By Younas Chaudhary
In the mid-1970s, my colleague Stan and I worked as building technicians in the basement of a commercial building in Edmonton. Stan was in his early-sixties, and I was in my twenties, and during lunch breaks, Stan would open a bank pocketbook, go over the pages of that small booklet with a smile, and feverishly jot down numbers.
One day, I asked Stan what was inside the book that he was constantly checking. “I am adding up my retirement savings, and I have $60,000 saved up,” he said. Then he told me about all the wonderful things he wanted to do after retirement, including traveling to exotic places and buying a brand-new Audi car. He asked me what I would do with more money, and I quickly said, “If I made $100,000, I would retire and live happily ever after!”
Fast forward just few years, and I moved to the U.S. and started my oil business. At that point, I already had $100,000 in savings, but instead of retiring, I now was aiming for a million dollars in order to retire. Recalling this shift brings to mind a recent study I saw on the topic of income and happiness published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study showed that the more money we make, the happier we are in the long run. In doing so, it debunked past research in 2010 that found that our well-being does not increase substantially once we surpass an annual income of $75,000.
“There was no evidence of an income threshold at which experienced and evaluative well-being diverged, suggesting that higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall,” the latest study said.
In essence, there is nothing wrong with saying that money can buy happiness. In a very real sense, the more money we make, the better our lives will be, and the happier we will be.
My own relationship with money started from zero. I grew up poor in a remote village in Pakistan and arrived in Edmonton, Canada in 1973 at age twenty-one with $30 in my pocket. Our initial years in Canada were mired in steep hard work, and we lived a hand-to-mouth existence. We were so poor that my wife and I could not afford $50 to buy princess dresses for our first-born daughter.
But I hustled with consistency and dedication, and within a few years of such hard work, I found myself able to carve out a basic middle-class existence in Canada. Then my biggest break came when I moved to the USA and started buying oil and gas leases from local farmers. I loved that opportunity to become an entrepreneur, and I have never looked back.
Later, in the mid-1980s, when I moved from Wichita to Houston, I started aspiring for making even more money. While living in a modest home in Houston, during weekends I would drive out to the Champions golf course area and marvel at the sight of huge homes. “I should get one of those,” I would say to myself. And sure enough, soon I saw a huge home on a two-acre lot up that had been up for sale for several months. I knew it would be hard for me to qualify for a mortgage, but I really wanted to own that house. Luckily, the real estate agent helped me qualify for a mortgage, and just before closing I asked the prior owner, “How much will the utility bills cost?” He looked at me with surprise and said, “Are you sure you want to own this home?” I knew my back was against the wall, but I took a calculated risk and moved into the new home. I worked extremely hard and, and within a few months, grew comfortable with my decision.
Our relationship with money changes at different stages of our lives. When I made my first million, I started aspiring for five million. Was I greedy? No, I was not. I was aspiring for greater contentment as more money could buy more happiness and also give me an opportunity to share my wealth with others. Greed happens when you chase money only for yourself.
We all find it difficult to part with our hard-earned money, but once you start giving money to others and to causes that you believe in with good intentions, your contentment increases. This sheer ability to help others gave me the zeal to aspire for greater wealth. Even now, I continue to work, as I feel that I should continue to make use of my foresight, experience, and God-given abilities to look into the future and make wise business decisions.
Looking back, I could have retired comfortably in my mid-thirties; a million dollars would have given me a good life. However, I always believed that the more you motivate others and yourself to work hard and harness your skills and talents, the more God will give you opportunities to make money. Thus, every time I was pushed against the wall, I used it as an opportunity to be more aggressive, learn new things, and work harder with consistency and dedication, so that I could accumulate more wealth. Plus, this habit has kept my brain sharp and has allowed me to remain creative.
So, here are a few tips on money and happiness:
- Ignore the naysayers who tell you that making more money is a sin. There is no sin in making more money and being happy. Even the Gods would be happy to see you enjoy a good life!
- People often associate the rich with greed, but they forget how hard it was for them to reach that stage and how many other lives they may have helped along the way.
- Be willing to take calculated risks often and work hard with consistency and dedication, as there are no short cuts to making money.
- Enjoy the money you have, but share it, with an open heart, with those in need. Giving away money for good causes gives you greater contentment than earning more just to keep it.
- Remember that money does not grow on trees. If you want it, you must sweat for it and earn it the hard way.
You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.