$1,000 says money buys stuff, not happiness

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

June 23, 2011

On a particularly hot and muggy day last week, the kids and I stayed indoors and played a little billiards on the Wii. I tried to concentrate on my next shot as Somerset jumped around the living room and goaded me like a virtual Fast Eddie Felson.

We kept the game light and friendly, though, and I took my lumps from the 8-year-old hustler, and at some point the talk turned to money. Like most of my kids’ conversations, I’m not quite sure how this topic came up, whether it was a discussion carried over from the day before or due to the wager I had just offered my daughter. Who really knows what wheels are turning inside our children’s heads?

They asked each other what they would do with $1,000, and whether they’d rather have “this” or “that” instead of a thousand dollars. One thousand dollars appears to be the benchmark of financial success for my kids.

But not necessarily happiness. One of those little pool-hall philosophers spoke up to say that money can’t buy happiness; he said it’s what “they” say. Somerset, banking the 8 ball easily off the far bumper and into a pocket, was insistent that things could be bought that would make us happy. When I asked, “Like what?” her eyes grew big and she said, “stuff!”

Stuff is usually what it all comes down to for kids because they think that once they get all the stuff they see in television ads, they’ll be happy. It will be years before they realize that the acquisition of stuff only leads to more stuff until your house is full of stuff that doesn’t really have the ability to make you happy … (read more)