The Los Angeles Times recently ran a column entitled Science proves it: Money really can buy happiness. “An international research team has demonstrated that you really can make yourself happier by paying other people to do your time consuming tasks.” The crux of the article is that people who spend money on a time-saving purchase report greater life satisfaction. I have written before about retiring from the things in life that you don’t love doing. In fact, I’ve been advocating and living this philosophy for years. Now studies from Harvard Business School and others are proving it.
There are basically four ways I want to spend my waking hours:
- Being with family and friends
Now, let me share a few things that aren’t on that list: shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, laundry, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and maintaining the house, our cars, and even my bicycles.
My wife, Cindy, doesn’t like doing any of these things either. Earlier in my career, with few exceptions, Cindy and I did all those chores. (OK, she did a lot more than I did). Now we hire people to do these chores which frees up our time. One of the interesting conclusions from the research was that the positive effect of buying time was true for people of all income levels. You didn’t have to have a lot of disposable income to benefit. The other interesting tidbit was that “few people do it even when they can afford it.” In their sample of 850 millionaires, only about half reported spending money on outsourcing disliked tasks!
I was recently with clients who have a beautiful second house in the country. They love being there. Sort of. They were complaining that it seemed like when they were up there, they spent the entire time doing chores to maintain the place. I suggested they hire some help. That’s what I do for my little place in the country. I know… I can hear the voices challenging me… it won’t be done as well if I don’t do it. You may be right. But perhaps the trade-off is worth it. With the free time, you can engage in activities that give you pleasure and reduce your level of stress.
In previous articles, I have written on the value of spending money on experiences instead of material things. For instance, taking the family on a vacation or arranging a getaway with old friends. There is considerable research that shows people benefit from buying pleasurable experiences. But this research shows that you might also want to consider buying your way out of experiences that are not pleasurable.
I frequently attend continuing education seminars and/or give presentations in different cities. When I travel for business, I take a couple of extra low-stress days with my “bought time” and enjoy the city. Just this year, I have attended events in Cleveland, Toronto, San Francisco and Chicago. I also presented at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in Philadelphia and at a national estate planning conference in San Diego. All the cities mentioned are wonderful places to spend at least a couple of days to unwind.
So, think about giving up your apron and lawn mower and buying some happiness.
Just so you know, in the future my column will appear once a month instead of every other week. As much as I enjoy writing these columns, we are so busy at work that I am pressed for time—even with my “bought time,” there are still only 24 hours in a day.
P.S. If you want to read the full report on buying time, you can find it online on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences web page at www.pnas.org.
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