderate in everything we do. Let us learn to earn as much as we can, share some of it with our family, friends and community. But, let us save and grow what we save so that when we retire, we do not expect anyone else to support us in our retirement.


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