While money can’t buy happiness, debt can certainly have the opposite effect: stress and sadness. A recent survey from Sun Life Financial shows that, although Canadians consider themselves to generally by happy, the state of their finances is causing them some grief.
According to the Sun Life Canadian Health Index, even though 85 per cent of respondents described themselves as “happy”, when it came to their money matters:
- Forty-five per cent of Canadians indicate that their debt loads are making them unhappy
- Thirty-nine per cent are unhappy with the amount of money that they make and 41 per cent are unhappy with the amount of money that they have to spend (disposable income)
- Forty per cent said that their finances in general troubled them
- But when it came to identifying what made them happy, money was nowhere in sight. Children, spouse/family, friends, home and lifestyle were all among the top answers
It doesn’t take a psychologist or an economist to connect the dots between emotions and money management. Living simply will not only keep your debt load manageable, it will probably provide you with greater happiness over time as well.
“There is a reason that the pearl of money wisdom ‘money can’t buy happiness’ has endured for so many generations: it is true,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“While a new purchase may make you feel a rush of joy in the moment, that joy quickly turns into anxiety and worry when the bills arrive. What’s even more worrisome is when you continue to spend beyond your means in search of that moment of happiness, the debt cycle gets deeper and that stress increases,” says Schwartz.
So, the lesson is, in the search for happiness, money should be removed from the equation.
Take charge of debts
When it comes to your money, you can’t do a whole lot about your income (unless you have options to quit and secure a higher-paying job). But barring that, you can choose your own path to happiness by taking control of your debt load. Draw up a budget that includes an aggressive plan to pay down existing debt as well as money for savings and spending-so that you don’t rack the debt back up again.
Part of feeling the stress of debt is letting yourself feel like the debt is actually in control of your life- when the opposite is true.
Take inventory of your life
What is it in your life that makes you happy? Is it friends and family? A cause you are passionate about? A hobby that you enjoy?
While money may be involved in some respect to this happiness, it’s not where the happiness comes from. It’s derived from the experiences you have, the memories that you create and the relationships that you hold dear.
Remind yourself on a regular basis of what it is that makes you happy.
Change your perspective
If you are accustomed to heading to the mall for a little retail therapy when you are in need of a pick-me-up, try to find alternatives that are free (or at least less costly). Visit with friends and family, go for a walk or do something else that is active. Break the association with feeling good and spending money.
You are not what you own (or what you owe)
While money (and debt) plays a part in our lives, they don’t define you as a person. You’re not about having all the newest toys or a closet full of new clothes. Neither are you about your bills. Getting back to basics will remind you of who you are and why you matter to your loved ones.
Is your debt load causing you stress? Are you unhappy with the way that your money troubles run your life? You can change the direction of your debt cycle by taking charge today. Call one of our trained credit counsellors at or visit our free online debt analysis.