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Simonson Says: Money can't buy happiness? Really?

This week, I was sitting in the Shepherd Union Building’s cafeteria when I heard the students at the table next to me saying something like, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure helps.” (You might think this was you, but I’m sure many students say it every day, so you can’t be sure. Also, I promise I’m not eavesdropping on all your conversations in search of column material; it just happens that way sometimes.)

There’s also that “My Little Pony” meme floating around Facebook that says, “Money can’t buy happiness . . . but it can buy ponies, and that’s kind of the same thing,” or whatever variation of it that you’ve seen; I’m sure there are many. The point is that the old assurance that “money can’t buy happiness” is gradually being exposed as the almost-lie that it is, but there are still those insufferable people who spout this at you, usually in response to you saying wistfully that you wish more than anything that you were rich, before returning to their beautiful homes to plan their vacations to Hawaii.

So, Hawaii-goers, before you go around saying such ignorant things to those of us who are, you know, still students (not a demographic known for its wealth), consider all the things money can get for you (and has, judging by your house and the possessions therein). As a student who is now being forced to pay her entire nest egg on a medical false alarm, I feel I am in a good place to remind you of those things before you really offend somebody with your platitudes.

It can’t buy you true love . . . but it can buy you travel, education and countless other opportunities to expand your social horizons, thereby greatly increasing your chances of finding someone with whom you share not only true love, but common interests/life circumstances, which also increases your chances of compatibility and marital longevity.

It can’t buy you friendship . . . but it can buy you a dog (or other pet, but this should be in addition to a dog, not in lieu of) and the means to take care of it, which is exactly the same thing, no “pretty much” about it. File this one under the “true love” category as well. You might say dogs are not expensive if you rescue one, but if you can’t afford your own property, then you have the heartless Scrooge-like landlord saying you can’t have one. So yeah, I’d say money affects your eligibility to own a dog, which you’d think would count as a basic human right.

It can’t buy you the blessings of family . . . but it can enable you to have children where otherwise you might’ve had to put off starting a family for years due to your financial situation or because you were infertile and couldn’t afford adoption/surrogacy/in vitro fertilization. Also, once you have that family, it can buy you astronomically increased chances of maintaining their health, home, security and basic human needs.

It can’t buy you self-actualization (whatever that even means) . . . but it can buy you the means to explore your interests and add to your experiences. I know you hear all the time that rich people are the most depressed people on the planet, and that people who have no worldly possessions are “the happiest people you’ll ever meet.” It has even been suggested that rich people can actually be less self-actualized because they have officially reached the American dream and may feel they have no star left to shoot for (I can’t cite who said this, but take a look at Hollywood and you’ll say it too). I definitely don’t underestimate depression; it doesn’t discriminate based on the comfort level of your circumstances. That’s just it, though: Depression is usually physiological and would probably strike the same people whether they were rich or poor, so you can’t blame money or lack thereof. It can, however, buy you the means to treat that depression.

It can’t buy happiness, but it can buy . . . food from places other than McDonald’s (your dime-sized cheeseburgers have underwhelmed me for the last time, Ronald), trips to Disneyland, cable so that you can actually watch “Game of Thrones” without waiting for the DVDs, and a house with two stories and a pool (heck, I’d take one just with an actual backyard at this point).

My point here is not to rub in to the poor among us just how much happier we’d be if we had money — as if we’re not reminded of that every second of our lives — or to encourage worshipping at the altar of the dollar even more than we as a society already do. It’s just to implore those of you whose parents bought you a house and take you to Europe over spring break to please stop knocking on poor old money. If you really think it can’t buy anything of “true value,” then by all means, we’d be happy to take it off your hands for you.

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