(Money can't buy a viewing of Cracked's new web series Rom.Com, because free.)
Money, it is said, can't buy happiness. Some point out that "Mo' Money Mo' Problems." Also, "Money, Money, Money, Money."
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Beyonce pays her own "automo-bills." So that means something.
But mainly that happiness thing. The conventional wisdom seems to be that those who are really wealthy aren't any happier than those who are poor, and there's evidence supporting this; the very wealthy have different concerns and stresses from the poor, but they're not on balance any happier.
Well, I'm here to tell you, as a wealthy man who's perfectly happy writing comedy articles from the pile of Prada handbags I use in place of a couch, that money can in fact buy happiness. Here's how:
(Money can't buy a viewing of Cracked's new web series Rom.Com, because free.)
If you look for advice about money on the Internet, you'll quickly find the same tips presented again and again: Pay Yourself First. Avoid Credit Card Debt. Set Up an Emergency Account. I'm not going to knock any of this advice; it's well-meaning and legitimately useful. I follow most of it myself. But all of it derives from a single piece of advice, the uber financial tip from which all others spawn:
Spend Less Money Than You Earn
Many people find this advice to be either really, really easy to follow or really really hard to follow, and it has very little to do with their morals, wisdom, or strength of character. The crux of it is that some of us simply earn more money than others, and yes, that's sort of related to working harder, or making smart decisions, or having an education, but it's also hugely related to luck. Were you lucky enough to be born to well-off parents? Were you born in a good school district? Were the subjects that you took a natural interest in in school deemed worthy of high-paying jobs by society?
Were you born with one of these crammed up your ass?
There's a similar problem with the denominator of that advice. In some cases, sure, it's possible to spend less money. You don't need that surround sound system, do you? No one needs a surround sound system. Why the f**k is sound so interested in being behind me? That's creepy.
You're creepy, sound.
But in many cases, people in serious money trouble are there because they can't spend less money. Your kids gotta eat. Your car needs a new transmission or you can't get to your job. You've tried harnessing your kids to your car, but they're too weak to pull it, possibly from lack of food. So the groceries and the transmission and the stupid, useless harnesses all go on the credit card.
"What's this $248.43 charge from Kidz Tack & Tackle?"
If that describes your situation, then I've got good news and bad news. The good is that, yes, money will absolutely buy you happiness. Having more money will relieve some of the stress that not having it causes, and that absolutely will make you happier. The bad news is that I don't have any idea how to help you. I won't insult you by suggesting that you could work harder. You probably already work much harder than me. And I'll trust that you're grown up enough to adequately separate your wants from your needs and aren't spending more than you need to. So I don't know. Good luck? Try not to get sick, I guess. In the meantime, look for cheap ways to be happy. Sunny days are free. Sticks can look like swords or guns.
Masturbation retains its timeless and thrifty chic.
If that doesn't describe your situation, if you have "enough" money that you don't stress about it every day, then you're stuck. More money won't make you any happier. Unless you ...
Have you ever been bored?
You know, sitting in your room with absolutely nothing to do, nothing around that can hold your interest. Not your hundreds of dollars of video games, or the computer connected to all the world's information, or any of the other toys that would make our ancestors shriek in wonder and bafflement.
These two are trying to make a phone call.
The problem is that your things don't provide lasting happiness. Playing a new video game is fun, but that only lasts 10 or 20 hours or so. Sure, you can keep buying new video games, but after a while even that will start to feel hollow. Replace video games with snowmobiles or jetboats or whatever toy tickles your fancy, but the principle will always hold. Things make you happy when they're new. They're just not new for long.
So what does provide lasting happiness? It's memories, especially memories of cool things that you've done. If you've ever done something you could legitimately brag about, something that gave you a story that you've used to entertain people at a party, you'll know this feeling. The memory of doing that thing will make you happy for years. So don't use your money to buy things. Use your money to buy experiences. Go traveling. Go skydiving. Don't drink beers in your bar; drink beers in some other country's bar. Break into a zoo. Punch a giraffe right in the crotch. Use your money to hire the right lawyers and buy your way to freedom.
Years later, when you recall the way that giraffe crumpled to its many knees, you'll smile.
But isn't that just aimless hedonism? Even if it does provide cool stories, won't those too eventually feel hollow?
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images Entertainment
The Most Interesting Man in the World from those Dos Equis ads: he surely cries himself to sleep at night, right?
All true. Which brings me to the third way money can buy happiness ...
Whether it can buy happiness or not, money can of course buy many, many other things. Things like butlers and martial arts lessons and underground lairs. That's right: If you have money, you can become the goddamned Batman.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The happiest man of all.
OK, so maybe Batman isn't that happy. But he is doing something, and for most people, that will lead to happiness. Far too many people spend all their time either trying to get more money or distracting themselves during their downtime. This is the demographic that reports that money can't buy happiness. They've got money, and they sure aren't happy. But if they instead tried to accomplish something more constructive than making more money, they'd almost certainly be happier. Actually building or accomplishing something can provide a deep level of satisfaction that no amount of jet skis or baccarat can match.
Dani Simmonds/Hemera/Getty Images
"These spats aren't helping at all!"
This will require a bit of self-reflection to discover the things you'll ultimately want to accomplish in life, but whether it's a creative endeavor, some form of philanthropy, or becoming the goddamned Batman, you will absolutely find lasting happiness in accomplishing those goals. And whether it's affording you the tools, the connections, or even just the free time to pursue these goals, those are things money definitely can buy.
But what if you just don't want to accomplish anything? What if hard work and constructive activity are things that, in the parlance of our times, you can't even? Is there any easier way money can buy you happiness? Oh sure.
Recent studies have found scientific evidence that online trolls are sadists who take pleasure in inflicting pain and humiliation on various people. However distressing that may be to the rest of us, the pleasure those trollish sub-people feel is very real. That's happiness, so if you've got more money than moral norms, look into high stakes trolling. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Buy a company. Don't lay everyone off; that lacks imagination. Tell everyone to shift jobs with whoever sits immediately to their left.
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Then fire the guy who sits on the leftmost side of the building.
When your car runs out of gas, leave it in the middle of the road. Go buy another car.
Park that second car right in front of the tow truck busy towing your first car, boxing it in.
Repeat as necessary.
Buy someone's treasured family home. Level it. Put up an adult toy shop there.
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Later, buy someone's treasured adult toy shop and turn it into a family home.
Find the guy you fired for sitting on the leftmost side of the building. Ask him what his name was again. Name your new adult toy shop after him. Give him a job there managing it.
Clone a dinosaur. Ride it around. Pick up none of the droppings. Pay the fines gladly.
Let your dinosaur off the leash in the park.
Pay the fines gladly.
Buy another new car. Let it off the leash in the park.
Give your dinosaur a job at your adult toy shop. Tell the guy there to make it work. Also ask him to come up with a dinosaur-themed name for the store. Ignore his suggestion. Call it Sexosaurus Ass.
Explain to the guy that he's not fired, but he will have to change his name to Sexosaurus Ass now. When he refuses, tell him you admire his courage and that he's still not fired.
But he will have to fight the guy on his immediate left to keep his job.
Movies are never more unrealistic than when they're showing us exactly what a dollar can buy.