Buying Happiness, Part 2: Money Is Time!

Brewster'sIn the 1985 comedy film Brewster’s Millions Monty Brewster (Richard Prior) discovers that his deceased great uncle, Rupert Horn, has left him his entire fortune but with several conditions. Brewster can either take $1 million up front, or spend $30 million within 30 days to inherit $300 million. But, if he chooses the latter, after 30 days, he may not own any assets that are not already his, and he must get value for the services of anyone he hires. He may donate only 5% to charity and lose 5% by gambling, and he may not waste the money by purchasing and destroying valuable items. Which would you choose?

Now, what if I told you that your very own great-uncle had recently passed away and left you an investment that will pay you $200 a month for the next 10 years. However, your great-uncle happened to be a huge fan of mediocre 80’s comedy movies, so he has required you to adhere to several rules in order to receive the monthly payment: You can’t invest the money, you can’t give it away (although this actually may buy happiness – more on this in the coming weeks) and you can’t use the funds to buy an asset. How would you spend the money?

What if you used your newly discovered wealth to remove something from your day or week that inhibits your happiness? What task or chore do you really not enjoy or have time for? Crystal and I would use our $200 to pay someone to clean our house. With our busy lives, we end up scrubbing the bathtub at 9 at night when we would much rather be spending time together or with friends and family.

It’s not just an excuse to not clean the tub. In their book “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending”, researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton look at the relationship between money and happiness. Their research shows while the happiness associated with buying “things” is often fleeting, spending money on experiences and services that create the opportunity to be with family and friends or volunteer to help others can actually increase our overall level of happiness.

Spoiler alert: Brewster ends up spending the required $30 million to inherit his great uncle’s $300 million fortune but it turns out to be more challenging, and mildly comedic, than you might imagine. Most of us will never face the task of spending $30 million is 30 days but what about $200 in one month? How could you spend a little bit of money to remove something you don’t enjoy or to buy more time during your day or week to do the things that truly bring you happiness? We’d love to hear your answers.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about working with us.

Stay tuned next week for Part 3 of Buying Happiness!


Geoff Hall, CFP®
[email protected]

My wife, Crystal, and I have been married for 11 years and have two kids, Cooper (10) and Rhodes (8.) When I’m not spending time with them you might find me downtown serving at our church, pushing my limits during a mountain bike ride or having coffee with a friend in the Five Points area. I've been a financial advisor for 29 years and I'm thankful for the privilege of shepherding my family of clients through the ups and down of the markets, and of life for that matter.