More Money Won't Make You Happier. But Meaningful Work Will

People buy what they value

Welcome to December. This month we will be exploring the interconnectedness of Mental Health & Money.

I’m still on that New York Times Well section kick. In their Money Doesn’t Buy You Happiness quip, it is revealed (from numerous studies) that:

“Happiness doesn’t come from more money or more stuff. Even lottery winners are not any happier than those of us who never win anything.”

Before someone yells at me for being too privileged to say such a thing, I’m speaking directly to people of middle or higher class. Obviously people in poverty would be happier with money.

The point is, we think bigger, better, and newer will make us happy, when (ironically) it most often ends up doing the opposite.

So if you are someone who thinks more money or a nicer apartment will solve your life’s problems, I am here to tell you that meaningful moments, work, and people will forever trump nice “things.”

Will you feel happier in a home that looks better on the outside? Probably. But there’s a big difference between short-term happiness (shiny apartment) and long-term fulfillment (creating work that is meaningful).

Homes, cars, designer bags and fancy “things” will always come with that accomplished feeling of status for many people — I might even argue that everyone feels like they have “made it” once they acquire a material possession that makes them feel fabulous.

And it isn’t wrong to feel that way. We all feel more powerful, more confident, and more invincible when we’re wearing Chanel sunglasses or driving a Mercedes.

The point is, again, that all of these “things” give us a false sense of happiness. It’s an adrenaline and dopamine surge that rushes in just as quickly as it flushes out.

This is not a war against money.

This is also not a battle between people who like nice things and people who are “fine” with whatever makes do. This is a conversation on how we have the concept of money = happiness twisted, begging the question of…

What Does Make Us Happy?

The answer, friends, is meaningful work.

Key word here, meaningful.

Great people and great relationships with those people will make us happy, too, yes. But today we’re talking specifically about meaningful-derived work being a direct cause to our overall sense of happiness.

A lot of people mistake meaningful work for one thing only — the dream job — when in reality, you can find meaning in whatever line of work you’re in — whether you’re a school janitor, telemarketer, mental health counselor, editor-in-chief, nurse, or bank teller.

It’s about finding meaning in your work, more so than “finding the right job.” The right people working in the right job matter a great deal, but for those of you who are searching for the perfect job, I have to argue that you’re going to be searching forever.

People Buy What They Value

What I have learned (most recently) from my fashion and business mentors, and even looking back on advice from my previous sales managers, is that people buy what they place value on.

Let that sink in.

People buy what they place value on.

Think about the things in your life that you value. The annual trip to Mexico with your girlfriends. Your favorite coffee mug. The vintage t-shirt you got at your first concert. Your kids. Your dog. Your partner. Your exquisite piece of artwork that you got from Italy as a reward for your well-deserved promotion.

We value things that are attached to feel-good emotions.

For example, my favorite coffee mug is my favorite coffee mug for a sentimental reason. It’s big, bright, cheery and yellow, so yes, I love the look of it. But the deeper reason is what it stands for. I bought this coffee mug at TJ Max on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue for $6 — which I couldn’t afford. I had just graduated college, just moved to the city, and had yet to embark on my (unpaid!) internships for the summer.

But I promised myself I would get a weekend job if I bought this coffee mug.

So every time I drink out of this mug, I am reminded of that young, wild, (broke) and free me that I never want to lose sight of.

A Happiness Secret from the Experts

“Giving yourself the gift of more time, if you can afford it, is a quick and convenient way to a happier life.”

This includes outsourcing things you truly feel you don’t have the time (or energy) to do — like deep cleaning the house (raises hand) or mowing the lawn or getting a sitter so you and your partner can go out, childfree, for once.


We are in control of our happiness. We are in control of our income. More money isn’t really what we’re after — it’s the lifestyle that more money can give us — which we shouldn’t ever feel shameful for wanting.

Own whatever you value. Whether it’s a weird peacock statue you want to put in your living room, or overpriced produce from your local market, own what you value.

Questions For You

  • What do you value in your life?

  • Why do you value the people — and the things — that you do?

  • How can you create meaningful work in a way that is personal to you?

  • How can you create meaningful work that feels fun? And dare I say, not like work at all?

Per my life mantra as it pertains to “work”

Speaking specifically to the creators of the world — aka authors, artists, photographers, designers, etc.

We don’t work. We create.

Thank you for reading today, and thank you for your continued support in this newsletter! May your Thanksgiving coma be over, and your gift-giving spirits be high.


PS. If you’re interested in my new Sunday Series Newsletter, where I talk about THE BEST OF in Mental Health + Style + Motherhood + Friendship, do consider becoming a paid subscriber. I wrote the first one this past Sunday, Welcome To The Roundup.

Be you.