2013’s big idea? Money can buy happiness!

It's the new policy bible in Downing Street – and it argues you can buy happiness. Charlie Cooper picks out the key insights

I don't care too much for money/ 'Cause money can't buy me love," trilled The Beatles in what many consider the answer to one of life's big questions: can money buy happiness?

Think again. Downing Street's "Nudge Unit" – the Behavioural Insights Team that specialises in trying to alter people's behaviour through the power of suggestion – has a new theory: money can buy happiness. All you have to do is spend it wisely.

The thinking is laid out in an article by American psychologists that is already being tipped as a "big idea" of 2013. The article, "If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right", is being read at the highest echelons of Government and will be adapted into a book, Happy Money, for publication next year.

It states, bluntly, that believing the best things in life are not for sale "is lovely, popular and almost certainly wrong. Wealthy people don't just have better toys," the article states. "They have better nutrition and better medical care, more free time and more meaningful labour – more of just about every ingredient in the recipe for a happy life."

However, previous studies have shown that, despite these factors, the rich tend not to be much happier than the poor – something the psychologists appear keen to remedy.

The authors of the paper, Elizabeth W Dunn, Daniel T Gilbert and Timothy Wilson, set out eight core principles for spending yourself into lasting happiness. The secret, it would appear, is to eschew rampant consumerism by paying for experiences over possessions, helping others instead of yourself, and delaying gratification. Even better news for would-be philanthropists: giving to charity brings opportunities for "positive self-presentation".

"Money can buy most, if not all of the things that make people happy," the authors write – "and if it doesn't the fault is ours."

Two sides of the coin:

Laughing all the way to the bank...

Bill & Melinda Gates

Bill Gates married his wife, Melinda, in 1994 – the same year the couple set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which became a lightning rod for America's philanthropists and has made charitable grants worth more than £15bn. The charity works to alleviate poverty and provide healthcare across the globe. Bill puts his happiness down to "getting to work on exactly the things I want to" – that and "a great family".

Dennis Tito

Does buying experiences, rather than things, make you happier? If anyone can answer that question it is Dennis Tito – the world's first space tourist. Mr Tito spent $20m for eight days in space back in 2001. Afterwards, he said: "It was a sense of completeness – from then on, everything is a bonus. And the last 10 years, everything since then has been just extra. And I think I am one of the happiest humans alive."

...but money can’t buy you everything

Donald Trump

With a net worth of more than £1.9bn and a tower in New York named after him, you might think that Donald Trump would have few things to grumble about. As it happens, barely a month goes by without the billionaire businessman taking to America's television screens to denounce the Obama administration and predict the downfall of the American way of life. Perhaps it's something to do with his hair.

MC Hammer

MC Hammer did not follow the third principle of happiness – to buy a lot of small things instead of a few large purchases. The rapper spent a reported $20m on a 40,000sq-ft house with Italian marble floors and solid-gold toilet. A few years later, he went bankrupt, and sold the lavish home for a fraction of its value.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London