How A Million Dollars Bought Me Happiness

Last Updated on by Nate Zhang

People who say “money doesn’t buy happiness” are wrong. It does, they’re just thinking about it the wrong way…

A couple weeks ago, something disturbing happened at work. One of my teammates (let’s call him Jon) had a bad day. Jon had to deal with someone else in the organization many levels above him who is known for being cranky and difficult. When Jon called Mr. Cranky to ask a question, he was promptly hung up on. My first thought after I heard about this was:

Screw this job, I quit.

I don’t want to work with people like Mr. Cranky. Jon is smart, hard working and personable. No one deserves to be treated with such disrespect, but I was especially angry that someone as good as Jon had to deal with this nonsense.

I decided not to leave my job. However, the really awesome part is that I have the financial means to do so. I have $1,000,000 in savings and since my family spends about $40,000 per year, the 4% rule tells me that I have all of the money that I’ll ever need.

Now, I’m working because I choose to; not because I have to. This is powerful.

Before we get into that, let’s back up a bit.

People who say money doesn't buy happiness are WRONG. They're thinking about it the wrong way. Click To Tweet

Becoming a Millionaire at 40

At the end of 2014, one day before my 41st birthday, my investment portfolio topped $1,000,000 for the first time. I remember the day like it was yesterday.

I had taken the train into Chicago and knew the markets had had a good day. When I got off the train, I checked my Personal Capital account and saw that I had joined the Double Comma Club. I was a millionaire!

I had about an hour to burn before meeting up with a friend, so I wandered aimlessly around the city thinking about what this meant.



But mostly, I was numb. I came out of college as the not-so-proud owner of $60,000 in debt. Just 15 years later, I was financially independent.

Work was now optional.

Money WILL change your life – for the better

Some people will tell you that money won’t solve your problems or it won’t make you happy. I’m here to tell you the opposite; wealth is liberating and wonderful.

Money makes for a happy home life

One of our favorite family activities is a walk after dinner. We discuss what we did during the day, observe our surroundings and chat with the neighbors. Sometimes, we walk for hours, meandering all over our little town.

However, we avoid walking past a certain neighbor in the summer when windows are open. We stay away because of the fights we hear. In almost every case, the wife and husband are yelling at each other because the money has run out and bills are due.

The husband is a small business owner and has good income, but the dollars flow out faster than they come in. Our neighbors are by no means out of the ordinary. Couples fight over money more than anything else.

My wife and I have the luxury of never having to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay the next bill. We are open and honest about our finances. Like all healthy couples, we have our disagreements, but they are never about money.

Money makes you a better person

People are programmed deep down inside to want what they can’t have. TV commercials show us all kinds of shiny new stuff that we “need,” urging us to buy, buy, buy! It hurts a little when you don’t have the money for that new thing. And I was no different.

When I was young and foolish, I wanted all kinds of stuff. A sports car was at the top of the list. I would lust after 400hp, bright red machines. Then, a funny thing happened:

Now that I can have just about any car (or anything else) I want, my desire to own those things is gone.

I’m happier and better adjusted than I’ve ever been. The security and peace that money provides is incredible. My priorities are in order and allow me to focus on what’s really important like relationships, raising my kids right, reading, travel and exercise. That fancy car just doesn’t mean as much now.

Money sets you free

Most of us have to spend at least 40 hours per week doing what someone else wants us to do. We call this our job. Some of us are lucky enough to have meaningful work that we love. If you are one of them, realize what an incredible gift this is and give thanks.

Even if you love your job, I have a question for you:

Would you still work the same job for the same number of hours if you came into 10 million dollars tomorrow?

I suspect that even those who truly love their job would eventually depart to follow their passions.

One thought that I have about my own life is this:

I have no idea what a typical day will be like when I’m 50 or even 45.

This is wonderful to consider. Since I won’t have to be working for someone else, my life will be mine to live how I choose.

My wife and I have discussed spending summers traveling when the kids are out of school. We’ve also talked about small business ideas and fitness goals. We know how great it will be to walk our children to school every day.

Our future is an open book and that is exactly how I like it.

Would you still work the same job & same hours if you came into 10 million dollars tomorrow? Click To Tweet

$1,000,000 may not look like what you think it does

If you asked most people what a millionaire looks like, they’d probably get it all wrong. The image that the TV sells us is that the wealthy drive fancy cars and live in McMansions. This image couldn’t be more wrong.


Top row, how millionaires are perceived. Bottom row, the real deal.

House, Cars, Weekend
Top row: The perception of millionaires.
Bottom row: The truth.

The average millionaire lives in a modest home and isn’t driving a European sedan.

I too am a typical millionaire. I bought my home for $175,000 and my primary vehicle is 13 years old. I mow my own lawn and change my own oil. I’m not a doctor or lawyer with a high powered job, just a software developer who went to a cheap and mediocre state university.

I just happened to save and invest my income instead of buying stuff.

Money does buy happiness

Back to those people who tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness. This is what they really meant to say:

Money does buy happiness, but you won't get there buying stuff. Click To Tweet

New cars are fun. So are shiny new gadgets. However, the happiness fades quickly and then you have to spend more money to trigger the dopamine. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This is not a recipe for a well lived life. This is a shallow exercise that leads to nothing but terrifying credit card bills at the end of the month.

Instead, use money as a tool to fuel your passions. Forget the long, soul draining commute. Forget the cube farm. Get to work on your dreams.

Money will set you free. And that my friends, is priceless.

About the Author

Mr. 1500 is a programmer and personal finance writer who loves to write about personal finance, early retirement and anything else that has to do with money. He is most known for blogging about his goal of retiring within 1500 days, a story which he shares on his blog His early retirement story has been featured in nationally syndicated media including CNBC and BusinessInsider. When not thinking about numbers and dollar signs, you can find him with his family playing in the beautiful outdoors of Colorado.


  1. Avatar


    March 14, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for this article, it is a very interesting perspective. You’re right, if I came into $10M tomorrow, I’d probably start my own business related to something I’m passionate about. I would quit my day job as soon as my business is up and running.

  2. Avatar

    Emma Lincoln

    March 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Dude, this article is epic. I feel like you took a feeling that I’ve had and then put the perfect words to it.

    When people say “money can’t buy happiness” I think they mean “luxury / possessions can’t buy happiness” and when we (financial bloggers) says “money CAN buy happiness” we really mean “money can buy peace of mind, and peace of mind IS happiness”

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      March 17, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      “money can buy peace of mind, and peace of mind IS happiness”

      Yes, completely agree! I’m glad you enjoyed my article!

  3. Avatar


    March 14, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for this inspiring article. It is all true and people look for an excuse since they are afraid of being successful and they just love to complain insted of taking an action!

    Gteat thoughts of yours. THANKS!

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      March 17, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks Anna!

  4. Avatar


    March 15, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Great article Mr 1500 – I’m glad to see your success is getting some coverage. Hopefully some people can learn from your insights and your journey and learn that there’s a more fulfilling way to live than classic consumerism.

  5. Avatar


    March 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Good article, and I think it would be helpful to know how much you made annually to be able to save $1 million. And to have the help of a spouse with income does boost the savings account. From my understanding software engineers make six figures, which may make it very easy to pay off debt and double the savings account. Maybe share how much you were able to put away each month so that others in similar situations could follow your footsteps?

    • Avatar

      M. 1500

      March 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Yeah, good question DS. I started work in 1998 at $37,100 per year. At that time, I also had $60,000 in debt. Now, I do have a 6 figure income (barely), but for most of my career I did not. Also, my wife took 10 years off to raise our kids. Before that, she was a graphic designer, never making more than $40,000 per year. At the end of 2015, she started working a new job, but it pays nowhere near six figures.

      The amount of money that I have invested is more than the amount of money I’ve grossed in my working career. I think that is a pretty neat ratio, especially considering I haven’t been working even 20 years in the professional world. I still have loads of time to let my money compound.

      My pile is due mostly to hard work. I worked very hard to get that 6 figure income. Between home remodeling, writing and my real job (which is occasionally very stressful and demanding), I’d bet that I’ve been working at least 60 hours per week for the past 15 years. No regrets though because I’m almost free.

  6. Avatar

    Hogwash McGee

    March 25, 2016 at 7:27 am

    I always enjoy these articles written by folks earning 6 figures, well yeah it’s not that hard to become a millionaire when you earn that much. Just a dose of reality: the Average American earns 28k a year. Let me see you become rich on that.

    • Avatar

      Mr. 1500

      March 25, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Good morning Hogwash!

      Ahhh, I can feel your sarcasm coming straight through my computer screen and it stings a little, but you have a point. A lot of us to have 6 figure incomes. And yes, I do too.

      However, please note that in my case, I haven’t been making the big money for that long. I started my first job less than 20 years ago at the princely sum of $37,000/year. At the time, I also had $60,000 in college debt. I worked very very hard for a long time to get where I am now. 60-80 hour work weeks are a way of life for me.

      I was the first one to graduate from college in my family as well. Magna cum laude in Biology and Chemistry. This was after overcoming some nasty stuff as a child (family mental illness, substance abuse, very poor money skills).

      Am I fortunate? Hell yes! I am fortunate to have been born in a place where hard is rewarded. I’m also fortunate that I’ve worked for great people who saw my hard work and rewarded me with promotions and raises.

      This is the advice I give to everyone: Instead of using excuses to hold yourself back or to justify a life you’re not happy with, work hard to make yourself great. There is a world of opportunity out there.

      Onward and upward!

    • Avatar

      Nate Tsang

      March 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks for the comment Hogwash. I think a lot of people probably share your sentiments.

      No doubt its going to be hard to save a million dollars earning 28k a year in America. But building wealth is something that average people – by definition – don’t do.

      If we want to accomplish something that average people aren’t doing, I don’t think you can really use “being average” as an excuse…seems a bit circular doesn’t it? I mean, once you succeed, you’re not really average anymore.

      Also, if we’re really gonna give Mr. 1500 a “dose of reality” – its worth pointing out that the average salary in the world is about $1,250/year. Any of us who have the privilege of literacy, a high speed internet connection, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and freedom to speak our minds – are already given advantages most of the world can only dream of.

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