Can money buy happiness? Those who don't have money believe it can. Money means having fancy clothes, designer accessories and desirable cars, bigger homes and exotic vacations. Money allows entry into the gilded and coveted life of the rich and famous. Or maybe having money simply means being able to pay for your child's higher education and having the ability to fix that leaking roof or broken refrigerator.
The timeless aphorism "money doesn't buy happiness" solicits the classic response "of course it doesn't" but many individuals still act like it does, according to Jim Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University and author of Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy. Americans are addicted to material possessions, he says, and his research on consumer behavior shows that consumers are seeking happiness in all the wrong places, leading to unaffordable credit card bills, no savings and in the worst case, personal bankruptcy.
He tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the attached clip that we've become "compliant" - retailers tell us to shop on Black Friday and we do, for example — and money "is good, but up to a point." Individuals can use money for their own betterment, such as giving to others. Vacations with friends and family also foster and nurture personal satisfaction because traveling can lead to lasting memories and unforgettable experiences.
It's important for people to search for what truly makes them happy. Money and material possessions aren't necessarily evil he says, but "it's the love of money and material possessions" that's the root of all evil. The statistics he uses as evidence against consumerism are quite shocking if not startling:
-More than 1.5 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2010
-The average American household carried nearly $10,000 in credit card debt in early 2011
-70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck
What's more, Americans undergo an "endless binge-and-purge cycle of 'things'," Roberts notes in Shiny Objects. This includes throwing away 150 million cell phones each year or tossing out two million water bottles every five minutes. For all the compulsive and mindless spending, consumers can be saved, Roberts says. But "until your attitudes change your behavior is not going to follow," he warns.
Roberts' simple steps for controlling spending and avoiding debt include:
-Having an emergency fund of $2,500 for the unexpected expenses
-Regularly making investments to a retirement account
-Putting at least six months of living expenses in the bank