Making Money Isn’t Making Me Happy Anymore

On life, money, happiness, stuff

Joseph Mavericks
The Startup

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After a certain point, more money doesn’t mean more happiness anymore— Source

I’ve always wanted to make a lot of money. I’m not sure where it ever came from, because I wasn’t raised to think money was the solution to all problems, or that money can buy happiness. When I was 16 years old I started looking for ways to make money online, but none of them worked. I came up with countless business plans that never turned into anything. At the time I thought “Hey, if I could make $100 per day every single day of the year, I’d be set forever right?” Times were different 15 years ago and $100 then was worth more than now, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. If you had told 16-year-old me “One day, you’ll make $200 a day every single day of the year.” I would have pictured myself in a big house, with a big backyard, a lot of bikes (I love bikes), all my big boy's toys, and not much to worry about financially. Cute, right? Well, that’s exactly what happened. But let me back up a bit first.

Another aspect of my money fascination was that I would read countless books and articles on the topic, and watch a lot of videos too. I would often come across someone saying “Honestly, past the $5,000 per month mark, it doesn’t really matter anymore how much you’re making.” And I always thought this was bonkers. How can anyone ever have enough money, right?

I remember going to Paris with my mom (we lived in France), to see The Happy Show by Stefan Sagmeister. He had this cool art piece that explained that once you’re past the $75,000 per year mark, money doesn’t influence your happiness anymore. Does this sound familiar? I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be saying this, but now that I’m on the other side, I know it’s true.

The text in the top left corner under “the ideal salary” says:

“It doesn’t matter to my own wellbeing if I make $100,000 or $100 million a year; I will fet rid of some problems but I will add some others in exchange.” — Stefan Sagmeister, The Happy Show

I have the big house, the big backyard, I have 7 bikes (I love bikes), all my toys, and I’m raising my little family with my amazing girlfriend who has to put up with my stupid toys. I’m the luckiest son of a gun alive, I have everything I need and more, money doesn’t make me happy anymore, but yet I have one problem. I always feel like I need more.

I’ve only started to notice my money obsession in the past few months, which is crazy to think about given how much effort I’ve put into making a lot of it in the past few years. I kept a 9–5 job while growing a writing business and also tried (and failed) to launch a YouTube channel. I always budget, save a lot, I think for 3 months before committing to buying something, and I only now noticed that money is taking too big of a place in my life. Who am I kidding?

My approach to money has always been: “It’s not that I love money, but we live in a world where you need money to have a good life, so you might as well have a lot of it.” This differs from a lot of the stupid content one will always stumble upon when watching money-related stuff, with people flexing 5 cars, 10 watches, and their Gucci closet. These guys love money, and money is their only way of existing, the only thing that gives them a sense of self. I’m not like that, but if the algorithm on YouTube thinks this is something I’ll click on (and I do), what does that tell you about me? I still always feel like I could use more money.

Like the private jet thing. Look, I know it’s expensive and bad for the environment, but it’s also extremely convenient, right? I don’t fly private, never have. But then the day comes we have to visit our family abroad. We have to show up 2 hours early at the airport, take the train for an hour and a half there, go through security, then commute once we land… And that’s when I think to myself: “Wouldn’t our life be better if we could afford to fly private?”

Or the private chauffeur thing. I hate driving, but we live in the countryside so we always have to drive. If I have to drive for more than 1 hour to somewhere, I start thinking: “Wouldn’t our life be better if we had a private chauffeur, and I could get some work done in the back of the car while getting to where I need to be?”

Ok, one last example. Cleaning up the house. Instead of having to clean up after myself and be a responsible adult, wouldn’t my life be better if I could afford to get 1 or 2 people to organize the house for us?

That’s how ridiculous this has all been. That’s the level at which I thought I needed money to be happy, to have a more efficient, active, everything life. But then I realized that all these things wouldn’t make me happier. They would make me more efficient, they would make our life simpler, sure. But I wouldn’t actually be happier.

But then as I said, I’ve been analyzing a lot of that stuff lately, doing a lot of introspection and catching myself thinking things I never thought about. Like, what if I was happy already, and I didn’t even take time to notice it because of my money obsession? What if my life was already happier, more efficient, and active than average?

That right there, was exactly when I realized that making money isn’t making me happy anymore. What makes me happy is the things I’ve gotten with money, and I’m reaching a point where I have enough. I need to enjoy the fruits of my labor and seek to have more experiences too (rather than things).

A big house with plants in it

I wanted a big house not to show off, but because I have a lot of side projects, we want multiple kids, and my girlfriend lives with me. We need room. We always wanted a lot of plants, we wanted our house to look like a Pinterest house (huh, the cringe), and we have that now. We have a house where almost every time people step inside for the first time, they say something like “Oh my god, your house is amazing!” I mean I can’t freaking believe I’m writing this, I’m getting shivers. I love hosting, and having family over. Every time we’re having people stay over for a few days (which happens a lot because we live abroad), there will always be one point in the week where I’ll be in the kitchen, grabbing cutlery from a drawer or plates from a cabinet. Then I’ll turn over and look over our kitchen island towards the living room table. There, I’ll see my family having dinner at my house, perfect Pinterest lighting, plants in every corner, and our first baby spilling food everywhere. I’m the luckiest son of a gun alive.

Doing things instead of buying them

Especially since we got a baby, I stress even more about focusing every tiny bit of free time I have on making money. As soon as the baby is having a nap and I find myself catching a 5-minute break on the iPad on the couch, I think to myself: “This is not okay, you should not be relaxing right now. You should be working towards your dreams and securing your family’s future.” Without realizing that I already have a lot of that “dream life.”

Lately, I’ve started listing things that make me happy that I don’t need money for, either because they’re simple things or because I’ve already bought those things.

Building things

I’ve been trying to spend more of my free time on building things because it makes me so happy. Writing articles, making videos, selling stuff online... All that stuff used to make me happy (although I’m not even sure now, all I know is it was making money) but it doesn’t anymore. Now that I make enough money to live, I need to enjoy life more. Every time I catch myself thinking “Hey, you should be working on that article”, I go build things instead.

My dream workspace

One thing our house does not have and is often part of the “dream house checklist” is a garage. This house did not come with a garage, so I had to set up all my woodworking tools and computer stations in a bedroom upstairs. I figured I’d build a garage one day, and this day has come.

It won’t be a proper garage attached to the house, but a big shed at the end of our backyard, and it will be my dream workspace to work on all my DIY projects. Right now I’m stressing more about building it (we’re starting in a month), but only because of the scale of the project, not the money. I’ll spend a lot of my free time there once it’s done.

Biking

As a kid, I used to always say “When I’m an adult, I’ll have a garage full of bikes, not full of cars”. I’ve never been a car person but I love biking. I’ve ridden a bike for as long as I can remember, I’ve been on countless bike trips across Europe, and I used to bike pretty much every weekend with my best friend. Now my friend lives over 1,000 miles away, we have a house, a baby, and my mind switched from “Let’s have fun and bike this weekend.” to “We have to make money to maintain this lifestyle”. I need to switch it back.

It’s embarrassing that I now have 7 bikes, and I’ve literally never biked so little in my life, way less than when I had only one bike. Biking is one of the things that make me the happiest in life, so I need to get back on that saddle and go out there, feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.

Retirement not in sight

That’s right, I’m not retired yet, in fact, I’m only 30 years old. Although the whole buying bikes thing does sound like I’m a 55-year-old empty-nester dad in the middle of a life crisis. Buying an expensive bike at 30 often reminds me that I need to take it slower, because I’m already doing the “old dad” stuff. I’m buying bikes to enjoy life more, and I still have almost 40 years to go until I’m retired, it’s kind of ridiculous.

So at this point, you may be thinking to yourself: “But wait, Joseph, you’re only 30 and you make it sound like you’re about to stop working and enjoy life without having to worry about money. Are you a millionaire now, did you win the lottery?”

Well, no, not quite. I’m at a point in my life where I can afford to take a break, and enjoy the fruits of my labor for a little bit. I don’t think I’ve truly done that before. I’ve always worked on something at any given point, and I’m realizing this is not a sustainable model, at least not for me.

We just got our first baby, and trying to fit work in every smallest time pocket available has been draining for both me and my girlfriend. Again, this is the kind of thing that hits you like a bus and then you realize: “I cannot believe I didn’t see that coming.” It’s like crossing the street when the bus is coming right at you. This was obviously going to happen, what was I thinking?

I’m also about to end a 6-month paternity leave (I live in Denmark, we get that kind of stuff here), during which I’ve tried to work sometimes more than focusing on my baby. I’m about to start my 9–5 job again, I’m making great money there, we have money saved up, and although my business is making far less money now that I’m not putting out content every week, it’s still bonus money on top of an already nice salary, so why worry?

I’m taking a break but I’m not leaving, because I truly believe that hustling is in my DNA (huh, the cringe again). I never want to settle for a job, a routine, or a paycheck. Right now though, I want to enjoy life more and worry about money less, and I have the luxury to make that choice.

I have too many beautiful things happening in my life to not take a break and enjoy them at least a little bit.

On that note, I’ll see you later, thanks for reading my work.

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Joseph Mavericks
The Startup

Living with a purpose and improving myself is changing my life — I also make Youtube videos: bit.ly/3QAEXTm