True
TD Ameritrade

It has long been said that "money doesn't buy happiness."

Then again, it's also been said that money does buy a WaveRunner, and it's impossible to be sad while on a WaveRunner.


GIF via "The Meredith Vieira Show."

But figuratively speaking, could buying a WaveRunner possibly result in happiness?

No one denies that buying things can feel good. But is there a difference between buying things that make us happy and actually buying happiness?

What are the most important things we should know about the relationship between the things we buy and our emotional well-being?

Hoping to get some answers, I spoke with two experts: Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller "The Happiness Project" and host of the podcast "Happier With Gretchen Rubin," and Jean Chatzky, author of "The 10 Commandments of Financial Happiness," financial editor of NBC's "Today" show, and host of the podcast "HerMoney."

1. Correlation isn't causation.

Image via iStock.


An influx of cash may alleviate some of your worries in the short term (mainly because it frees you from having to worry about money), but it won't do much to improve your general state of happiness in the long term unless you are doing the right things with it.

"If you're trying to decide whether or not to spend your money, anything that deepens or broadens relationships is probably a good idea," says Rubin.

"Should you go to your college reunion or spend that money going to a friend's wedding? Yes, because that's going to make you happier than a new pair of boots."

2. There is a ceiling.

Image via iStock.

"Once you have enough money to live comfortably, to get yourself a place to live, a car to take you back and forth to work, and enjoy yourself once in a while, more money beyond that isn't shown to measurably increase happiness," says Chatsky.

Is that really true? According to a Nobel Prize-winning study by Princeton University, the answer is yes!

Princeton's research team polled nearly a half-million Americans about their daily mood and income and found that lower income is associated with lower emotional well-being. They also found that the ceiling tends to top out at around an annual household income of $75,000 in most parts of the world. The researchers hypothesized that threshold could be the level at which people have enough money to spend time with people they like, keep themselves healthy, and enjoy leisure time.

3. It's all relative.

Image via iStock.

According to the UN's annual World Happiness Report, the happiest country in the world last year was Denmark, which somehow achieved this despite not even landing in the top 10 countries with the highest per-capita GDP or annual income.

This might be due to the fact that the reference point for what exactly is considered "wealthy" in countries like Denmark tends to be lower across the board than here in America, according to Chatzky.

Isn't it true that when we see the new car in our neighbor's driveway or the photos of our coworker's vacation in Bali, the inherently competitive part of our personalities comes out? It seems to place that desire for more above the things we as individuals actually require to be happy.

"You can't just assume that this experience or this project will increase my happiness because everybody talks about how great it is. You have to think about what's true for you."

"What tends to matter more than the actual numbers are whether you tend to have more or less than the person in the next office or the family down the block," says Chatzky.

"It's very easy to just go along with what 'everybody says,'" echoes Rubin.

"Everybody says it's fun to go out drinking. Everybody says it's fun to go skiing, but do you really enjoy that? I've heard from so many people who were like, 'You know, when I really stopped and thought about it, I realized I was doing all this stuff because I was just going along.' You can't just assume that this experience or this project will increase my happiness because everybody talks about how great it is. You have to think about what's true for you."

4. Control is key.

Image via iStock.

"What I learned from years of research is that what you have is not nearly as important as how much control you have over the money you have," says Chatzky.

Some of us can do more to achieve happiness with $30 than others can with $3,000, and it all relates back to the ways in which we are spending it.

"Money is like health. When we don't have it, it really affects us in the negative, but when we do have it, it's easy to take it for granted."

With today's technology, it's become more complex than ever. One-click shopping sites that automatically store your credit card information may be convenient, but they have also fueled our tendencies to spend money on "impulse buys" that we later regret.

"Money is like health. When we don't have it, it really affects us in the negative, but when we do have it, it's easy to take it for granted," says Rubin.

Indeed, the effect that poor money management can have on our happiness is similar to the effects a poor diet can have on our health. We know that a direct correlation between the two exists, but we often avoid it because we are convinced it's too late to change our ways.

Speaking of which...

5. Developing habits is also key.

Image via iStock.

Human beings have always been creatures of habit, yet we usually only tend to acknowledge this phenomenon when discussing the habits that negatively influence our lives. The truth, however, is that it's just as possible for us to develop positive spending habits in order to better our emotional well-being.

There are many attainable goals that will directly influence your levels of happiness, according to both Chatzky and Grubin. They suggest small things like regularly monitoring your spending habits, automatically deducting 5% of your paycheck into a savings account, or paying your bills as they come in instead of all at once.

"Anything that's convenient, you're more likely to do," mentions Grubin. "Automatic savings requires no effort. If you're shopping, shop with a basket, not with a cart. The more inconvenient it is to carry that stuff around, the less likely you are to buy it."

You see, laziness can be used for good after all! (*turns on television*) (*binge-watches 10 straight "30 Rock" episodes*)

6. Know yourself.

Image via iStock.

Are you more likely to spend money with a credit card or with cash? Do you really need that expensive coffee on the way to work each day, or the biweekly trips to the tanning booth?

"Getting on a path so that you know where you want to go, and that there are benchmarks between you and that goal for you to knock down ... to know that you're making progress is one of the easiest ways to make yourself happy."

You are the only person who can make the changes necessary to ensure your happiness, and the first step in doing so is acknowledging the impact that money has on it and taking the correct measures to improve the relationship between the two.

"Getting on a path so that you know where you want to go, and that there are benchmarks between you and that goal for you to knock down ... to know that you're making progress is one of the easiest ways to make yourself happy," says Chatzky.

"The thing about money is that it really pulls us down more than it lifts us up," adds Rubin. "It's important to cultivate a gratitude for when you do have enough money, because if you're not worrying about it, you don't realize what a huge role it plays."

It all boils down to making sure you are truly investing in your happiness, not just trying to buy it.

It's all about balance. So, whether it's that new pair of boots, that definitive collection of Biggie's greatest hits, or that annual ski trip in Aspen — if it's serving you, then it's good to spend! But before you do, just make sure you can still afford the mortgage payment or that unexpected blown tire when you get back.

Money may never be able to buy happiness in and of itself, but it can help provide you with the stability that makes happiness a much more attainable goal.

Maybe not a "bulldog in sunglasses riding a WaveRunner" level of happiness, but happiness nonetheless.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less
Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less