It Turns Out You Can Buy Happiness

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” –Luke 6:24

This is a fascinating TED talk by Michael Norton. Five years ago, when Norton was in business school, he ran an experiment to see if there is a correlation between the way people spend their money and how happy they feel. He gave money to a group of college students in Canada; some were told to spend it on themselves, while others were told to spend it on someone else. That evening, he called them to ask them how they felt. The result was clear: “People who spent money on others got happier,” said Norton. “People who spent it on themselves, nothing happened. It didn’t make them less happy, it just didn’t do much for them.”

Then Norton repeated the experiment in different countries all around the world, giving his subjects different amounts of money. Overwhelmingly, the experiments confirmed the original results.

“So if you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right,” Norton concluded. “The implication isn’t you should buy this product instead of that product, and that’s the way to make yourself happier. It’s that you should stop thinking about which product to buy for yourself, and try giving some of it to other people instead.”

 

Today’s writer is Hugo Olaiz, associate editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement. Originally from Argentina, he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in Spanish, linguistics, and translation. He lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his husband John-Charles Duffy and an aging beagle mix named Patches.