Less Money, More Happy

Is money the key to happiness? Research says, “No.”

When it comes to jobs and happiness, it is not always about the paycheck, hours worked, or benefits. It’s so easy to think that just a little bit more money will make us happier, but that isn’t the case.

Happiness doesn’t come from money. If this were the case, so many celebrities wouldn’t be committing suicide. They have it “all”, right? Happiness, according to The Road to Freedom, is derived from earned success. It turns out that the happy people are making less, working more hours, and have less benefits.

What is this earned success? Arthur Brooks defines earned success as, “the ability to create value with your own life or in the lives of others.” It is being free to choose.* With liberty and opportunity, we are able to have earned success: unlike Mohamed Bouazizi.

Brooks shares this story about Bouazizi from Tunisia. He was a street vendor who sold vegetables. Although poor, he was a generous man who gave to those less fortunate. Sadly, the police were not fond of him. Constantly intimidating and stealing from Bouazizi, they made his life a living hell. The day came when Bouazizi put his foot down. He stood his ground and refused to tolerate such injustice.

He doused himself with fuel and set himself on fire in front of city hall. The flame that took his life was the flame that ignited the Tunisian revolution. What Bouazizi did was not about money.

The Tunisian’s mantra was, “Dignity before bread.” Bouazizi desired liberty and opportunity rather than tyranny and suppression. He desired earned success, not money and food.

I remember a time when our local grocery store hired a quadriplegic man. He was in a motorized wheelchair and his job was to greet people and pass out little pieces of candy. This man had a job and he was successful at what he did. That man was more satisfied than the vast majority of people who are considered successful at what they do. Happiness happens on the inside.

Defining success, our own success is key to our happiness. But that key must make it through the keyhole. We have to earn it. 

While making less money could make one more happy, ultimate happiness and peace come only through Jesus Christ. As Christians, we understand why happiness does not come from materialism. Our sinfulness has created a debt needing to be repaid and Jesus was the only one who could pay that debt to God the Father. Being forgiven and in right relationship with our Creator will bring not only happiness in the here and now, but also in the life to come.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-30).

*There is a difference between having a right TO happiness and having a right to PURSUE happiness. When the government legislates rights TO happiness, this will limit the freedom of its citizens. At this point, the government has the ability to choose what they think will make people happy. A citizen would not have a right to disagree with what will or will not make them happy. Thankfully, our founders dictated that we have been given a right to pursue happiness. We have been given freedom to choose.


The Reformed Conservative aims to reunite gentlemanly virtues with scholarly conversation. Standing in the great Reformed and conservative heritage of thinkers like Edmund Burke and Abraham Kuyper, we humbly seek to inject civility into an informed conversation, one article at a time, bringing clarity out of chaos.

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