United States - A Nation Of Rich, Unhappy People
The United States is a rich nation. However, it wasn’t always this way.
According to the US Census Bureau, In 1953, the median family income adjusted for inflation was $36,000. As of 2020, it stands at about $84,000.
We’ve used that wealth to purchase new things and increase our lifestyle to a level inconceivable to a family living in the 1950s.
An average home today is filled with flat screen TVs, personal swimming pools and more toys than we can count. And the home size grew to house all these items.
The median American home size in 1950 was 983 square feet. This was where the whole family would live. Sleep, eat, and play. In 2020, the median home size is now 2,333 square feet. Home size has more than doubled in the past 70 years.
Now, I’m not a biologist, but I’m pretty sure people haven’t doubled in size since the 1950s.
So we have bigger homes and more stuff to fill it with. This is the way of life now in our consumer centric American culture. If you don’t believe in the data, just look at the media.
Do you think it’s by coincidence we love shows like Gossip Girls, Billions and Crazy Rich Asians?
We have more things today – nicer, bigger and better things than people ever had in the history of mankind.
My family and I immigrated to the United States in the late 1980s from South Korea. I was 8 years old.
Coming from a small port city, everything in America was just amazing. However, one thing that I was most mesmerized by, was seeing how every house had their own shower stall.
When I was growing up in South Korea, going to the bathhouse was a family event. We would go to the bathhouse once every few weeks. The idea that you could bathe or shower everyday was inconceivable.
Now of course this was Korea in the 1980s – so it wasn’t the economic powerhouse that it is today. It was still recovering from the Korean War and was still developing.
But, I’m bringing up that example to show how rich America is in comparison to many other countries in the world.
So seeing how wealthy America is, Americans should be some of the happiest people in the world, right?
There is very little evidence to show that Americans, on average, are happier today than we were in the 1950s – when America was a lot less wealthier.
A 2019 Gallup survey of more than 140 countries found that Americans compared to the rest of the world felt more stress and more worry.
In the United States, about 55 percent of adults said they had experienced stress during “a lot of the day” prior, compared with just 35 percent globally.
About 45 percent of the Americans surveyed said they had felt “a lot” of worry the day before, compared with a global average of 39 percent.
In world happiness ranking, we ranked a whopping 19th place – behind countries like Belgium, Costa Rica and our neighbor Canada.
So what do we have here?
America is the land of the rich, yet we are no more happier than we were 70 years ago and even compared to the rest of the world.
So if financial wealth doesn’t bring happiness, what does?
What Brings “Happiness”
Angus Campbell, an American psychologist at the University of Michigan published a book in 1981 titled, the “The Sense of Wellbeing in America.”
In the book, he highlighted a common denominator of happiness.
Having control over one’s life. He said:
“Having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of wellbeing than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered.”
This ability to control one’s life has more of an impact on a person’s well being and happiness than anything else we can imagine.
More than a big fancy house. More than an important and prestigious job title. Much more than an expensive luxury car.
The ability to do what you want, when you want, with whomever you want to. This here is the secret to real happiness and joy.
So how do you get this? How can you get more control over your life? Well obviously. Like anything else in life – you buy it.
Use Money To Buy “Happiness” - Time
Money can buy many things, but you get the greatest bang for the buck when you buy back time.
Time allows you to have more control over your day and when you have more control, more happiness.
This for me is one of the key reasons why I’m such a proponent of mastering your money and one of the big drivers to why I started my blog and this channel.
I’ve experienced first hand the liberating power that having enough money can provide.
Money buys you choice.
With enough money, you can take unpaid days off from work, without having to worry that you aren’t making enough to make ends meet.
If you are on the job search, you can take your time to find the perfect fit instead of accepting the first company that offers you a job. You have time because you have money. You have control and companies aren’t used to dealing with such individuals.
If you work in an environment that is toxic or you have a terrible boss, you have the option to quit. You don’t have to be afraid of your boss.
And ultimately, when you have enough – you can enjoy the freedom that financial independence can provide and work if you want to, not because you have to.
As both our parents and our children are getting older, my wife and I have had many discussions about what we want our future to look like.
Thankfully, by having managed our finances well the past 10 years, going from being under $105,000 of student debt to being financially secure today, we have been able to buy back some time by cutting back from our day jobs.
When we were knee deep in our careers, we didn’t have much control over our day.
I personally know what it feels like to have that stress from lack of control – it’s stressful and being happy is far from your mind.
Our work was our priority and we fit family and other activities around it.
But thankfully today, because of the financial sacrifice we made in the last decade, we have been able to buy back some of our time, more control and therefore more happiness.
Using your money to buy time and options is the ultimate purchase that not even the most luxurious item can compete with.
Imagine being able to wake up every morning and say
“I can do whatever I want today.”
Imagine having full control of our life and not being beholden to a job because you need to.
I can’t imagine any other purchase that can bring this level of happiness.