What You Should Really Know About Happiness And Money

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Humans can find happiness in a variety of areas of life. What makes one person feel content may not do the same for another. You may have heard the expression “money can't buy happiness.” While there may be some truth to this saying, the relationship between money and happiness can be complex. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between money and happiness and ways to increase your happiness regardless of your financial situation.

Is your relationship with money affecting your happiness?

Wealthy and happy

Being wealthy and happy simultaneously is possible, despite the expression “money can’t buy happiness.” Although a famous study by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman previously found that after people reach a certain income level ($75,000) their happiness reaches a certain plateau, new research finds that most people’s happiness often does continue to rise with greater income.

The exception, per a joint study by Kahneman and Matthew Killingsworth, is people who are wealthy and unhappy. For these individuals, more wealth doesn’t tend to make a difference in their levels of happiness. 

For those who are wealthy and happy, there may be multiple factors adding to their joy. For example, they may have a close-knit family, a job they’re passionate about, or a hobby they love.

Many people believe that if they just had more money, they’d automatically be happier. However, money can be a source of stress as well. For example, as money divides people, it can cause anger, envy, betrayal, and several other negative emotions that can create problems. Those who once believed that money would solve their problems may be disheartened to find that it doesn't fix relationships that were already damaged or make them feel less lonely than before. It may not make a tragedy they’ve experienced suddenly go away or make a betrayal they went through hurt any less. Money may provide temporary relief, especially from negative emotions, but eventually, these feelings may resurface.

Low-income and happy

Many people can be happy with less money in their bank accounts. There are usually other factors in life that contribute to a person’s overall contentment. These may include the strength of their relationships and social support network, their contentment at work, the state of their physical and mental health, and their impact on the world. Although someone may lack in an area like money, they may be wealthy in other ways, and usually, these other places may end up bringing them more joy than money could. Happy people also tend to practice gratitude for what they do have, which research shows can lead to greater life satisfaction.

Getty/Luis Alvarez

However, not having money can be just as divisive as having a lot of it. People who don't have money can also feel anger, envy, and betrayal. They can also be just as likely to have problems in relationships and to feel lonely or stressed. However, someone with fewer resources may have a higher likelihood of these things because there is no money available to help themselves or their family, not just with the luxuries of life, but with the basics—like food and rent.

What makes you happy?

Discovering what brings you joy can be key to living a life of contentment. While many people believe that money would make them happier, simple lifestyle changes and certain healthy habits might make a difference. This being said, everyone derives happiness from different things in life. Although you may feel that winning the lottery or building a lucrative business would bring you joy, you could be surprised. Sometimes simply winning the lottery in the friendships you have or feeling happy in your job can make a significant difference, provided that one’s basic needs are met.

Additionally, maintaining a sense of gratitude for what is already present in your life can also support feelings of happiness. Taking note of what is going well for you or your family, things that are going positively at work, and the things that you have materially and otherwise can all help increase your happiness.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
Is your relationship with money affecting your happiness?

Discussing money and happiness with a counselor

Happiness can be challenging to obtain at times, especially when you’re facing financial concerns. A licensed counselor may be able to help support you in assessing your relationship with money, cultivating fulfilling relationships, and experiencing more personal growth. 

Online therapy can be an effective resource despite an individual’s age, financial status, background, or mental health history, and some research shows it can be just as effective as in-office therapy. It can remove barriers to care that are common among those seeking mental health support. These could include cost concerns, travel times, or availability during your busy workweek. 

With a smart device and a reliable internet connection, you can connect with a therapist through live chat, phone, or videoconferencing—or a combination of all three modalities. With BetterHelp, you can also write to your therapist at any time via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can. 


While money alone may not buy happiness, research on happiness shows that it can make a difference, so learning to improve your relationship with money may enhance your well-being. However, you might also boost your happiness and fulfillment in numerous other ways, such as through meaningful connections with others and a sense of meaning in your work and hobbies. 

If you’d like to discuss your relationship with money or some other aspect of life, it may help to speak with a licensed online counselor. They may be able to help you evaluate your relationship with money and also discover other areas of life that bring you joy and happiness. Take the first step toward greater happiness and overall well-being and reach out to BetterHelp.

Find your happiness with professional support
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started