Money can’t buy happiness (but you knew that already, right?)

Dog on swing

I found this article via Hacker News today about a guy who used to work for Yelp. 

I left because, ultimately, I had to. I was utterly, utterly exhausted. I’d been agonizing over it for almost a year prior, but had stayed because I didn’t think I could pull it off. I was terrified of failure. Even after deciding to quit, I’d wanted to stay another six months and finish out the year. I left when I did because I was deteriorating. 

He left a year ago, and wrote this blog post to explain what he’s been up to. But he’s at pains to point out something we already know:

People like to quip that money can’t buy happiness. I think that’s missing the point. Money can remove sadness, but only if that sadness is related to not having enough money. My problem was not having enough time.


I make considerably less now. I’m also much, much happier.

One massively unacknowledged fear that people have in moving away from full-time employment, I think, is fear. Not so much financial fear (“where’s the money going to come from?”) but reputational fear, the fear of the unknown, and, perhaps most importantly, the fear of what to do with the additional free time.

I know a lot of people hate their jobs, and I know most people can’t afford to quit. I wish everyone could. I’d love to see a world where everyone could do or learn or explore or make all the things they wanted. Unfortunately, my wishes have no bearing on how the system works.

Pre-Brexit and US election, I honestly thought we were moving towards a world of more people working from home, basic income, and automation removing soul-destroying jobs. It looks like there’s (at least) a temporary blip in that plan.

It’s no accident that the subtitle of Tim Ferriss’ spectacular bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek is subtitled ‘escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich’. The ‘new rich’ are those that realise that the promise of doing well by working hard, however that’s measured, is mostly a lie. As Ferriss says in that book, the impact of the money we earn can be multiplied in ‘practical value’ depending on the number W’s we control:

  1. What we do
  2. When we do it
  3. Where we do it
  4. Who we do it with

I think this is a good thing to bear in mind. There’s so many people I’ve met (and I’d include me at an earlier point in my life) who equated a salary figure with success. In actual fact, that’s only a data point on a much more three-dimensional equation — particularly as a husband and a father with a family to consider.

Image by Marion Michele