The Good Life #11

How much money and time do you need to be happy?

Gary Gilberg
4 min readMar 13, 2021
Photo by Steven Wilcox on Unsplash

5 steps to maximize your time and money.

The relationship between money, time and happiness has been debated for centuries. Scientists determined that Americans who make $105,000 a year get little or no additional life satisfaction by making more money.(This is only an average. Your results may vary. This number is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent unhappiness;-). In fact, Americans often have lower levels of life satisfaction above that income level, due to competition with their richer neighbors.

“I know everybody says money can’t buy happiness, but it could buy me a boat.” Chris Jansen

Once Americans made $65,000 to cover their basic needs of safety, food, shelter, medical care, etc. money doesn’t increase enthusiasm, energy, or optimism which they term “positive affect.” I call it “good mood”. This isn’t to say you can’t bump up your mood by purchasing a new Tesla; it just won’t last, especially if some dork in the parking lot backs into it.

Having cash on hand, your financial security blanket, reduces the stress of unexpected calamities, regardless of income level. Knowing you can pay for your rent and utilities when your job gets “outsourced,” gives us all some piece of mind. The key finding that researchers discovered is that financial security is defined not by a set dollar amount but by how you define your own financial status. Whether you consider yourself financially secure with $30,000 in the bank or $3,000,000, that money gives you a sense of control over your future.

Thirty nine percent of American workers are stressed out by too much work and not enough time, despite the fact that Americans have reduced the total number of hours they work in one year from 2,900 hrs. during the Civil War down to 1811 hrs. in 2015. So why do we feel so rushed?

Ashley Whillans, author of Time Smart, describes the problem as a time trap. Our sense of self-worth is so wrapped up in being productive that busyness and lack of leisure time have become a status symbol. People gain status by portraying themselves as a scarce resource through the conspicuous display of busyness and lack of leisure. Silicon Valley engineers power up in the morning with a double expresso and egg sandwich from Starbucks and eat lunch at their computers, too busy to stop work. This workaholic status syndrome explains why Americans left a record 768 million vacation days unused in 2018.

Another time trap to avoid is undervaluing our time. Despite increases in income worldwide, we are experiencing a rise of time scarcity. This time famine, feeling constantly pressed for time, reduces happiness. Millionaires in the Netherlands spend more time cleaning their houses, despite the fact they spend more time at work, than people who make less money and spend less time at work. So what’s the solution?

Here are 5 ways to increase your happiness by using your time and money wisely.

1) Use money to buy time. It can provide a buffer against your time famine, thereby promoting happiness. Working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase rather than on a material purchase. Having groceries delivered will provide more long-term satisfaction than buying a new pair of shoes. (Elton John’s platform shoe collection is the rare exception.)

“Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.” Groucho Marx

2) Put some money aside for emergencies. Having access to an emergency fund will provide you with peace of mind, regardless of your income level. Here’s where money can effectively lower your stress. Most financial experts recommend between 3 and 6 months of basic living expenses in your emergency fund. Three months if you have a salaried job, six months if you are a gig worker with less job security.

3) Take full advantage of your vacation days, paid or not. When you look back on your life, you won’t say to yourself, “I wish I’d spent those two weeks at work instead of taking that vacation in Tahiti.”

“Time well spent results in more money to spend, more money to save, and more time to vacation.” Zig Ziglar

4) Spend your leisure time on active, not passive, activities. Dancing, exercising, socializing, volunteering, sharing your time with family and friends is linked with improved mood and well-being. Binge watching 5 episodes of your favorite Netflix show (passive leisure) increases the risk of weight gain, diabetes, poor sleep and depression, especially if do so alone and compulsively.

5) Use money as a tool to provide you with freedom and control in your life. Millionaires reported more control over when they worked, their methods and their goals at work, which correlated with higher job satisfaction compared to the general population. Don’t let money become a corrosive influence on your relationships or trigger insatiable cravings for more: more possessions, more status or more power to fill the emptiness inside.

“People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.” Joan Rivers

Gary Gilberg is a certified retirement and life coach who helps successful professionals plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement. If you want to know the 4 most common retirement planning mistakes, click on this link.



Gary Gilberg

Gary Gilberg is a certified coach, writer and ski bum, not necessarily in that order. Sign up for his free newsletters at