Money cannot buy happiness but it certainly impacts it. For some people, they can book a vacation or get a monthly massage without guilt. For most of us, there always seems to be a little nagging feeling that we should not have spent that money on ourselves or our happiness, or that we need to hide the fun we are having in life.
As a financial planner, I prefer to look at money spent on self-care, personal growth and adventure as an investment in happiness. The trick is to plan for this investment and make sure it coincides with your other investment goals (e.g. college savings, retirement, living within your means). By putting a little work in at the beginning and writing out your investment in happiness plan, you give yourself permission to enjoy the investment and brush off any guilt. Take a few minutes and answer these questions to put your plan in place:
What makes you happy? Do you love to entertain? Do you want to escape your daily routine and put your feet in warm white sand? Do you want to feel the wind in your hair as you ride down a mountain? Write down the two most impactful activities that bring you happiness today.
Here are my top two: #1 I want my weekends free of obligations so my I can relax and let the day spontaneously evolve, and #2 Being active every day.
How much will you invest in your happiness? Sometimes the investment in happiness can cost a pretty penny and other times it is free. If you want two weeks in Hawaii, you are looking at a $5,000 investment for most families. Put a price tag on your top two investments in happiness.
Thankfully, my first investment in happiness is free. All I have to do is say “no” to all the birthday parties and not sign my kids up for most organized sports, and voila! My weekends are obligation free. My second investment in happiness tends to have a price tag. Running on Mt. Tam = free (2 days per week), gardening = free (weekends), playing with my kids = free, and Soul Cycle = $28 per class (3 days per week). Total cost = $334 per month or ~$4,000 per year
Is this investment financial feasible? Look at your spending and see where your money is actually going. Food and shopping are typically the largest discretionary spending areas and where you can find extra money to invest in happiness. If you just don’t have any extra money, then you will need to focus on the free investments in happiness until you can afford the ones with price tags. Or, think outside the box. If you want to travel, can you make money by renting your place on Airbnb?
How will you stick to your plan? Most people have heard the term “pay yourself first.” You pay for your healthcare and retirement before your hard earned money hits your checking account. Why not treat your investment in happiness the same way? Whatever the amount of the investment is in the step above, have an automatic monthly investment plan to a “happiness” account.
Now that you have answered these questions and have your investment in happiness plan it is time to implement the plan. Like any investment strategy, you may need to make changes over time. Check in with your investment every six months. Are you happier? If not, figure out why and rework you plan. Make room for changes and be flexible.