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“The reason [money] makes you unhappy is because it basically raises the bar. […] I’m doing stuff that would make other peoples’ dreams come true, and for me it’s just baseline. […] Everything else is a letdown.”

~ Dan Bilzerian (estimated net worth of $150 million)

Money is a good thing to have. It affords many freedoms and perks. But the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness does not go far enough. Money can buy unhappiness if you let it.

Money is just like any tool in that it can be used for good or bad, for help or for harm. If used properly, money can absolutely increase your happiness. It generally does so by removing problems. For example, if you stress out about bills, having more money can help you relax by resolving those concerns. 

What we see so often, however, is that when people gain a surplus of money, they start spending it on “cheap” dopamine boosts. Food, alcohol, drugs, and all types of shopping will boost pleasure right now but have little (or negative) impact on your happiness in the long term.

Money Can Buy Unhappiness, So Defend Your Happiness Baseline 

The greatest risk that money poses to happiness is that it can increase your baseline as the Dan Bilzerian quote at the beginning said. Put in another way, it can actually change the source of your baseline. I think life appreciation is the proper base for happiness, but a sudden influx of money can tempt you to change it into a dopamine-based system. Those who are spoiled by the many good things money can buy might lose sight of the simple pleasures of life; they might disregard them altogether because they lack the more intense dopamine-based pleasure.

Regardless of one’s financial situation, I think it’s very important to retain the appreciation of a beautiful tree swaying in the wind, the sun on your skin, connection and conversation with others, a basic healthy meal, and of course, afternoon naps. The daily niceties of life are a reliable source of happiness because they don’t rely on (and warp) our dopamine systems.

Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. When one attempts to buy happiness with money, they always target their own dopamine system. Money can definitely buy pleasure. People may buy and do things that give them a dopamine high, and then continue to chase it higher and higher. This is a fruitless, never-ending chase because dopamine never satisfies. It’s designed to make us want more! So those who chase it higher end up exhausted and more unsatisfied than ever. Why? They expect increased satisfaction as they climb the dopamine ladder, but it never comes. The pleasures are greater, but the satisfaction stays the same or even decreases.

This phenomenon isn’t only applicable to those with a lot of money, it’s just more of a threat. Drugs and alcohol are dopamine vehicles attainable for most regardless of their financial status.

Defend your baseline by rooting yourself in simple appreciation for life and being aware of the futility of the dopamine chase. 

Two Ways Money Can Increase Happiness

A dopamine kick here or there isn’t too bad. It’s fun. But if you want a healthy long-term use for monetary surplus, here’s what I think.

Peace of Mind (Save or Invest It)

Peace of mind is, in my opinion, the second greatest benefit of money. One of the best ways to use extra money is to not spend it. Save it or invest it to give you a cushion in case of unexpected expenses. Simply having that extra sense of security is a big stress reliever!


The single greatest use for money is freedom. If you have enough money, you don’t have to answer to anyone. You can retire. You can work if you want. You can travel. Freedom is doing what you want with your life. 

I want to be careful though, because there are almost always ways to do what you want with your life even with limited financial resources, but it is certainly easier with more money. A lot of us don’t know what we truly want because we’re caught up in day-to-day living, so maybe ask yourself that first and then you’ll be able to figure out a way to get there, with or without money (unless, you know, it involves buying an island).

One way that I use money to buy freedom is meal delivery. I hate cooking but I want to eat healthy food. That’s a difficult situation, but I get several organic meals delivered to my door every week by They’re delicious, healthy, and ready to eat in 3 minutes. This frees up considerable time that I would spend cooking. (If I ever reach another level of financial success, I’ll likely hire a personal chef.) 


Money is a powerful tool in every person’s life. Wherever you are in your financial journey, I think it’s useful to consider the relationship money has with your happiness. For some, more money means indulging in dopaminergic fantasies—the desire to buy bigger and better lives. But I think the healthier perspective is simpler—save money for peace of mind and use it wisely to buy freedom in areas that matter to you.

While the biology of the dopamine chase is fact, the rest of this is simply my opinion. Your monetary choices are up to you, but I hope this at least gets you thinking and strategizing about how you want use your money now and in the future.

This page titled Money Can Buy Both Happiness and Unhappiness and more fantastic content can be found at this website. It was originally published on 2019-09-30 22:10:19.