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The one thing you need to do for financial happiness

We chat with Gail Vaz-Oxlade about money, happiness and how you can get them both.

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To save for the future you have to know what you want (Photo by Getty Images)

To save for the future you have to know what you want (Photo by Getty Images)

Ever heard of financial happiness? While loads of happiness research tells us that money is not the path to pleasure, we can’t eliminate the connection completely between our bills and our bliss. So to find out what exactly financial happiness is, I spoke with Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of Slice’s Til Debt Do Us Part and author of Money Rules: Rule your money or your money will rule you to help us define the concept.

Q: Is there such a thing as financial happiness?
A: Sure. I have it. It’s when you don’t have to worry about anything because you’ve dealt with the details and money is not what you think about all the time. It’s about being sure you know what you really, really want.

Because what happens is people don’t take the time to figure out what they really want and then they get distracted by all the bright and shiny or yummy and delicious things. And they get to the point where they say ‘I’m not getting what I really want.’ And you look at them with their money and say ‘You’re acting like that’s what you really want. What you really want is shiny and new and yummy and delicious.’ When you get people to define that, then it’s very easy for them to give up the little stuff or the stuff that contributes less to overall well being.

You have to follow your heart in terms of what makes you happy. You can’t be so wrapped up making the most money or having the best or newest of everything that that’s what drives your every action. Because ultimately, stuff does not make you happy.

Q: Indeed, we’ve seen plenty of research saying that things like shopping give you short-term happiness.
A: But that short term high is a false high because those who get that high are getting it on plastic. They’re not getting the pain of parting with the cash, so it’s not even real. Plastic is an aesthetic — it dulls the pain and then what happens is you just keep waiting for the next fake high.

Q: So how can our readers gain financial happiness?
A: First — figure out what’s important to you. Do you want to own a home of your own? People will say yes, but then they go out for dinner three nights a week. So what is it you really want? Is it eating out and spending time with your friends? Or do you want to own a home of your own? Decide because you may not in fact want to own — you may simply be bowing to the pressures around you to own. Sit down and look at your core values and then make a list of the things of what you want to achieve. And then reflect back about what you want to achieve to see if they in fact match. Because if they don’t match, you think you’re working towards a goal but the goal isn’t making you happy.

Secondly, know that everything comes with a choice. You have to think to yourself: if I have this, what else am I giving up, or am prepared to give up? Yes you can have an emergency fund, but you might have to be prepared to give up a vacation or coffee every morning. You have to decide what choice you’re going to make it and stick to it.

What does financial happiness look like to you? Tell us in the comment section below.