Many people have seen Will Smith's movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” It is based on the true life story of businessman Chris Gardner, who was homeless for almost a year. Smith plays a single father trying to give his son Christopher and himself a normal, dignified life. One day, when he is offered an unpaid internship as a stockbroker, he accepts it, even though his resources are limited. He is now doing everything possible to improve his situation and to be able to offer his son a perspective for the future.

Smith's marriage and family life were particularly strained by his lack of money and his inability to pay rent and bills. He once even had to spend a night in jail because he couldn't pay a parking ticket. Like many people, money became important to him not because he had too much, but because he had too little. Therefore, he was very clear that the “pursuit of happiness” was inseparable from the pursuit of money.

Money makes me happy. Not because I can buy a nice car and an expensive watch, that's not really important to me. But because money means freedom to me. What does that mean specifically for me? Freedom initially means: only I decide if I work, when I work, where I work, who I work with, what I work and how I work. I don't need to work anymore, but I enjoy working. But I don't like a boss telling me what work to do. And I like to take my nap in the afternoon.

Expensive flights, fancy hotels

I like to travel a lot. And when I travel, I like to fly business class or first class and stay in first class hotels. In the last 20 months I have traveled to 30 countries on five continents and written a book about it: A Capitalist's World Tour.

And my passion is science: in recent years, for my studies, a prestigious opinion research institute has conducted surveys that have cost me around 650,000 euros. I didn't have anyone to give me the money. I was able to afford this because I had amassed a fortune as an entrepreneur and investor in less than 20 years.

All in all I say: money is not the most important thing, but it is very important because freedom is the most important thing to me. But not everyone sees it that way. Such an attitude is unusual in an intellectual. Even ancient philosophers used to make critical statements about wealth. Plato asked in his Politea: “Is not the difference between wealth and virtue that they are placed, as it were, on the balance of a scale, one of which rises while the other falls?”

Poetry condemns the pursuit of wealth.

Poets, singers and philosophers have repeatedly coined aphorisms that relativize the value of money and condemn the pursuit of wealth. “Having enough is happiness, having more than enough is disastrous. This is true of all things, but especially money,” said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

Pop singer Bob Dylan asked, “What does money mean?” A person is successful when he does what he likes between getting up and going to bed.” And Albert Einstein said: “Money only attracts self-interest and always tempts you irresistibly to abuse it.”

On the other hand, there have always been poets and philosophers who saw things completely differently. “A healthy person without money is half sick”: this phrase comes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And the Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza expressed his skepticism about people who talk too one-sidedly about the misuse of money and the vices of the rich: “The poor man who would like to be rich talks incessantly about the misuse of money and the vices. of the rich Rico, but with this he only gets angry and shows others how he is dissatisfied not only with his own poverty, but also with the wealth of others.

German philosopher Gertrude Stein said: “I was rich and I was poor. It is better to be rich.” And the writer Oscar Wilde, who always loved to provoke contradictions and reveal truths through exaggerated statements, wrote: “When I was little, I believed that money was the most important thing in life. Today, when I'm older, I know: it's true.”

The meaning of money is controversial.

“Money alone does not make you happy” or “It is better to be poor and healthy than rich and sick” are just two sayings that are used to dispute or relativize the importance of money for human happiness. This skepticism seems to have been confirmed by scientific studies. The two Nobel Prize winners in Economics, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, came to the conclusion that the relationship between higher income and greater happiness is true, but only up to a certain limit, that is, up to an annual income of $75,000. Anything beyond that no longer has a significant impact on a person's satisfaction because they have already become accustomed to a comfortable financial situation and only make minor adjustments to their lifestyle with each salary increase.

However, a more recent study published in the American journal PNAS reaches a completely different conclusion. American researchers led by Matthew A. Killingsworth found that both “experienced well-being” and “evaluative well-being” increased with income.

“Experienced well-being” was measured by evaluating 1.73 million reports from 33,391 Americans. They were contacted via their smartphone at different times and asked: “How do you feel now?” “Evaluative well-being” was measured with the question: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?”

The interesting result: the $75,000 limit claimed by Kahneman and Deaton did not exist. The connection between more money and greater happiness in life was clearly demonstrated for both incomes up to and above $80,000.

The study had some methodological advantages over older studies. In older studies, respondents could only answer the question about their happiness with “yes” or “no”, while in the current study a scale with different gradations was used. A big advantage was that the current emotional state was measured by making contact with the cell phone. In older studies, people were simply asked to remember how they felt. However, these memories are often distorted and strongly influenced by the current emotional state.

Does freedom make you happy?

If you understand money as “imprinted freedom” and rephrase the question “Does money make you happy?”, then the question is: “Does freedom make you happy?” Most people would probably answer yes to this question. See for yourself: if you don't work anymore tomorrow I'd have tobecause he had enough money and could decide for himself if he would work and what he would work for: would that increase his happiness in life?

Please make a list of all the worries you have had in the last three months. And then cross out all the worries that you wouldn't have had if you had, for example, 30 million euros. Worries about job security, rent increases, or expensive car repairs can be eliminated immediately.

Of course, health concerns persisted. But we know from scientific studies that the rich are, on average, healthier and have a significantly longer life expectancy than the poorest. Other concerns persisted, such as anguish. These concerns don't go away with more money, but at least as a rich person you have significantly better opportunities and options when choosing a partner than a poor person.

In her lecture on “Wealth in Germany,” scientist Dorothee Spannagel examined the question of what people care about. 23 percent of the total population was “very concerned” about their own health, but only 10 percent of high-income people were. 25 percent of the total population, but only 6 percent of the “rich” were “very concerned” about their own economic situation. And 54 percent of the “rich” were not worried about this at all, but only 27 percent of the total population said they were not worried about their own economic situation.

Of course, money alone doesn't make you happy and I've never met anyone who says that. Likewise, health or good sex alone do not make you happy. And yet this banality is only emphasized in the context of money. I have yet to find anyone who has taught us that “health alone does not make you happy.” Don't let anyone tell you that money isn't important. That's simply not true and basically everyone knows it.

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