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EDITOR’S BLOG: Money can’t buy happiness – or can it?

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22/05/2007

American comedian and film-maker Woody Allen once said: “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons”, and you can see his point.

It’s the sort of statement that rings as true as “It’s better to be rich and miserable than poor and miserable”, or Everett Dirkson’s brilliant: “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money”. Just to round off the quotes show, for now, Franklin D Roosevelt once memorably observed: “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

There may well be something in that too, but that happiness is often equated with money is undeniable. Secured loans company Picture Financial even produces a Happiness Index as part of its regular report – Finance: The Final Frontier – into the nation’s financial condition.

The latest version tells us that 26% of respondents, when asked to list the top three things that make them happy, mentioned money. This ensured that money secured fourth place in a chart comprised by laughter at number three (53%), health at number two (70%) and, in number one spot that old favourite, friends and family (95%).

It is not the business of this website to investigate Picture’s conclusions too deeply, but it’s instructive to note that behind money in the rankings come sex (7%) – surprising that one – work (11%) – unsurprising – the weather (15%) – no surprise there – and food (15%). Drugs and rock and roll do not seem to figure anywhere.

To be fair to Picture, the presence of money in the Happiness Index is as much to do with good organisation in our finances as it is the qualities that money allegedly introduces to life. Over six in 10 respondents (62%) admitted to feeling happier when their finances are organised and clearly understood, rather than a chaotic jumble lurking in the bottom of drawers and old folders.

For an example of the latter shambolic approach to personal finance planning, Paul Mulligan, 40, who lives in Essex, is a prime example. “My finances brown me off,” he says, “not because I’m skint or anything but because I don’t know where everything is. Until three years ago I was a trader in the City of London, a bit of a high-flier, but I packed it in because of the stress and got into social work. I’m not short of a few quid, but because I can’t be bothered to dig out all the paperwork I really don’t know how many quid I actually have got. I’ll have to get round to sorting it soon.”

Yes, yes, sure thing, Paul, but if you really do stir yourself your financial blues could be a thing of the past. Julia Dallimore, marketing director of Picture Financial, is adamant that there is a link between good financial organisation and a sense of self-satisfaction. “Our research has shown a strong link between happiness and organised finances, but our emotional well-being is not the only benefit to reviewing and sorting our credit and borrowing. Keeping a track of our incomings and outgoings and being clear about what we want to achieve with our money management can also make a real difference to our bank balance.”

That last one is a moot point I think, but the principle is clear enough and probably unarguable. One of the underlying tenets of this website is to encourage people to make the most of their money and to use it to maximum effect. Organising your financial life properly is an important part of this, rather like organising a long journey properly bringing dividends in the form of an easy and enjoyable trip.

And that’s probably the key to the whole tricky business of your money. Good financial organisation means money becomes easy and pleasurable – which is what it should be if you are to enjoy it to the full.

 

 

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