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Lesson 2e: Gratitude

Objective: Understand that happiness is in what you have, here and now.

Do you feel that you have enough to be happy?  If not, what brings you happiness?  Will another $25,000 per year make you happy?

Often what we have, or do not have, impacts our happiness.  However, money does not strongly correlate to happiness.  In Jean Chatzky's book, Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness, she writes that happiness only marginally increases based on income.

 Annual income
 % who were happy
< $25,000
$25,000 - $49,999
$50,000 - $74,999
$75,000 - $99,999


"For those with a net worth of $5 million or more, only 36% felt completely financially secured and said they needed on average $20 million to feel completely secured."
- Charitable Giving: How Much, By Whom, To What, and How?, Boston College

We tend to want what we do not have and what we believe we need.  In her book, Overspent America, Juliet Schor found that only 1/2 of Americans said that can afford everything that they really need.  This only decreased marginally with increased income (40% for those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and 33% of those earning $100,000+).  It is like a dog chasing its tail - we will be happy if we have another $25,000 of income.  Once we get it, we will be happy when we have another $25,000.  This mentality is evident in our infatuation with TV shows like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "MTV Cribs," where we envy those who have what we do not.  But, will we be happy if we have what they have?

"Success is getting what you want.   Happiness is wanting what you get."
-Dale Carnegie

The key to happiness is to shift from trying to get what we want to being grateful and happy with what we have.  Gratitude!

When was the last time you gave thanks for what you received?  

In planning for retirement and your child's education, the key is our happiness in our current situation.  Many think we can not save for our child's education or our own retirement, because we need just a little bit more than what we have.  Yet, if we are happy with where we are today, we are more willing to make the needed changes to our current budgets to save for the future.

How do you increase your state of gratitude?

Gratitude is coming from a place of being thankful for what we have.  Some say prayers or blessings while others thank the universe and earth for providing an environment of abundance.  It does not matter who you thank (other than yourself), as long as you are thankful.

Giving thanks should be done on a regular basis to offset all the marketing that we hear on what we need to be happy.  A friend of mine writes a letter every Sunday on what she is grateful for and hangs it on her refrigerator as a reminder for the week.  Others start the day by giving thanks for what will be a great day. 

What happens if one does not have anything to be thankful for, for example someone who may live in poverty or live in a violent environment?  There are stories of Nazi concentration camp victims who were grateful for the broth they received for dinner.  When asked why, they said that they were grateful that they were alive or that they were not like the Nazis.

If you want to change your environment, that is fine.  But, be grateful for the little things first.  If we blame the environment for our circumstances, we overlook what we do have and how we can change our environment.  Thus, be grateful for the meal on the table now matter what it is, then focus on what you can do tomorrow.

What are you grateful for?

Medical benefits of gratitude

Recent research has focused on the health benefits of gratitude.  Gratitude brings a sense of peace that reduces stress and boosts the immune system, per WebMD and a University of California, Davis study.  So, you can live longer by being grateful with who you are today.

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