I was reading Steve's blog this morning, and I tried, several times, to add a comment, but every time, it just kept getting longer and more convoluted ....
I heard that whoever said, "And that's different because ...." So, not funny! Okay, a little funny (*grin*).
Based on an article he'd read, he was pondering the money/happiness connection and concludes that money and happiness are not complements.
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I'm all about downsizing with respect to our income and expenditures. For a long time, we've been trying to reduce the amount of money we need to make so that we can, comfortably maintain our lifestyle without having to be slaves to the money economy, i.e. Deus Ex Machina can quit his soul-sucking corporate job and come home :) and be with us, instead of just being in our presence.
So, for me, money *definitely * ≠ happiness, and in fact, I would go further to say that no amount of money results in happiness, because for most people, the more they have, the more they want (although most research supports the idea that there is a perfect amount of money that is enough, and once people reach that enough amount they are usually happy, but their happiness tends to decrease if they have than just enough).
When I graduated from college, I felt like if I just had more money, then I would be happy. I just needed more money, but the funny thing was, when I made more money I found the opposite to be true. In fact, what I found was that the more money I made, the more bills I had. It was like some very cruel alternative universe. The more I made, the more difficult it was to meet my basic needs. The harder I worked, the more money I needed just so that I could keep a roof over my head and feed my children. It sounds totally implausible, but I swear it's true.
In 1998, I left my outside employment and started working from home. In those first years, I spent a lot of time in the online WAHM (work-at-home Mom) community. There was a lot of information, and there were even more questions about how to get a work-from-home job. Every mom I spoke with, both in person and virtually, wanted to know more about my job - mostly, how I happened upon this incredible opportunity.
By 2000 home-based businesses were being touted as the fastest growing industry in the United States. Everyone wanted to be a WAHM, and I was fully aware of how lucky I was to be in the position I was in. I was even interviewed for the book The Entrepreneurial Parent.
It was all so very exciting that I wanted everyone to be able to work-from-home, if that's what they wanted, and I fully believed (still do, for the most part) that anyone who really wanted to work-from-home, could. So, I started gathering every book I could find on the topic, and I started a very niche virtual bookstore, specializing in books for the work-at-home parent. I even wrote (but didn't publish) a work-from-home workbook full of advice and information about how to get started.
Over the years of researching all topics related to working from home, I found a wealth of information. One of my favorite documents to share with prospective WAHMs (and WAHDads) was the chart that showed the actual cost of having a job. I'd never thought of it before I started working from home, but running the numbers was pretty telling. I think what most two-income families (where both parents work) don't realize is how much that second job costs, especially if childcare is involved. Unless both parents really have a very good job in a very specialized, high-income field, in most cases, - after childcare, diapers, formula, extra doctor visits (because, statistically, children who are in a group daycare setting are sick more often than children who stay at home full-time), the children's daycare/school wardrobe, the parents' "work" wardrobe, gasoline to get back and forth to work, the extra car payment (in many cases, if only one parent works, really only one car is *needed*), maintenance costs on two vehicles, lunches (and snacks) during the workday, take-out when the parents are too tired to cook, grocery store convenience food, because there's never enough time for canning or baking - it actually costs more for both parents to have a job than it would for one parent to stay home.
Living on one income can be very difficult. Deus Ex Machina and I did, and it was tough, but if we had been smarter and more thoughtful back then, if *I* had been more frugal, indeed, if I had known how to be frugal, things would be very different now for us. At the time, when I first started being home full-time, even after all that I had been through as a working mom in a two-income family, I still thought money could make us happy.
Age (and a few gray hairs) has made me wiser, and now, I know that happiness and money are not related. After all of the research I've done on working from home and entrepreneurialism, and after all of the years I've spent working from home, and after all of the time I have spent being free to pursue whatever whim takes my fancy, I know that money won't make me happy. At best, it's little more than a nice side benefit to doing something that one really loves.
The work-at-home books and the home-based entrepreneur industry are full of stories about people who turned their hobbies, the things they loved to do, into full-time occupations - often, they make less money than they were making being a slave to their jobs, but given the freedom to do what they want, they spend less time spending and much more time doing.
There's a saying, one either has time or one has money - rarely it's both. If one can figure out that magic formula of "enough" when it comes to money, one can realize that dream of perfect equilibrium, both enough time and enough money.
In this society, if we want to live in a permanent home (that is, not be transient and living in make-shift campsites), we do need to have a way to earn some money. The question becomes, how much money do we really need versus how much money we believe we need to keep living the lifestyles we live?
The follow-up question is what are we willing to give up so that we can live our authentic lives, instead of giving little pieces of our soul to a job we hate and to employers who rarely give a sh*t about us as long as we're doing they job they pay us to do?
That's the question I'm trying to get answered right now. There's a chart on the wall behind me that shows what our monthly expenses are. What it fails to tell me is why those are our monthly expenses, and whether or not there are ways that we could, if we really were following our bliss, make those numbers smaller to match our, potentially, smaller income - and there's no guarantee that our income would be smaller, but the goal would also be to spend fewer hours per day working-for-money, which means we'd probably be making less.
The smaller those numbers are, the less money we need. The only way to truly shield oneself from the violent shifts in our economy is to not play the game. In a world that is totally preoccupied with money and how to get more of it, not needing money is the liberty that leads to happiness.