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3. Which is more important: financial success or personal happiness?fridayfiver

I'm going to go against the grain here and say Financial Success* is more important than Personal Happiness, at this point in my life. What can I say? This question caught me at time when I'm willing to sacrifice personal happiness to build wealth. Ask me again in 30 years and the answer might be different =)

It's a matter of 先苦後甜; "bitter first; sweet later".

In the grand scheme of things, choosing one over the other is not really the point. It's more important to not let either of them take a disproportional precedence over the other. Ideally, over the long term you'd want both to increase in tandem, but there will be times when one of them needs to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

Financial success without personal happiness is miserable. People I trust tell me it's true, but I've never known this kind of misery. I'd always thought that if money weren't a concern, I would damned well find it in myself to be happy.

Personal happiness without some degree of financial success/independence is not possible for me. It may work for others, but not me. I'd go stark raving bananas before long if I weren't financially independent or at least on my way towards it. In that way, my happiness is tied to my financial success.

* I define "financial success" as financial independence which is to be self-sufficient in being able to meet basic needs: clothing, shelter, food, health, even though those needs can be met without the exchange of funds. For me, it has very little to do with the actual numbers in anyone's bank account or cashflow. However someone else decides is best for them to meet their basic needs, and beyond, is not really for me to judge.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2004 04:52 pm (UTC)
At this point in my life and after the past year of going on and on about relationships and looking for "the one", I agree with you 100%. Yes, personal happiness is indeed not possible for me without some level of financial success/independence either. I have let personal happiness take an abnormally large precedence in my life in the past and through much meditation and understanding have I reached the point where I am in understanding of the balance I was dearly lacking. Don't get me wrong I still want to have someone in my life, but until that happens I will be content in my independence/financial success and the hope that someone is out there for me.

I do love your posts! *Wink*
Jul. 9th, 2004 05:12 pm (UTC)
*bow* And I'm sure there is someone out there for you. =)
Jul. 9th, 2004 06:36 pm (UTC)
I agree, for much the same reasons. A big factor in my readiness for marriage, which I've been working on for a while, was financial independence (I'm a sole parents returning to the workforce). I had no clue how critical getting a job was to my readiness until I got one. Suddenly the marriage-readiness (that I'd thought was a couple of years off) all fell into place.

I wouldn't say I'd put financial success ahead of personal happiness, per se, but it's definitely an essential component. It's very hard to be happy when you don't feel secure in your living arrangements and the meeting of your needs and reasonable wants.
Jul. 9th, 2004 05:15 pm (UTC)

Balance is always best.
Jul. 9th, 2004 08:53 pm (UTC)
I never believed in "bitter/hardship first," as the examples around me when I was coming of age were of people who never got to "sweet/comfort later." Now... would I trade with my friends who're 50-ish retired millionaires - or dot-com successes? Ehh, probably, honestly.

I've rung all the possible changes on financial/personal - spent my 20s on Wall Street miserable and well-off (when you work 10 am-2 am six days a week, unless you *love* what you do - and I most certainly didn't - kiss personal happiness - and relationships - byebye). Struck an acceptable balance for a number of years, but the changing nature of the legal profession foreclosed that option.

Faced with the choice, and the strong encouragement of my bride-to-be, chose personal happiness over financial security. A very hard 4 years ensued, but our relationship was stronger for it (there was a direct correlation between my billable legal hours and my level of nastiness/misery), and we've just reached a place of nose-above-water.

Were I to do it all again... I'd chose a more creative, less lucrative, but somewhat stable, career path, one that enabled my writing twenty years earlier. The path of "professional" was simply wrong for me, a thing I could have only learned the hard way. Now, I have a good, interesting, low-stress job, a solid marriage, and time and energy to write. Financial success, no. Financial appropriateness - a borderline yes with a strong upward trend. Personal happiness? My worst day now was better than my best day as a lawyer - but there were some truly awful work days between here and there.

I do completely understand your perspective, though - the past four years had a *lot* of "stark, raving bananas." Having known the other side, I found it a price worth paying.

A most interesting discussion!
Jul. 9th, 2004 09:27 pm (UTC)
I never believed in "bitter/hardship first," as the examples around me when I was coming of age were of people who never got to "sweet/comfort later."

I guess it's something I believe in, but don't count on. Kinda like miracles. =)

when you work 10 am-2 am six days a week, unless you *love* what you do

You had a day off?!?! Hehehe, yeah, I remember those days. When you're leaving work with all your co-workers at some unholy hour on a Sunday morning and your parting is, "see you tomor--, I mean, later", it's pretty sad. But, I wasn't making much then either, so that made it easier to leave.
Jul. 9th, 2004 09:33 pm (UTC)
I guess it's something I believe in, but don't count on. Kinda like miracles. =)

*nod* The evidence is ambiguous - so all you can do is choose a conclusion in accordance with your nature. Ants to the left, grasshoppers to the right! :P

When you're leaving work with all your co-workers at some unholy hour on a Sunday morning and your parting is, "see you tomor--, I mean, later", it's pretty sad.

Yep, you remember the drill! In an enjoyable cause, that can be a terrific rush. Otherwise, the novelty value is strictly limited - :P
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2004 10:13 am (UTC)
I think it is definitely a cultural thing. When I was little, my parents always made an example out of panhandlers, whenever we walked by one or saw someone who looked "down and out". They'd never proclaim it loudly or do anything to deliberately insult the person. Usually, they didn't say anything until we got home. And it was never in the sense that "we're better than them, period". It was "that's an example of what you _don't_ want to become" and "you need to do well in school if you want a better life".

nearly-broke-but-we've-got-each-other people

We've been there. My parents came to Canada almost 30 years ago with literally a few changes of clothes, a few personal belongings and a baby girl. We were okay, but I was always encouraged to do better for myself in the future.

And I could see it in our lives too. Their marriage was happier when my Dad got his first real career-track job and it also got better when my Mom also got a job. We were happier when they bought their first house and didn't have to live in the basement suite.

We sacrificed the smiling, excitment, in-the-moment "happy" for the long term, secure, stable "happy". Holidays were just like weekends or any other time off. We didn't go on family vacations. We ate out sometimes, but rarely. None of our birthdays were really celebrated, it was just a verbal "Happy Birthday" on the day. We didn't do gift exchanges with all the trimmings; if I ever got a gift, it was never wrapped and never came with a card. I remember being ecstatic over getting a brand new Pink Pearl eraser, no packaging, nothing, just a little eraser handed to me one afternoon when I came home from school. I didn't get new clothes or toys often. I was always encouraged to borrow books from the library instead of buying them.

They made sure to show me and tell me at every opportunity that money does help make things better. Money can't buy happiness, but it can take care of a lot of things so that you can BE happiER more easily. You can buy things to make your life easier and people respect you if you have money. No, that's not absolute and there are many things that have to go along with the money to command respect, but generally, I don't think anyone can deny that it's true.

And that would be why I'm more willing to give up personal happiness for financial success.

I just can't see the point of working so hard for the sake of being "financially stable".

For me, "financially stable" is a part of my dignity and personal image. It's like personal hygiene. I can't imagine being in public any other way. But I don't look down on someone who isn't as well off as I. There can be many different valid reasons for not being able to make ends meet. Likewise, if someone is stinky and sweaty it could be that they were exercising =)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC)
Heh, it's hard to pack your entire life and background into a short(ish) journal entry =) There's always context missing and people will fill in the gaps their own ways. But that's what makes the conversation so interesting =)
Jul. 10th, 2004 03:14 pm (UTC)
I am a bit older than you and based on the many years of my life's experiences,

My experiences: being homeless, having only Kraft macaroni & cheese and chocolate chip cookies to eat for about 5 days, not being able to go to the doctor when sick, having custody of a child taken away because of no money to hire an attorney (not because we were unfit), etc.

my personal happiness and my financial success are interdependent. As long as I am working at something I love and am totally absorbed in anyway, there is no need to choose one over the other. When we, my husband and I, have work solely for money our personal life suffered as a result. He has worked at jobs that were hell on earth and stayed for the paycheck. The unhappiness at work came home every evening at times causing arguments because of being so unhappy. Now we are both working long hours doing what we both love, a mutually shared love, and the rewards add to our personal happiness. I think the thing is to use wisdom and intergrate the loves of your personal life into your professional life.

You are so blessed to have parents teach you such wisdom and common sense. My grandparents were my parents and they did not have the ability to teach me as you were taught. And no love was not and is not enough.
Jul. 10th, 2004 07:42 pm (UTC)
I do realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have what my parents have taught me.

I think the thing is to use wisdom and intergrate the loves of your personal life into your professional life.

I completely agree. =)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 11th, 2004 10:04 am (UTC)
Yes, it was important to have a big production wedding. And not because _I_ wanted it. It was something that we had to do.

If I had a choice, I would have exchanged vows in a little courtyard or garden with immediate family present (8 people, all told) and that's it.

I saw my wedding was something that wasn't exactly what I wanted, but something I had to do. But it's not something I regret; I still am very happy with my wedding. It was an obligation, minus the negative connotations of that word... I just can't think of the word that means exactly what I want =)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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