NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Money doesn’t buy happiness — or does it? Here’s what one student who took Yale’s 10-week online class “The Science of Well-Being” discovered.
Yale professor Laurie Santos, who teaches the free course, argues that the things we want in life don’t make us happier because people fail to accurately predict how much they will enjoy things they imagine for themselves in the future.
There are features of the mind that make us chase things that aren’t best for our well-being, Santos tells CNBC contributor Dave Schools, who took her class.
Schools pointed out that there are several studies showing that wealth does improve happiness.
“They’re important, but I don’t think they change the message of the class, which is that high wealth has a teeny effect on happiness,” Santos said. “The key is that it’s way less than what we predict, and it’s a lot less effective than the other practices we suggest.”
Other practices (i.e., meditation and spending time with friends and family) are easily achievable compared to someone who spends their life chasing wealth, she explains.
“Money doesn’t increase happiness in the way that we think,” Santos says. “Our minds are lying to us about how much of an impact extra cash will have on our happiness.”
Why It Matters: The class changed how Schools spends his money and his time.
Spending money on experiences instead of products can increase happiness, and if you can be mindful of how a product will make you feel, you can think about the experience the product will create before making a purchase, Santos advises.
Thinking about the experience that you are getting in return for your money is one way to take more control of the relationship between money and happiness.
“So does money really make us happier? Maybe a little bit,” Santos said.
What’s more important than making more money is how you choose to spend it. Schools, for example, chooses to spend money on others, and carving out time for social engagement, rather than spending money on things that won’t create lasting experiences.
For example, Schools actively learns new skills that he hopes will contribute to a better overall life experience, instead of just doing things for money or advancement in his career.
“Am I fully convinced that money won’t make me happy? Not entirely,” Schools said. “But I’m working on it — and that’s a pretty significant leap.”
Produced in association with Benzinga
Edited by Kyana Jeanin Rubinfeld and Alberto Arellano