How more money might not make you happier

In last week's post, I talked about how J. D. Roth's book, Money: The Missing Manual starts out with a discussion of happiness. Here is the graphic that has stuck with me: The Fulfillment Curve.


Here's how it works.

  • When you spend money on survival needs (food, clothing, shelter, safety), that money delivers you a great deal of fulfillment. 
  • When you buy basic comforts (a chair, a pillow, a second pair of pants), these items bring you fulfillment but not as much as your survival needs. 
  • Eventually, especially if you are an American, you likely get to spend money on luxuries (a house, a more comfortable bed, a wardrobe of clothing that is stylish and functional enough to make you feel pretty good). This puts you at the top of The Fulfillment Curve. 

The mistake many people make is that they keep hungering to spend more. Here's how Roth describes the plunge over the top of The Fulfillment Curve:
Buying a sofa made you happy, so you buy recliners to match. Your DVD collection grows from 20 titles to 200, and you drink expensive hot chocolate made from Peruvian cocoa beans. Soon your house is so full of Stuff that you have to buy a bigger home — and rent a storage unit. (p. 10)
Here's the problem. This sentence demands to be read slowly and repeatedly:
Beyond the peak, Stuff starts to take control of your life. (p. 10)
Paul said, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1). Slavery to keep enhancing lifestyle even if it might mean going into debt is the way many, if not most, Americans live. 

If you are reading this blog, you are probably wealthy enough to have passed the Enough point long ago. What would it mean to find Enough and cut back to it? For one thing, it would mean being happier.

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