金錢和快樂未必有關

By Jim Mathis

我所經營的生意是做老照片修復和商業肖像攝影,同時也是一家國家稅務服務公司的稅務專員。過去幾年來我做過超過一千件的退稅,指定我的客人稱我是「稅務顧問大師」

幾年下來,我對美國的財政狀況很了解。在服務客人稅務問題時,我會問他們對自己的生活是否感到快樂或是滿意?也因此,我觀察到一些很有趣的現象。

你大概猜得到我要說什麼,我想說的是收入和資產之間沒有相關。有一些人只有微薄的收入,卻累積了大量的財富;有些高收入的人花得也多。我和一個同事討論過這個問題,得到一個結論:花得比賺得多的人是愚昧的人。

很多人認為如果他們能夠再賺更多一點,一定會更快樂,但結果卻往往不是他們所想的那樣。如果要說收入和快樂之間有什麼關聯,結果其實是呈現一條鐘型曲線。最快樂的人是收入中等的人,而收入太低或太高的人是最不快樂的。也有一個調查顯示,在覺得快樂的那群人當中,年收入最高的是七萬五千美元的人,賺得更多的人並沒有更快樂。

這樣的研究結果就引出一個幾千年來人類一直在問的問題: 「錢能買到快樂嗎?」我相信答案是:「能,也不能,因為人常常把它用在錯誤的事物上。一輛新的汽車不會帶來快樂,但是開車和好朋友去兜風可能會帶來許多樂趣,美好的記憶也會永遠長存。」

錢本身不能買到快樂,但至少我們可以使用它帶給我們某種程度上的滿足和快樂。特別是當我們遵守聖經告訴我們的原則時。

避免走極端。我在文章中提到,調查顯示收入太低或太高的人都覺得不快樂。對我們來說,最大的挑戰就是定義什麼是中間的那一群?「求你使虛假和謊言遠離我;使我也不貧窮也不富足;賜給我需用的飲食,恐怕我飽足不認你,說:耶和華是誰呢?又恐怕我貧窮就偷竊,以致褻瀆我神的名。 (箴言308-9)

負債給人身體和情緒的綑綁。用信用卡可以滿足立即的慾望,但是長期卻會破壞限制未來能用的預算。「富戶管轄窮人;欠債的是債主的僕人。(箴言227).

與人分享的快樂多。人們大多不喜歡給予,無論是給個人或是支持慈善團體。但是能減輕別人的經濟困境是一件很有價值的事。「各人要隨本心所酌定的,不要作難,不要勉強,因為捐得樂意的人是神所喜愛的。(哥林多後書97).

吉姆.馬提斯在堪薩斯州陸路公園市經營一家照相館。他的專長是商業和影劇界人像。最近他開了一所攝影學校。他曾是一家咖啡店的經理,也曾是CBMC在堪薩斯州堪薩斯市和密蘇里州堪薩斯市的執行主任。

省思與問題討論

從你的經驗來看,錢可以買到快樂嗎?請分享你的經驗。 你同意作者所說,即使文化背景不同,最快樂的人不是最窮或最有錢的人,而是在中間的這群人嗎?請分享你的看法。 如果錢無法買到快樂,你覺得為什麼那麼多人仍然想用金錢買快樂?請分享你的看法。 為什麼當我們提到錢和物質,就不由自主聯想到個人所擁有的資產?如何不用獲得和擁有物質而是透過給予他人而得到快樂呢?

備註: 如果你手上有聖經希望閱讀更多與這個主題相關的經文,請參考:箴言11章24-25節、13章11節、15章16節、19章17節、22章9節;使徒行傳20章35節;路加福音6章38節、12章13-21節

MONEY AND HAPPINESS – NOT NECESSARILY RELATED

By Jim Mathis

In addition to my regular business restoring old photographs and making executive portraits, I am also a tax professional for a national tax preparation services company. I have done about 1,000 tax returns in the past several years and earned the designation "Enrolled Agent – Master Tax Advisor."

Over time, this have given me a pretty good understanding of American's financial situation. By talking with people and getting a view of their levels of happiness and contentment, and then looking at their finances through taxes, I have made some interesting observations.

As you might expect, there is a disconnect between income and net worth. Some people with only modest income, have accumulated a lot of wealth, and many high-income people have spent it all and then some. A colleague and I were reviewing a tax return recently when I commented that this proves, "You can't out-earn stupid." Foolish people almost always spend more than they earn.

Many people think if they made a little more money they would be happier. Probably not. If there is any correlation between income and happiness, it would be a bell curve, with the happiest people located in the middle. The lowest income and the highest income people, on both ends of the curve, are the least happy. In case you are wondering, surveys report that the highest percentage of people claiming happiness peaks at about $75,000 per year income. Earning more does not make people happier.

Which brings up the eternal question, "Can money buy happiness?" I believe the answer is: It could, but it seldom does, because people spend it on the wrong things. A new car won't bring happiness, but a road trip with good friends just might result in a lot of happiness – and fond memories that last a long time.

If it is true that money in itself cannot buy happiness, could we use it in ways that can bring us at least some degree of satisfaction, fulfillment and joy? Yes – especially if we follow principles found in the Bible:

Avoid extremes. As I mentioned, by far the happiest people seem to be those who would be categorized as neither poor nor rich, but somewhere in the middle. The challenge is to recognize what where the “middle” is. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Indebtedness can put people in physical and emotional bondage. Many times, “buying” things with credit can satisfy immediate desires, but the long-term cost can be devastating – and restricts financial flexibility in the future. “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).

Sharing with others can bring great joy. Too often people take a dim view of giving, whether to help individuals or support charitable causes. However, knowing we can use some of our resources to lighten the financial burdens of others can be very rewarding. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

What has been your experience in attempting to buy or experience happiness with money? Do you agree with the observation that the happiest people – regardless of society or culture – are neither the poorest nor the richest of people, but rather those whose incomes fall somewhere in between the two extremes? Why or why not? If it is true that money cannot buy happiness, why do you think so many people are intent on trying to prove otherwise? Explain your answer. When we think in terms of money and material resources, we typically think in terms of what we possess. How can happiness be attained not through gaining and keeping things, but rather by giving portions of them away?

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 11:24-25, 13:11, 15:16, 19:17, 22:9; Acts 20:35, Luke 6:38, 12:13-21

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