The third argument stated that the wealthy are happier, because of all the expensive things they can buy. Money can buy cars, houses, clothes, TV’s, and vacations. Do those things bring us ultimate happiness? It turns out that the wealthiest people, in actuality, are rarely the happiest.
In 1957, Americans’ per person income, expressed in today’s dollars, was $8,700.00. Today, it is north of $20,000, more than twice as high. Psychologist David Myers writes, “We have twice as many cars per person, . . . we eat out two and a half times more often, . . . and few Americans, in the 1950’s, had dishwashers, clothes dryers, or air conditioning.”
Myers also notes that
the percentage of Americans calling themselves ‘very happy’ reached its highest point in 1957. Since then, the number of Americans who say they are ‘very happy’ has declined from 35 to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the divorce rate has doubled, the teen suicide rate has nearly tripled, the violent crime rate has nearly quadrupled, and more people than ever (especially teens and young adults) are depressed. We are great at making a living but not so good at making a life.
What does the wisest man that ever lived have to say about wealth? King Solomon said, “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. . . . I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me” (Ec 2:8-9). Did this bring him happiness? In verse 11 he gives the answer: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ec 2:11).
Solomon also said this: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ec 5:10).
Virtually every wealthy person that has ever lived will tell you that money did not bring them the happiness they sought, yet those who are not wealthy do not believe them!
Do you remember the humorous quote from earlier? “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.” That’s what many people think. This experiment has been run billions of times, all with the same results, yet all of us want to run the experiment one more time to see if we can be the first to succeed. Why? I think we’re all insane.
Let me tell you the true story of a 55-year old man named Jack Whittaker. If money brings happiness, then he should be one of the happiest people on the planet. In Dec of 2002, Jack won the multi-state Powerball lottery and was able to take home $114 million after taxes. His life of happiness started almost immediately.
A month after he won, he was arrested for drunk driving. Eight months later, thieves broke into his car while he was at a strip club and stole $545,000 in cash. Two employees of the club were later arrested in a plot to drug him and then rob him.
In Jan 2004, he was arrested for assault after threatening a bar manager.
His business was inundated with multiple lawsuits, all after his winnings came to light.
Even more tragically, in Sept 2003, a 17-year old friend of his granddaughter died of a drug overdose. A little more than one year later, his own granddaughter died of a drug overdose. The friend’s parents sued him for their son’s death, alleging that the $2100-per-week allowance that Jack gave his granddaughter was what allowed them to buy the drugs.
Jack was also sued by Caesar’s Atlantic City casino for bouncing $1.5 million worth of checks to cover his gambling losses.
Jack’s wife divorced him.
Jack now claims he’s flat broke after thieves allegedly wiped him out.
When asked if he was glad he won the lottery, he claims it was the worst thing that ever happened to him and that he wished he never won. I guess wealthy people aren’t always happier.