I Visited the Happiest Country in the World, Here’s what I Learned about Money
As Denmark is the happiest country in the world, I visited Copenhagen to learn why. My interviews with dozens of people triangulated around a surprising theme.
People in Denmark aren’t happy as much as they are free from financial insecurity.
Once I landed I began annoying everyone with questions about happiness. Why is Denmark the happiest country, I asked my taxi driver. He paused, “No one has to worry about being out on the street.”
Freedom from financial worry was a common theme. A law student told me, “No one in Denmark expects to get rich. Taxes are high and this is a hard country to get rich in. Yet school is free, healthcare is free, no one worries about being destitute.”
Yet another Copenhagen local told me, “When you ask me if I’m happy, I think, ‘Sure. I am OK. But I don’t feel happier than others.’” His friend even suggested Denmark was not the happiest country in the world. “Our winters are miserable.”
One can’t separate happiness from money, even in a socialist country like Denmark. Money can buy happiness, or at least it can buy you out from the ransomer known as unhappiness.
Money is everything when you have none.
Money is nothing when you have all.
“Money can’t buy happiness,” is what they all say. A short sentence contains deep agreed upon assumptions. Money is tossed about as if it means something, when what we really mean is enough money. And what in the world is happiness?
People who earn a fortune, live comfortable lives, and then get all deep about money need to shut up. When your baseline human needs are met, it’s easy to overlook the value of money.
People who sleep on the street are less happy than people who sleep on a bed. People who can afford to pay their bills with something left over are happier than those who stress out when balancing the check book each month. People who can afford quality medical care and have health insurance are happier than those wondering if their recent health crisis will bankrupt them.
Going from broke to “pay bills with something left over” offers an immense boost in happiness.
Going from “paying bills with something left over” to “having enough money to retire to Thailand” offers a marginal increase in happiness, and that’s if you’re lucky.
How much money is enough money?
Ask 10 people to define “rich” or “enough money” and you will get 11 answers. In the first book that got me thinking about wealth, the Millionaire Next Door, the authors defined being rich or having enough savings to sustain your current standard of living for 10 years without working.
The brilliance of the definition is that it recognizes our relationship with money is relative. Some people “need” more money and some people need less. My standard of living is far lower than that of many of my friend’s. I own no house or car or suit or watch. Others own expensive status-signaling goods. To each his own needs.
My definition of rich also recognizes the relational nature with money.
- “I have enough money saved up that I’ll never have to work a job I don’t want to work. But I still must work.”
That definition comes from Warren Buffett, who was asked how much money rich people should put in their kid’s trust funds. It’s a folksy and workable definition.
People who want to argue could nit-pick it. What does that mean? Does it really mean you could work a minimum wage job?
Once upon a time I wanted to focus on trivial details (ore guess how much money another person has or makes), but now-a-days go for the concepts.
What is happiness?
Our society has an incorrect understanding of happiness. When people are not gleeful or jumping from walls, they convince themselves they are unhappy. Wrong. Happiness is a spectrum of emotions.
- “Happiness, gladness or joy is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
My highs tend to be lower than most, as I rarely get excited. A feeling will move through my body, I’ll smirk briefly, and then the happiness “buzz” is gone.
Yet my day-to-day levels of satisfaction and contentment are high.
Unless you overstep lines, it’s hard to get me upset. Even though I choose to avoid being around negative people or situations rather than allow them to lower my levels of happiness.
The two primary causes of unhappiness.
Status and scarcity.
An abundant man looks at his life, pauses, and feels a quiet sense of self-possession, “I am enough. I have enough.”
Those with a scarcity mindset will never have enough. There is always someone with more money, more exotic watches, and a hotter wife and mistress.
A scarcity mindset is tied directly to status. Status is slavery.
Who is alpha? Who is beta?
Others can debate this stuff all day, but not me.
I don’t even care about the alpha beta bullshit. Be happy and don’t be a cuck. The rest is details. https://t.co/AoXPOolWxr
— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) October 1, 2015
Whatever makes you angry makes you unhappy.
If happiness is a pleasant feeling, then unhappiness is a departure from this feeling. Oftentimes men are unhappy because we are angry or frustrated. What makes men angry?
Anger occurs when the world does not behave according to your ego, expectations, and entitlement.
- You get angry when people don’t agree with you.
- You get angry when women reject you.
- You get angry when your body ages, skin sags, and wrinkles form.
- You get angry when you’re disrespected.
- You get angry when you don’t get your way.
Will more money prevent you from getting angry? If you think the answer is yes, then answer this question: How much money do you need to eliminate anger from your life?
Even if you’re surrounded by yes-men, someone on the Internet will tell you you’re wrong. The news media will give you something to disagree with. Not every woman can be bought. You’re getting older, young street thugs will knock you out for sport, and life has a way of stopping us from getting our way.
Happiness management is anger management. Unless you learn to control your anger, which means learning how to control your thoughts and emotions, no amount of money will make you happy.
Will money make you happy?
(My personal story.)
I didn’t have much growing up. My parents were on welfare at one time. We never took a vacation as our car wouldn’t make it far without stalling out by the side of the road. My dad worked factory jobs. When a factory closed that meant hard times for everyone.
Today I travel the world and post pictures to my Instagram account. I lived in Paris for three months, because why not? If I wake up wanting to travel to Switzerland on a whim, the tickets get booked. If I want something, I buy it. I don’t have to “save up” for anything.
I’m rich today, but was I ever poor?
Traveling to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia has given me perspective.
- I lived in a house.
- It had a flush toilet.
- And a large back yard.
- My public school teachers were decent women who cared.
- Street kids didn’t huff paint to distract themselves from hunger.
- Perverts and pimps weren’t hiding in alleys.
- Children weren’t sold into sexual slavery.
When you’re mindless, you look at what others have. You compare yourself to them. If you have less than everyone else, you are poor.
A mindful man takes inventory of his life and expresses gratitude for all that he has and is.
Most people I know are all richer than I am.
Nearly every person close to me has more money than I have. Yet I’m one of the happiest people you’ll meet. Again, I don’t jump up and down like an excited child (maybe I should).
And because I’m introverted, people are constantly concerned with my level of happiness. “Mike isn’t saying anything. He must be so sad!”
You’ll almost never catch me on an “off” day, as I’m usually blissfully lost in my head with my thoughts.
Money clearly isn’t the answer. What is?
When you’re mindful, you stop comparing yourself to others. You change your focus.
Instead of asking what others have, you look at what you have.
What is my secret to happiness?
(Hint: Mindset is focus.)
If you asked my single most important happiness tip, I’d know right away what to tell you. Avoid all advertisements. Unplug the television. Install adblock. Do not read magazines.
The advertising industry is a scarcity industry. They send you a message of fear and inadequacy. In many ways they directly attack men.
While I am mentally strong enough to resist advertisements, I avoid television, magazines, and celebrity glorification sites.
Energy you spend fighting off negative messaging is energy you cannot use to advance your life.
Money buys happiness because it buys control.
To mentally break a person, you take away all of his control. Torturers know this. They wake up their victims at irregular periods. They make their victims linger, wondering when they will be attacked next.
You cannot be happy if you lack control over your life and a lack of money means a loss of control. When you have no money, you lack self-direction. One job loss or health crisis puts you on the street.
Money can buy happiness by giving you control over your basic human needs. Like our friends in Denmark, you need freedom from financial anxiety.
Once you have enough money to pay your bills with something left over, earning more money won’t move your happiness needle.
To control your life, you need to control yourself. This means mastering your thoughts and emotions, which is what you’ll learn to do in Gorilla Mindset.
Originally published at www.dangerandplay.com on October 4, 2015.