Can’t buy me love (but happiness? Yes!)

Can’t buy me love (but happiness? Yes!)

“The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

An interesting study was published recently, which found that spending money to buy time makes us happier.

The study was carried out amongst adults in the US, Canada, Denmark, and The Netherlands (including a large sample of Dutch millionaires) and across the board the results indicate that making time-saving purchases (such as a take away meal, taking a cab or hiring help in the house) improves our mood.

Interestingly, the results were not skewed by people’s level of income (although the authors of the study note that results may differ for the very poorest in society).

Why would buying time increase happiness?  The study suggests that participants felt less stressed at the end of the day when they had purchased services which saved them time.  The cumulative effect of this was to provide a buffer against other time pressures we increasingly experience, thereby improving overall levels of life satisfaction.

Interestingly, even when it was affordable, many of the respondents in the study reported allocating none of their discretionary income to buying time.  Just under half the millionaires surveyed spent no money outsourcing ‘tasks they disliked doing themselves’ and that number did not change significantly when the definition was broadened to ‘purchases that save time’.  It appears that the Protestant work ethic is alive and well and many of us feel guilty spending money on tasks which we are capable of doing ourselves.

This study struck a chord with me, as it strongly reflects what we see with new clients.  In almost every case they are perfectly capable of managing their own financial planning and indeed they have often done so for many years.  They come to us when they reach the point where they realise that a) they would rather spend the time with their family than be buried in spreadsheets and b) that it’s perfectly OK to feel like that and to allocate resources to outsourcing (it’s that second point which seems to be the sticking point for so many people).

As one of the authors of the paper stated, “If there’s some task that just thinking about it fills you with dread, then it’s probably worth considering whether you can afford to buy your way out of it.”

I’d expand that to “If there’s some task that prevents you from spending more time with the people who mean the most to you, and you can afford to do so, then outsource it.”

Life’s short.  How do you want to spend yours?

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

– Jim Rohn

Warm regards