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Avoiding Unhappiness

Edmund Marsh  |  Jan 20, 2023

“DOES MONEY BUY happiness?” That’s one of the questions in HumbleDollar’s Voices section. I hesitate to say that happiness is a commodity we can buy. But studies—and many people’s personal experiences—suggest a lack of money can bring on unhappiness.
A recent paper, “Financial Stress and Depression in Adults” by researchers at the University of Birmingham in England, supports this conclusion. The researchers reviewed 40 studies examining the relationship between depression and financial stress,

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Stealing Joy

Luke Smith  |  Jan 17, 2023

IF YOU’RE A HISTORY buff, you know how difficult life was during the 1930s. In our modern American world of plenty, it can be hard to appreciate what life was like during that period. The Great Depression, as it was later dubbed, was a time of incredible strife and struggle.
Today, we have an unemployment rate of less than 4%. During the 1930s, it reached 25% in the U.S. Think about that. A quarter of the country was looking for work to feed their family,

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Can’t Compare

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 5, 2022

COMPARISONS ARE the death knell of happiness—and they aren’t good for our wallets, either.
If we’re to get the most out of our time and money, we need to devote those two precious resources to things we consider meaningful. But how do we figure out whether something is indeed meaningful to us, and not a reflection of the influence of others?
For “meaningful,” dictionaries offer synonyms such as “important” and “significant.” What we’re talking about are things that have some special emotional resonance,

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Runner’s High

Luke Smith  |  Oct 15, 2022

I’VE RECENTLY BEEN reading and listening to health experts who study the brain chemical known as dopamine. I’m no health expert and I don’t claim any specialized knowledge on the subject, but I’ve learned dopamine is widely considered to be the “pleasure chemical.”
Think about the feeling in between bites of chocolate cake, when we know just how good that next bite is going to be. As we anticipate our reward, our dopamine spikes,

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Happiness at Home

Edmund Marsh  |  Oct 6, 2022

I HAVE READ THAT spending on experiences brings more happiness than spending on things. But what about the experience of buying? Can that make us happy?
I’ve lived in my small community for 21 years. Over that time, my regular buying habits have led me to discover people who provide me with excellent service. They also supply me with a generous measure of genuine satisfaction.
Every third Friday, I sit and listen to a great raconteur as he cuts my hair.

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Choosing Happiness

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 3, 2022

WE ALL WANT TO LEAD happier lives, but that’s no easy task. Our first stumbling block: Most of us aren’t even sure how to define happiness.
Fortunately, philosophers and psychologists have come to the rescue, suggesting that there are two different types of happiness. First up: hedonic happiness. Think of a wonderful party with delicious food, sparkling conversation and all your favorite people in attendance. There’s great momentary pleasure and—fingers crossed—scant pain involved.
Meanwhile,

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Getting to Happy

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jul 31, 2022

THE MEGA MILLIONS drawing on Friday was worth more than $1 billion. Would you be happy if you’d been the lucky winner?
Last week, I talked about the Vanderbilts. Once the wealthiest family in America, they saw their fortune dwindle because of aggressive spending. Back in the 1890s, for example, the family spent $7 million building the Breakers, a summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. That’s the equivalent of $220 million today. When it was completed,

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Nun Sense

Mike Drak  |  Jul 7, 2022

WHEN I WAS WORKING fulltime, my goal was to have enough retirement savings to replace 100% of my income. I knew I could live comfortably on that amount, while still having enough left over to do the things I didn’t have time for when I had a fulltime job. I figured that was the key to a happy retirement.
But after retiring, my thinking changed, as I began focusing on how I could live longer and better.

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Divide and Rule

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 11, 2022

EACH OF US TAKES our monthly income and then makes countless decisions—some big, some small—about how to use those dollars. How can we get the most from the money that flows through our hands? I find it helpful to look at this “income allocation” through three prisms.
Divvying it up. We can use our income for three main purposes: spending it today, saving it for tomorrow or giving it to others. Our instinct is to spend today,

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Better Than Dollars

Kathleen M. Rehl  |  May 17, 2022

A FRIEND ASKED ME recently if I got paid for the writing I do. She assumed that I’d be compensated, especially for research articles published in scholarly journals.
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m paid generously—in psychic income.”
“What’s psychic income?” she asked.
I explained. “Instead of earning a paycheck for my paper, I earn the satisfaction of this well-respected periodical running my article.” That’s also the way it is for my short stories and poetry that appear in specialty publications.

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More Isn’t the Answer

John Lim  |  Apr 29, 2022

“ENOUGH” IS a powerful notion. Unfortunately, it’s largely absent from financial conversations.
The concept is rooted in deep self-awareness. It asks the question, how much do I really need to be happy? I believe we should ask this more often because, if we don’t, culture will fill in the blank—and the default answer will be “more.”
Enough has two dimensions. The first dimension is about spending. Too often, we succumb to the hedonic treadmill—the endless pursuit of the next thrilling purchase,

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Sick and Tired

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 23, 2022

BETWEEN 1972 AND 2018, the percentage of Americans who described themselves as very happy ranged from 29% to 38%. The number for 2021 was recently released: Just 19% of us said we’re very happy—10 percentage points lower than any prior survey.
Our happiness, it seems, is another victim of the pandemic. Indeed, COVID-19 and the resulting social isolation has delivered a bigger blow to our collective happiness than 2008-09’s Great Recession, 2001’s terrorist attacks and countless other distressing events from the past half-century.

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Get to Choose

Richard Connor  |  Mar 15, 2022

AS A YOUNG ENGINEER at General Electric, I took a three-day class on career development. That class strongly influenced my thinking about my career—and my life. The class made use of a great little book by David P. Campbell called If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably Wind Up Somewhere Else.
The premise of the book is that life is a journey, not a destination. We should set some basic goals that help guide our journey,

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View From the Top

Tanvir Alam  |  Feb 21, 2022

THERE’S A GROUP of high-income earners who sit just below the billionaire business founders, the C-level suite set and the heiress crowd. Matthew Stewart, in his new book The 9.9 Percent, labels them the “new aristocracy.” Author Richard V. Reeves famously called them “dream hoarders” in his book of the same name.
By all objective criteria, this high-income crowd should be thrilled with their financial gains over the past three years.

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A Man Possessed

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 25, 2021

IT’S NEVER GOOD to be self-indulgent, and that’s doubly true on a day like this. Still, while the rest of you relish the gifts that came your way this holiday season, let me offer a guided tour of my most prized possessions.
I now have a firm idea of what they are, thanks to a ruthless process of subtraction. I’ve spent the past four months throwing out and selling countless things I don’t greatly care about. 

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