Money can’t buy happiness — How it feels to earn over $20,000 per month and does money make you happy?
Mo Money Mo Problems! Money makes many things in life easier, but does money make you happy?
Some time ago I stumbled across the question: “How does it feel to earn 10,000 EUR per month?” on the German Quora website. This gave me a good opportunity to share my experience as an online entrepreneur and in particular to address the question: “Does money make you happy?”. I was very surprised when I saw that my answer on Quora generated over 30,000 views and received very good feedback within just a few months.
This showed me how many people are interested in the topic. Especially at a time when the gap between rich and poor seems to be drifting further apart. Money can make life easier, but money can’t buy happiness and is certainly not what it is worth living for. In this post, I would like to share my experiences with a high income as an online entrepreneur in more detail and in particular get to the bottom of the question of whether money makes you happy.
From solopreneur to running a global online business
It was in the year 2012 and I was extremely dissatisfied with my job at a bank, when by coincidence I discovered how much money you can make with WordPress themes. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that can be used to run websites (about 40% of all websites run on WordPress). At that point, I already had experience with WordPress, having run online magazines within several niches like beauty, health, gaming and more. I started to learn how to develop WordPress themes (templates) and slowly but surely managed to acquire the necessary PHP skills.
After diving into dozens of tutorials on web development, experimenting with code for a few weeks and investing over 300 hours, the basic version of my first commercial WordPress theme was ready. It was the birth of the MH Magazine theme and the WordPress theme provider MH Themes. I started selling my WordPress theme on various marketplaces for digital products and its own website. The business was profitable from the first month and I quit my job to focus on my online business. In the following years I’ve released numerous product updates, developed new WordPress themes and gathered experiences with lots of ups and downs.
Since I already had in-depth SEO knowledge and experience in online marketing, it was relatively easy for me to scale the project and steadily increase sales. Over the years, the business became a leading provider of magazine WordPress themes, with more than 25,000 customers in over 110 countries worldwide (e.g. Forbes Brasil, NYPD, Imgur, Femen, and many more). Developing and marketing digital products, especially as a solopreneur, has a key advantage in the profit margin of >90%. Such a high margin obviously is highly attractive if you manage to scale the business properly.
My income while running the WordPress theme business came mainly from product sales on the MH Themes website and various marketplaces, as well as additional services (support, custom coding, etc.). After an initial startup phase, I earned between $25,000–30,000 USD per month over a long period of time. In 2019 I sold my business to spend more time with my family, I’ll get into that later. But first let’s get into how it feels to make more than $20,000 per month.
How it feels to make more than $20,000 per month
A monthly income in the order of $20,000 USD or more primarily provides security and peace of mind. Most of the problems of daily life can be solved with this amount of monthly income. For the most part, you can live a carefree life, because you don’t have to worry about money. In addition, you can buy almost anything you want and enjoy the pleasures of life, such as good food and nice vacations in exclusive destinations.
BUT and now comes the crucial part, even a monthly income of over $20,000 USD does not necessarily make you happier. Very few people get such an income for free and the price you have to pay for it can be relatively high. Although someone who earns less will not necessarily be able to understand this at first, it is the case for many successful entrepreneurs. Financial success as an entrepreneur, definitely comes at a cost.
In my case, the high income of more than $20,000 USD per month meant working 10–14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for several years. My online business also had customers all over the world, across all continents and time zones. This in turn means that sales, support requests, as well as collaboration requests come in at all hours of the day and night, and one’s to-do list grows and grows. This creates a certain amount of pressure, especially since as an entrepreneur you normally also have the ambition to constantly increase your sales and further scale the business.
As a solopreneur, you also bear sole responsibility for all processes and business aspects. You basically take care of everything yourself. That means you are responsible for strategy planning, product development, marketing, customer support and correspondence, in addition to the other tasks to keep the business running (taxes, legal matters, bureaucracy, etc…). This is a lot of work and burnout is unfortunately inevitable in the long run. As an entrepreneur, you can of course hire additional employees, but I didn’t want that at the time for various reasons.
The bottom line was that life revolved around work around the clock. There was hardly any time to actually enjoy life, despite the financial success of the business. In addition, the added value of money also decreases as income increases. In the long run, it doesn’t make that much difference whether you earn $20,000 or $100,000 per month. The benefit of money decreases and money alone no longer provides joy and feelings of happiness.
Personally, my priorities also shifted at some point, especially when I became a father. Suddenly you realize that there are more important things in life. You should enjoy life and the time you have, as long as you are healthy and have the opportunity to do so. This insight ultimately led me to the decision to sell my very profitable online business. This decision was surprisingly easy for me, despite the healthy business and its financial success.
I voluntarily gave up my monthly income of over $20,000 USD.
Nowadays I have regular working hours, enough time for family, sports and hobbies and I feel much better as a result. I am much happier, and the financial security is also still there, because during the years as a solopreneur I always invested my money wisely and did not throw it out the window. Today, my investments, in addition to my regular income, yield enough to live a carefree life. This time, however, under different and much more livable conditions.
Is it worth becoming an entrepreneur to start a business?
My experience as an online entrepreneur, however, does not mean that it is not worthwhile to start a business. On the contrary! Especially at a young age, I would absolutely advocate stepping on the gas professionally. I can only encourage every founder with a good idea to take this path in order to not have to lead a life in a hamster wheel determined by others. While money can’t buy happiness, running your own business can be rewarding in many ways.
Personally, I am incredibly grateful for my business success and the many experiences I have been able to gain as a result. However, you can’t lose yourself in the process. You have to know when you’ve had enough, when you need to delegate, and especially when it makes sense to make changes or take a different path. For me personally, I can say that I have achieved the professional goals I set for myself. However, I still have many ideas for the future, which I can approach with composure. Everything that is still to come is a bonus that I can enjoy even more.
The goal of making as much money as possible
Goals in life can be as different as people themselves. However, the corresponding goals should fit the person’s profile and the respective circumstances. In addition, it is also often the case that goals change over time and according to newly gained experiences. If you ask people about professional goals, the answer is often the desire for “good paying jobs” or “professions that make a lot of money”. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having the goal of making a lot of money. Money in itself is nothing to be ashamed of, although here in Germany the topic of money is often still considered taboo (for whatever reason…!?).
If you have defined money as a goal, then there is nothing against wanting to earn as much of it as possible. However, one would then have to ask oneself how and in which period of time one would like to reach the goal. This can become quite complex with regard to “a lot of money”. Quite apart from the fact that it would also have to be defined what “a lot of money” actually means. This is relative and will vary from person to person.
Conclusion: Money makes life easier, but money can’t buy happiness
One thing is indisputable: money can make many things in life easier, but money can’t buy happiness. Money takes away many worries, existential fears, problems and thus provides a certain serenity. However, a lot of money doesn’t make you happy, if you don’t have time to enjoy life. Money alone does not make you happy. The entire circumstances of life must fit for one to be happy. If money is seen as the only goal in life, this can lead to a dead end.
Having enough money to live a comfortable life is usually enough. It is not necessarily important to have a lot of money. On the contrary, having a lot of money can sometimes make life a lot more complicated. So to everyone out there who doesn’t earn $10,000 or $20,000 per month: Provided you are happy with your life, a high income will not make you happier. Rather the opposite, because you don’t usually get such an income for free. You have to be aware of the price you pay for it. What do you think about money? Do you agree that money can’t buy happiness?
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Originally published on October 5, 2021.