Living the "Happy Money" Life

In this week's edition of Monday Morning Quarter-Buck, Financial Planner and CFP® Will Morrison discusses the journey to find happiness, the science of “happier spending,” and how he’s implementing it in his life. Perhaps he will give you ideas on how to implement it into your life?

By: Will Morrison, CFP

There are two things I try to accomplish each summer, my summer reading list and some memorable road trips.  Last year I went to a conference and there was an expert in happiness. The happiness expert had a fabulous presentation of all these different scenarios of things that cause happiness (and things that don’t).  The expert, Elizabeth Dunn, even wrote a book called Happy Money- The Science of Happier Spending. I found her so fascinating that I added her book to my already ambitious Summer 2019 Summer Reading list. Well, with one month or so to go until the kids are back in school (the unofficial end of summer) I have little chance of getting this book read. But I do have an epic road trip planned as a farewell to summer journey!

Some people hate driving, the thought of driving for 12 hours a day sounds pretty brutal. Now add three kids to the mix and some people might find this to be hell on Earth. For whatever reason this is my happy place.  I also find that road trips are a great place to teach kids lessons about money. 

Last year our first major stop on our trip out west was to Fort Mandan, North Dakota which is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail.  When we got out of the minivan, the kids didn’t run for the log cabins to see the expedition’s living quarters, nor did they run to the giant statue of Lewis and Clark’s Newfoundland. Nope, they went right for the gift shop! “Dad, can I get this?” “Dad, I want one of these!” I really don’t know how it hit me, but at that point I thought to myself that I needed to find a way to keep them from asking to buy something at every gas station and tourist stop on our vacation. 

I’d read a few books in the past on parent’s being overbearing with how kid’s spend their money and I wanted to allow my kids to have free choice over how their money was spent.  I ended up giving each kid $20 each to spend on our 9-day vacation. They were allowed to spend it on whatever they wanted: A Lewis and Clark compass (good choice son!), a stuffed animal purchased at the Lewis and Clark visitor center that had nothing to do with Lewis and Clark (I kept my mouth shut and let middle child get it!), and an assortment of M&Ms, suckers, and soda pop (oh, my youngest…).  How did it turn out? Well by the time we got to Yellowstone 2 days later, my then 5 year-old daughter was out of money, my then 8 year-old son had $5 dollars left, and my then 4-year old candy junky had $13 left. 

At this point it sounds like an absolute failure of an idea, but it worked out pretty well. Having set the expectation that they only had that set amount of money, once the money was gone they didn’t pester me to buy things they didn’t have enough money to buy.  They actually browsed around the Yellowstone gift shop without any expectation of getting something! And one of the most amazing things to me? That dumb random stuffed animal that my daughter bought at Fort Mandan is one of her favorite stuffed animals that she sleeps with every night. 

Stay tuned for this years adventure - we’ll be taking our 2019 family road trip out west at the beginning of August, wish me luck!