Money doesn’t buy happiness, just a means to it

I still can’t believe it’s been half a century since man landed on that giant hunk of seemingly-luminescent rock some 385,000 kilometres from Earth.

In that time the socio-political fabric of the West, and Earth in general, has changed to such a degree that many of the social conventions back then would seem wildly out of place now, and vice versa.

But not the hustle and bustle of the daily 9-to-5 commute. In fact, the idea of physically commuting —be it by foot, bike, car or plane— is one of the few aspects of the human experience that is universal across cultures and geography.

Of course, those last two are reserved for the privileged, with most of billion automobiles in the world owned by people in wealthy, first-world countries.

Likewise, the majority of air travel is done within countries similar to the above or ones known as business hubs, such as China.

So, when I heard the news about the largest ever slot machine prize won in Canadian history — $2.1 million dollars — going to an older Prince George couple, I thought to myself: that would be nice.

Not because I want to buy a fancy log cabin or an $80,000, eleven-year-old Lamborghini (as an aside, a friend of a friend in Vernon just did this — not a smart idea unless you want to get pulled over by the cops twice a month for “random” registration checks) or any other expensive, material tchotchkes, but because it would give me the ability to do things and see people that I wouldn’t be able to while living paycheque-to-paycheque.

There’s that age-old question: does money buy happiness?

False dichotomy.

Money is a tool, and just like a carpenter or chef can use their tools effectively or not, money can be used in a variety of methods.

Some bring happiness. Others bring just about every other emotion imaginable.

With that said, I think you’d have to live a pretty altruistic lifestyle to not acknowledge the potential money has to circumvent barriers to happiness.

Take transportation.

I love the Bulkley Valley, but with virtually all of my extended family living in Ontario it can be hard knowing that money is the only thing stopping me from going home for a weekend and seeing my aging grandmother once a month as opposed to once a year.

Likewise with early retirement.

Take someone with health issues, the financial ability to retire at 55 instead of 65 could be less about money and more about an extra decade to spend watching grandchildren mature into their early teens.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, just a means to it.

So when I saw this couple (the husband was already only 10 months from retiring) saying their plan was to retire 10 months early and the money would simply provide a little security in their later years, I thought to myself: they get it.

Instead of using this money to buy a bunch of stuff they couldn’t afford before, they are living within their means and using it to solidify existing plans.

Because too many times I’ve heard this story, and often it has a similar ending.Family wins a large amount of money, buys a bunch of fancy new stuff and starts living outside of (what previously was) their means.

Friends and extended family come out of the woodwork, looking for loans or (if more brazen) straight-up handouts.

Family either refuses to give away money or gives it away and faces the likelihood of future requests when the recipients spend it all on frivolous junk.

Either way, these wins often cause internal strife and stress that can’t be quantified (or paid off) using some arbitrary amount of cash.

And while pragmatism regarding plans to spend winnings might not eliminate the chance of this happening, it’s a lot easier to say no to someone asking for $15,000 when you didn’t just buy a brand new million-dollar cottage on 18-and-a-half acres.

I can tell you this, if I won that money I would spend about $150,000 on a cheap property somewhere I could renovate.

The rest would go into GICs and other fixed-rate, long-term financial investments.

From those, I would use the interest to fund things like trips home to see my grandma and the handful of people in Ontario the beautiful backdrop of the Bulkley Valley isn’t enough to make me forget about.

Because money doesn’t buy happiness, it just gives us the means to pursue it in different ways than when we had relatively less of it.

Forget slots — that’s something you can bet on.

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