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I think college was the happiest time for a few reasons.
I didn’t have a lot of money and wasn’t taking vacations (I worked during the summer) but since I went to a large public U everyone around me seemed to be in the same boat. And I think that is significant; seeing others much better off can make people unhappy so I’m glad I didn’t go to a more prestigious private college where wealth disparities would have been obvious.
Second, I went to school in a smaller town so the people around me (in what can best be called a student slum) were college students. We were all single and away from home so open to making new friends in a way that people in their working years living in a less compact community and raising their own families are not.
Third, the future seemed to stretch endlessly ahead. College was a time when so many paths forward seemed open, life felt like it was beckoning.
Fourth, I had a feeling of accomplishment that was fed every few weeks. I worked hard to do well, but midterms and finals provided objective proof that I was succeeding. Out in the “real world” where work projects are either forever ongoing or years-long and you only get feedback in annual reviews it can be harder to know how you’re really doing.
I was happiest when I got married, then 4 years later when my first child was born. No, money wasn’t part of it.
The early years of our marriage in 70s. We had both of our children early in our marriage, a had a really good job as a computer programmer. I was growing professionally, having a young family was challenging but fun and I actually had more leisure time than any other time before retirement. Life seemed a lot simpler then and it was for us.
One of the happiest was when I took two months off work – without pay – for the birth of our youngest son. We figured we had enough money saved to last until my wife & I went back to work. People said I had ruined my career. When I went back to work I got an unheard of 20% raise, was promoted two weeks later & my wife didn’t go back to work for seven years. Moral of story – do the right thing and the money will work itself out.
I’m only 33 and am still single with no kids, so take this all with a grain of salt.
I was happiest probably in my mid-late 20s when I had some money, a good income, and friends who were not yet married. When I hit my 30s, my income was even better, but my friends suddenly decided to better themselves and have families (which leaves little time for hanging out with friends).
Now, I have to be much more intentional about cultivating social relationships. I don’t want to be one of those lonely old men in an empty house.
The point – money helps, but spending time with friends and money on experiences with them seemed to make me most happy.
I am happiest right now, despite the Pandemic. I’m retired, able to pursue a career I gave up on when I was younger. Being comfortable financially means relief from many worries.
Right now and money or rather wealth is making it possible. I’m two weeks from retirement and unfettered free time to play with my grandkids, travel, and pursue my hobbies.
For many years my wife and I never took any expensive vacations. We basically just kept our heads down in our jobs and put money away in our IRA’s/401K/investments. One year, a coworker took his wife and daughter to England in the middle of the winter. I didn’t realize at the time that flights and hotels were so much more reasonable in January and February. I told my wife, “Next year we are going”. We booked a super cheap flight roundtrip through New York to London England. We got a deal on a week’s stay at a hotel near Kensington in west London and we learned to ride the London Underground.
I was absolutely flabbergasted that here in a few square miles were all the pieces of history that I had read so much about. Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, The Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta stone in the British Museum, the Tate art gallery and on and on. I even liked the Newcastle Brown Ale and fish & chips!
That simple trip opened up a lifetime of travel. We started watching Rick Steve’s on PBS and reading his books. What a joy our vacations became. We were young enough and healthy enough to go anywhere including China. Travel brought us a quality of life and enjoyment that made our lives ten times more happy.
Grad school. I had no money, but I was the most intellectually stimulated I’d ever been, and had the opportunity to scrap enough money together (along with scholarships and sponsorships) to take a trip with my cohort to China. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I was able to stay on and traverse throughout the country with only flashcards as my translation. The experience was worth its weight in gold.
Since I retired in 2010. There were plenty of memorable times when the kids (and my wife and I) were young, But retirement with sufficient income and the time to enjoy it and help the family with no work stress is great.
The Reagan years when President Reagan and Fed Chairman Paul Volcker began their successful attack on inflation and stagflation. I very much fear that 60’s & 70’s style inflation and economic malaise are beginning to develop again. My personal opinion is that J Powell is vastly underestimating the runaway-train that inflation can become, and that J Yellin is complicit in the new ‘big Government ‘ spending mantra.
I fear that history will repeat and the younger generations will have their own stagflation epidemic to battle.
Here’s an interesting opinion piece on the potential threat of runaway inflation.
It’s difficult to pick one particular moment when I was happiest, but my guess would be when I went on vacation with friends or family. Money obviously played a huge role in allowing me to do this. Without money, I wouldn’t have been able to take time off from school/work or afford travel expenses.
A relevant quote from Morgan Housel: “Aligning money towards a life that lets you do what you want, when you want, with who you want, where you want, for as long as you want, has incredible return.“
I believe it is true that experiences bring happy memories, much more so than possessions. The role money played is that many, but not all of these experiences cost money. Touch football games in college, weekend ski trips, outdoor concerts on a beautiful summer night, or a week at a cabin by the lake for the past 16 years have been when I felt happiest. I have been fortunate to have had the money to experience all these things.
Now. My time with my wife is better all the time, I love my current job – more than any of my previous jobs, and I can meet all my commitments. My salary is currently the highest it’s ever been, which means I have no money stress. I’m not ready to retire yet but I’m on an easy trajectory to get there.
You are the envy of the world, Pete.
“Thank you, I’ve worked hard to become so.” – Wesley (in The Princess Bride)
My 4 years of undergrad. Had very little money to spare, but that had nothing to do with the fun. Extra money merely meant better booze :).
Over the years, I’ve found practically zero correlation between my tax bracket and my happiness. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s been a negative correlation, though.
Law school. I had no money.
I feel the same way about my time at university — it was so much fun, but there was precious little money in my pocket.
Christmas as a kid and now Christmas with my kids; going to Spring Training with my grandfather and taking my kids to sporting events; playing football in front of my dad and now watching my kids’ soccer games.
The happiest times in my life had very little to do with money, though I acknowledge that without any money, those times wouldn’t have been as happy (or perhaps possible). Some level of financial well being was necessary, which is further anecdotal support for studies that state the same.
But as any reader of what I’ve written will note, family was far more important to me and my level of happiness than money.