Money Really Doesn’t Buy Happiness

Utah seems to always be in a state of construction. I’m not sure if it is because the state has the money do redo all the roads or if I just happened to move here when every road in the state needed repair, but needless to say, everywhere you go you will end up being stuck in construction in some form or another.

On my way to work, right off the freeway in a very well traveled area there is construction being done. I think they are putting new piping down under the road but that’s beside the point. They have the road down to a single lane, one way, and have to stop each direction of traffic in intervals to let the other direction get through. This road is the quickest way from the freeway to most of the businesses in that area of the city so within minutes of traffic being stopped, there is always a line of at least ten cars at the construction zone.

Everyone hates construction. It can completely ruin your day if you let it and I notice many people either turning around when they hit this construction off the freeway, or flashing rude expressions at the construction workers holding the SLOW/ STOP signs.

I know this construction is there. I come this way every single day to get to work, and have done so for a couple years now. I know there is another way for me to get to work and if I actually wanted to, I could avoid the construction completely, but I like my routine, construction aside, and take the same road in to work every day. I think things like this help exercise my patience which is a tool I don’t want to get rusty.

Recently though, something at the construction zone has changed. A new construction worker has been assigned to hold the STOP/SLOW sign at the beginning of the construction. The odd thing about this is that this woman, who everyone is glaring at for making them late for work, smiles and waves at every driver that comes by…

I can only imagine what this woman’s life is like…

*cut scene to hazy flashback*

She is in her late thirties or early forties. She is done having kids and her husband lost his job due to the recession. She has no choice but to go back to work just so they can keep their tiny home in the bad neighborhood. She goes home each night, late, sore from head to toe, her face red and leathery from the suns harsh rays beating down on it all day. Her husband is plopped in front of the TV with a beer and doesn’t notice her come in but is expecting dinner as soon as she steps into the house. She thinks back on her life and wishes she had gone to college or read more personal finance blogs…and she begins to sob uncontrollably…

*cut back to real life*

OK, I don’t actually know this women, nor do I know why she is working but I do know that even though it’s early and no one is happy that she is holding a sign telling them to STOP, she is happy and shows it to everyone. When you see that woman’s rugged smile, waving  wildly as if you are an old friend, the anger and frustration at the construction just melts away.

This experience every morning only concretes the theory that money does not buy happiness and that you, and you alone need to choose to be happy whatever your situation may be.

Image by ericmerrill

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16 People have left comments on this post

» Jeff sustainlifeblogNo Gravatar said: { Sep 30, 2010 - 11:09:37 }

I usually wave at these guys. They make good money, but have a really hard job.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

I work at a construction company technically (doing their IT support), so when I'm in my work vehicle I wave at them because many of them work at the same company or a leg of it. When I'm in my car, I'm actually intimidated by them, funny how something so small can really change the way you feel and act.

» [email protected]No Gravatar said: { Sep 30, 2010 - 01:09:08 }

Nice story. The women I know who hold this position like the high pay they receive. You could be perfectly right about the reasons. A very dangerous and as you said, uncomfortable job. That makes her smile all the more encouraging.
My recent post Room for Rent

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

It really is encouraging. I didn't realize people doing this were paid very well.

» ctreitNo Gravatar said: { Sep 30, 2010 - 05:09:10 }

There are plenty of people with a low income who are very happy and there are also plenty of people with high incomes who are very unhappy. We just summarized a fairly recent article written on the subject in our latest blog post

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

It really is difficult to quantify happiness as it means something different to everyone. 75k is such an odd number to claim to be the magic number of happiness.

» Matthew RogersNo Gravatar said: { Oct 4, 2010 - 08:10:53 }

Its so true that we must not forget how money doesn't buy happiness. I have some experience with working with Mexican immigrants and their schedule's are horrid by an American's standard [60 hrs a week @ 10$ per hour] but the truth is that many are very happy because this is much better than their lives back in Mexico. So much of happiness is dependent upon perspective and perspective alone.
My recent post The Unknowns

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

That's a great point Matthew, perspective is key.

» SquirrelersNo Gravatar said: { Oct 4, 2010 - 06:10:52 }

Lack of money doesn't automatically equate to unhappiness. Conversely, having money doesn't always equate to happiness. We can always choose our attitude to the situation we are in. Sometimes it's easier to do so than it is at other times, but it's something I always try to keep in mind.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

That is exactly what this woman proves. Like I stated in the post, I have no idea what this womans life is like, but she chooses to express happiness at least outwardly and that makes all the difference for those around her.

Thanks for stopping by my furry friend 🙂

» EvanNo Gravatar said: { Oct 5, 2010 - 02:10:48 }

Want to find out if money buys happiness go ask the construction worker if she'd be happy with another 25K? I have an alternative theory:

My recent post The World’s Biggest Corporations that I Never Heard of

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

I'm sure she would say yes, but when she got it, if you went back and asked her the same question, she would say yes again..

Conversely, if you gave someone 1Million to make them happy, and went back, I suspect they wouldn't be so quick to say yes. That much money can bring a lot of pain and suffering, just ask trailer trash lotto winners after all their friends try to rob them and all their relatives think he or she owes them 🙂

» FredNo Gravatar said: { Oct 6, 2010 - 10:10:37 }

Though money can't buy happiness, but it certainly helps to buy the means of living and the means of comfort. It is not just the story of a single woman, it could be same with many of them.
Fred from Settle Debt

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

You are probably much closer to the truth that my story of this single woman, money effects all of us and can do a lot of good out there.

» New Braunfels PaintersNo Gravatar said: { Jun 4, 2012 - 08:06:51 }

I think money can buy temporary happiness but it never lasts. I hope the lady you referenced in your article continues to be happy doing a job that she seems to love. People that can be happy with only the necessities of life are the best kind of people to have as friends or family members. Their happiness is contagious and it will most definitely rub off on you.

» San Antonio SidingNo Gravatar said: { Jul 3, 2012 - 10:07:00 }

I love working as a contractor. It may not be the most glamorous position, but I sure do enjoy it. My skills are all put to use in my position.

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