Studies show that those who are financially secure are happier. You don’t need to be a multimillionaire to be financially secure. Financial security has certain benefits. In the first place you sleep better at night knowing your needs are taken care of. Moreover, those who are financial independent have a degree of agency (or freedom) to choose how they want to live their lives instead of being told by their employer what to do with the large majority of their day. As you’ll recall from the post about the factors that determine happiness, having a sense of agency is one of the determining factors.
The healthier part is not immediately obvious. Why does financial independence equate to healthy? Answer: it doesn’t. You can a mindless consumer and be very healthy just as you can be a mindful consumer and very unhealthy.
In the book, I mention a study that was carried out that showed how secretaries ate more candy when the candy jar was placed on top of the desk rather than in a drawer or across the room from them. The findings are solid and you can bet on that happening in all sorts of contexts. I further predict in the book that you can probably replicate these findings in your home by placing fruits and veggies on your kitchen counter instead of chips and sweets. Your whole family is likely to make healthier food choices without thinking about it. By optimizing the home for healthier options, you made it easy to eat healthy instead of unhealthy.
In a very real sense, this book is entirely about optimizing the conditions for successful and healthy living. Sure you can still live an unhealthy life but chances are much better for a healthy lifestyle. For example, in the current environment, most people find themselves tied to a desk from 8-5 M-F for decades on end often in addition to rush hour traffic to and from work. Becoming financially independent means you can free yourself from such a confining and unhealthy lifestyle. No, healthy living does not automatically follow but it sure makes it more likely.
This goes without saying. Read any of the popular books about how to become wealthy and you’ll find that you can distill it down into basically 2 principles: 1. Live well within your means and 2. Invest the rest. I say exactly that except that by incorporating the philosophy (derived from the science of wellbeing) that the best things in life are free you’ll have a great deal more to invest than the typical financial advisor would even think possible. Not only will you be affluent financially but you’ll also have affluence of time.
I often hear the comment that Elon Musk or Bill Gates or some other accomplished person must be a genius. Perhaps its true. That said, I think a lot of people may be surprised to learn that they themselves may be a genius but never had the chance to explore that side of themselves. The problem for most people is that they are so busy with the work in front of them that they never get the chance to lift their head up to view things from a different vantage point. Financial independence enables one to do so. That engagement and the benefit that follows from it may be at work, at home, or in their community.
When you have the time to care for all your bodies needs: exercise, consume home cooked nourishing meals, and good restful sleep – then you have some of the prerequisites for a happy life. Add in a healthy dose of social engagement and you’ll be a “happiness superstar”. Listen to the writings of the late Professor Ed Diener (of the University of Illinois) who many consider to have been the world’s leading expert on happiness:
We know that happiness is an essential part of functioning well, and that it gives a boost in well-being not only to individuals, but also those around them, their communities, and their societies, … Happiness… helps us perform better at work; and it builds up our resilience, which enables us to bounce back after setbacks and/or when bad events occur in our lives.
The happier we are, the better we are for our friends and family, our workplaces, our communities, and our society as a whole… The happiest people are superstars of giving support to others, which makes everyone perform better.”
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
- As John Maynard Keynes said a century ago, people of our time ought to be largely independent of our employers for our income – unfortunately, due to “mindless consumerism”, we are not.
- Mindless consumerism is the underlying reason leading to the rise of chronic disease for several reasons:
- A. It ties us to dependence on our employers. Unfortunately, modern day employment is a health hazard for most (in part due to the sedentary nature of most jobs).
- B. Overconsumption has lead us to engineer out the need for meaningful use of our legs for ambulation.
- C. It has led to environmental changes toxic to our wellbeing. We evolved in and are best suited to natural environments and instead we live in increasingly artificial environments.
- D. Finally, it transforms works to work with blinders on – instead of working for the product or service and receiving money as a side effect, workers focus on making money and the product or service is instead the side effect. The results (with respect to health) is that “food” is no longer food but changed to maximize pleasure and extract profit in spite of the toxicity to health.
- Based on the science of wellbeing one can derive the philosophy that once basic needs are met, “The best things in life are free” therefore —>
- Most people can live far below their means without sacrificing happiness AND by investing the rest, they can become financially independent of their employers enabling them to be —>
- Happier. Healthier. Wealthier. More engaged. Simply better.