Happy Days…a cheese sandwich, anybody?


We’ve all heard the saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” I have been a financial planner for 30 years, and I would say there is truth in this.

Money may not buy you happiness, but we do need a certain level of income for financial well-being. A 2018 study by Purdue University showed that in the US, a salary of $60,000 to $75,000 created financial well-being. A salary of $95,000 gave life satisfaction, but over $105,000, happiness started to decline.

In the same year, a survey by BetterUp Lab identified that nine out of ten people would trade a higher future salary for a job that had more meaning.

However, we simply do not listen and take our own advice. We seem addicted to the money of a higher-paid job.

So, if money is not a considerable influence on happiness, what is?

First, you must understand that you are not supposed to be happy. Happiness is not part of our evolution. Natural selection does not care how you feel; it just wants you to survive and reproduce.

And second, you must be open to the fact that something might be wrong with your choices. We have misconceptions when it comes to the things that can make us feel better. The bottom line is that if you want to be happy, you must work at it.

I believe happiness should be a priority and a goal that deserves far more of our time and effort.

When it comes to financial planning, we often frame our goals in terms of money and time

  • “I will work until my 60th birthday and then retire. 
  • At retirement, I want £1 million in my pension. 
  • When my two children buy their first property, I would like to give them a £50,000 deposit.”

These are obviously very worthwhile goals, but will they truly make you happy? Why retire at age 60? Why does a specific birthday matter when it comes to your retirement? And what if you don’t manage to muster up a house deposit for your child? Will they love you less? No, of course not!

For happiness we need to look beyond the money and the material. We should concentrate far more on experiences and relationships. It can be tricky to articulate happiness goals, so a fantastic way of looking at our happiness list is to think about the things you may regret not doing.

“At the end of your life, you will regret the things you didn’t do rather than the things you did.”  

Now, take a moment and reflect on this. What would you regret not doing?

There is a superb, if not heartbreaking book to help evaluate or re-evaluate your perceptions of life and happiness. “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware, a former palliative carer, shares some of the most common regrets of people who are on their deathbed.  

Not living a life true to oneself. Many regret not pursuing their own dreams and aspirations, often due to societal or family expectations. They wish they had lived a life that was more authentic and aligned with their own values and desires.

How many of your current priorities are yours and not someone else’s?

Working too much. Some regret spending too much time on their careers and not enough time with family and friends. They wished they had achieved a better work-life balance.

Time is precious. How can you add meaning to your work and find time for activities that make you happy?

Not expressing feelings. Many regret not expressing their true feelings to loved ones and holding back their emotions. They wished they had communicated their love and gratitude more openly.

Speak more openly and be honest about your feelings.

Not staying in touch with friends. People often regret losing touch with friends and not nurturing those relationships. They wished they had invested more time in maintaining connections with important people in their lives.

Make more room for people in your life who love and appreciate you. Relationships contribute to happiness more than money can.

Not allowing oneself to be happier. Some regret not choosing to be happier and more content in their daily lives. They wished they had let go of unnecessary stress and worries.

Your long-term happiness is determined by the choices you make today, tomorrow, next week, and next month. Don’t wait for something to happen for you to be happy. Happiness is a choice you can make every single day.

There is no better time than now to put your happiness into perspective and understand what is important to you. You may be a little nervous to do this, but shining a light on your life may help you realise you are happy, and if so, great. 

But what if you are not that happy or you prioritise your time and money on the wrong things? Finding that out now and then making better choices will be amazing.

You do not have to have loads of money to be happy; the humble cheese sandwich may be all you need. 

A cheese sandwich is better than complete happiness because nothing is better than complete happiness, and a cheese sandwich is better than nothing!

Graham McCulley

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