In the words of the Ray Conniff song, it’s “different things to different people”.
The most succinct definition of happiness that I know is that it is the state of wanting what you’ve got. The converse being that unhappiness dwells in the gap between what you’ve got and what you want, or think you can’t live without.
Satisfaction with one’s financial status – and this does not automatically preclude working for greater wealth creation, provided the targets we set ourselves are realistic – is, I believe, a solid indicator of financial sanity.
And sanity is a rare condition in a world of seemingly constant monetary turmoil and upheaval in which a tiny minority is perceived to growing ever richer while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.
The picture isn’t that simple of course, it never is (except in the minds of political extremists). There are many subtle shades of grey separating the have-nots and the have-yachts.
As earlier postings on this blog have shown, at The Whitehall Partnership, a financial adviser dedicated to financial sanity and security, we believe that helping clients to clarify their goals is a key factor in ensuring wealth creation is a boon, not a burden.
This is why I found research undertaken by Bristol University and think tank The International Longevity Centre particularly interesting:
In a global comparison of “financial satisfaction”, academics found that British “baby boomers” – those born between 1945 and 1960, the so-called fortunate generation – are happier than their counterparts in many other wealthy countries.
In fact 80 per cent of Britons over the age of 50 who took part in the survey said they were satisfied with their financial situation, compared with 61 per cent in Germany and 64 per cent in the USA.
Britain ranked seventh out of 56 nations in terms of financial happiness, below Norway, Sweden and Finland and, not surprisingly perhaps, Switzerland, where 90 per cent of people over 50 said they were satisfied.
However, the survey revealed a darker side to the issue of financial happiness, with younger people in many countries reporting lower levels of satisfaction with their lot than their elders.
In Britain, this disjunction was especially pronounced, with 66 per cent of under-50s expressing displeasure with their financial prospects.
David Hayes of Bristol University calls it a “substantial and highly significant difference” in attitudes between the two age groups.
The cause is not too hard to find. The wholesale wrecking of occupational pensions combined with the blatant rip-off practices of many financial institutions and the sacrificing of savings to the economic god of low interest rates means that many working people in Britain now see the prospects of a comfortable and long retirement vanishing like mist in the morning sun.
At the same time, images of flashy, unearned wealth, ranging from bling-laden “celebrities” and Premiership footballers to greedy quango bosses waxing fat at the expense of the tax payer, saturate the media.
If such a deep dichotomy is not to generate social unrest it is going to be important to convince the post-baby boomers that financial happiness resides not so much in what you have but in what you do with what you have; and that small pleasures cheaply acquired can be more satisfying than gold-plated luxury.
The Whitehall Partnership can help you get the most from your investments while focusing on what really want from life, as well achieve a sustainable wealth creation/happiness balance.
To arrange a free initial meeting call us today on 0845 43 49 250.