Smart Money Podcast: Money and Happiness: Building (and Buying) Your Happiness

Published
Profile photo of Sean Pyles
Written by Sean Pyles
Senior Writer
Profile photo of Mary M. Flory
Edited by Mary M. Flory
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Profile photo of Sara Rathner
Co-written by Sara Rathner
Senior Writer/Spokesperson
Profile photo of Tess Vigeland
Co-written by Tess Vigeland

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.

This week’s episode wraps up our Nerdy deep dive into money and happiness. This time, we’re talking about how you can build your happier, more financially confident life.

Check out this episode on either of these platforms:

Our take

Turns out there is no shortcut to living a happier life — or one where money plays a more harmonious role in your happiness. Instead, commit to the long game. The hard work and daily practice of improving your life will pay off over time.

Like we discussed in the second episode of this series, start by going deep into your financial history. Understand the messages and attitudes around money that you were taught from a young age, and connect them to your money habits today. If you find that these behaviors or ways of viewing money aren’t serving you well, work to shift them.

At the same time, get clear on what your version of a “happy life” is. It could mean spending more time with your loved ones or in nature as you work to spark more moments of awe. While certain experiences are more likely to enrich your life, don’t forget the small, daily actions that will make you happier. That includes things like exercising, getting enough sleep and deepening the quality of your relationships. Then, think of money as a tool for your happiness. Once your base needs are met, you can find ways to channel your financial resources to create a better life. That might mean creating memories with your loved ones, buying that pair of hiking shoes so you can get out into nature or donating to causes that matter to you. Whatever you find makes you happiest, work to direct your money toward supporting it.

More about money and emotions on NerdWallet:

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected]. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.

Episode transcript

Sean Pyles: What if you had the tools to build and maintain a happy life personally and financially? Would you change the way you live your life? And what would you be willing to sacrifice to be in a better place with your money and your emotions?

Dan Harris: Life is not predictable. Most things are not in your control, but can you learn over time to get more supple and skillful at surfing the waves rather than drowning in them? And that all speaks to this notion of happiness being a skill that is developed all the time throughout your life. You can just keep getting better and better at this.

Sean Pyles: Welcome to the NerdWallet Smart Money podcast. I'm Sean Pyles.

Sara Rathner: And I'm Sara Rathner. So Sean, over the past few weeks, you've taken us on a journey into the depths of our souls and our bank accounts, and it's all been leading to this moment. You are going to finally unveil what it takes to have a happy and healthy relationship with money. Let's do it. Let's solve all the world's problems, Sean.

Sean Pyles: Yes, here it is. It's a four-step process, and if you follow it to the letter, you'll find greater happiness, joy, fulfillment and contentment than you could ever imagine.

Sara Rathner: Well, that sounds easy enough. Four steps. I think I can handle that.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, well, I'm sorry to say, I was just making that up.

Sara Rathner: Wow.

Sean Pyles: The truth is that if you've learned anything over the course of this series, it's that there is no easy way to either find happiness or figure out the role of money in getting you there. It's a process, Sara.

Sara Rathner: Fine.

Sean Pyles: I know. I wish it could be easy, but hopefully you, dear listener, have learned about some of the tools at your disposal as you search for the answer to where money fits into your life and your sense of well-being. And to finish off this series, today we're going to give you some tools that can potentially set you on a path toward more happiness. And we'll talk about money as one of those tools, but not the only one.

Sara Rathner: OK, fair enough. So where do we start?

Sean Pyles: We're going to start with another certified financial therapist. We talked earlier in the series with financial counselor Aja Evans about how our money histories play a huge part in how we react to the role of money in our lives. Ashley Agnew is with Centerpoint Advisors and does a lot of work around money and relationships. She, too, says our money memories going all the way back to childhood need to be explored. And that's a really good first step to take to understand how money can shape or prevent happiness.

Ashley Agnew: There's usually reasons that are holding them back, and it comes from those habits or those scripts that were instilled usually through experiences that started very young.

So it's diving deep into those. What were the first money messages received from the family of origin? What did your parents teach you about money? Is it "A penny saved is a penny earned"? Is it, "You can't trust others with money"? What were those messages that were received? Then folks start to understand a little bit more about why they're acting this way with money and why they can't achieve sometimes that full financial well-being. So when it comes to financial decisions, there's truly no illogical decisions. So we might categorize things as good or bad, but we are only acting in a way that has served us a purpose in the past. So for example, maybe we don't loan a friend money because we got burned in the past by loaning a sibling or a different friend money. Maybe we are a slave to our jobs because in the past, we didn't succeed when we were either unemployed or self-employed or something like that.

But when you're moving so fast through life and in that autopilot mode, in survival mode, because financial skills are survival skills, we don't take the time to reflect and understand that. We only feel, "Oh man, my bank account's not where I want it to be. My retirement account's not where I want it to be. It must be my fault. I've just got to keep on, if I keep on plugging away, maybe it'll get better." Or if there's a lot of avoidance, too, that can be a barrier.

Sean Pyles: So when you go through this process of self interrogation, how do you take all of that and then say, “OK, now that we understand how we got to where we are, let's talk about where we want to be," an end goal. Whether it's a year, five years down the line in terms of finances, and also our relationship to money. How do you just set something down on paper to say, this is what we're working toward?

Ashley Agnew: So some folks are more visual: Some want to see a big picture of what they're working towards, and some want to see what we would say is a snackable bite. What are we doing for the next two weeks? What are we doing for the month? What are we doing for the quarter? And that can be really helpful because sometimes getting on path to either financial freedom or financial confidence can seem really insurmountable because it's only one piece of everything else that we have going on. What can we do right now and how does that feed into the future?

Sara Rathner: Well, snacks are my favorite thing. So snackable bites of financial wisdom sound pretty good to me.

Sean Pyles: I totally agree and I wanted to hear a little bit more from Ashley. A snack, if you will, about that point she was making at the end there about financial confidence. I really like that phrase and we are going to be using it more on the Smart Money podcast because it really is all about confidence. If you have confidence in your financial situation, you're probably just going to feel better overall.

Sara Rathner: I feel like this is what we talk about when we talk about an abundance mindset, right? How some people live in a scarcity mindset where things could go to hell with their money at any moment and others live with this abundance mindset where there's more of a sense of peace.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, exactly. Well, here's Ashley.

Ashley Agnew: So it's putting perspective to your money. An abundance about more than just money. So helping through that and helping align values. When you help align values with your financial plan, with how you connect with money, then that helps open up the abundance mindset. That helps get rid of some of the biases when you're anchoring towards a number, towards a figure, towards a status. So where somebody might have a scarcity mindset is if they say, “You know what? I don't have enough money to lead a happy life.” And that word "enough" comes up a lot, right? Well, there's never enough. “I don't have enough to do what can make me happy right now.” Whereas we try to shift to the abundance mindset, we’re saying, OK, well, what are the things that truly make you happy? Are they things? Are they experiences? Are they people? How do we get more of that? Because that's how you're going to live a more abundant lifestyle.

Sean Pyles: So as people are working to maybe change their habits to work toward that happier, more financially sound life that they want, there are inevitably going to be some challenges, some detours or disruptions. How do you think people can best learn from the challenges that they face and incorporate them into their end goals?

Ashley Agnew: I think people need to be more forgiving of themselves, first off. We're all humans trying to figure it out. And if you feel like you've got it figured out, you're wrong. That means that you've stopped growing and that's not a good thing. You also have to have an emergency plan for when these things happen. Speaking your truth, right? What are you trying to accomplish? What's the plan that you're following and what's going to happen when things go wrong? Knowing when you're triggered, and write it down. If you keep a money journal or financial journal for your habits and say, "OK, well last time this went awry, here's how I reacted. How do I feel about that reaction and what would I rather do differently?" You're bringing light to your own behaviors. "Well, I said I wasn't going to overspend at brunch and when I went there I ended up picking up the tab."

OK, well did you feel great after that or did you feel terrible after that? "Well, I felt great because it was my best friend's birthday and we haven't been together in five years." OK, well maybe that's not a bad spend. But if you felt pressured because you feel like you haven't picked up the tab enough or your friends look at you as more of a breadwinner than they might be, well, then those are the things that we want to address so that you can build better habits and build a better money script for yourself to follow next time you're in a situation like that.

Sara Rathner: A money script. Interesting.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, she actually talked about role-playing with yourself on this kind of thing. She had this example where, say your friend is getting married and asks you to not only attend the wedding but the bachelor or bachelorette party, too, and you just can't afford to do both. Practice that conversation where you say, "Hey, the wedding is super important to me and I really want to be there, but I can't do both things," and practice hearing what the bride or groom is going to say in reaction to that. It's what Ashley calls scripts and strategies for emotional and financial stress that can help you essentially manage your happiness.

Sara Rathner: That wedding thing is a tale as old as time. Oh, gosh. Well, you know, next time I'm faced with a conflict like that, I will get out my pen and write a script out. That sounds like a really helpful exercise.

Sean Pyles: I'm happy to review all of your drafts, Sara.

Sara Rathner: Thank you, Sean.

Sean Pyles: One thing we've talked about a lot in this series is the pressure to be happy, that this surge for a happier life can seem ubiquitous. We're bombarded with media about how we should be happier, but that that can sometimes ring hollow. I asked Dan Harris about how we can set sort of an end goal around happiness or if that's even possible.

Sara Rathner: Dan Harris, he's the news anchor, right?

Sean Pyles: The one and only. He was an anchor at ABC News for years. You may not know this, Sara, but he had a panic attack on live television during "Good Morning America." And that experience prompted him to start an organization called Ten Percent Happier. He's got a couple of books and a podcast and he talks about the role of meditation in getting us to a better place. But I really wanted to know more about the societal pressure.

Dan Harris: There are all these #selfcare, #happiness, whatever, and you see people wearing T-shirts that say "joy" on it or "be kind" or whatever.

Sean Pyles: Yeah.

Dan Harris: And after a while it can all seem sort of hollow and rote.

Sean Pyles: Yes. And so it can seem like happiness is something that you have on your coffee mug but maybe aren't really experiencing in a day-to-day way.

Dan Harris: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think there are more — in many ways, as good as modern life is, if you look at things from a historical perspective, you know, we have Advil and dentistry and not currently in the middle of a world war. So things are pretty good historically.

Sean Pyles: Knocking on wood for that last one.

Dan Harris: Yes, for sure. And yet, there are some pretty serious drags on our happiness and those include technology, which is amazing in many ways, but also can lead to isolation and loneliness and distraction and FOMO and lots of things that are not good for the human animal. And then also on a related note, you know, we’ve just come through this pandemic and that led to a lot of social isolation, which again is just counter to the way we evolved as animals who really thrive in groups. And so we're seeing historic bumps in anxiety, depression, suicide, loneliness and addiction. And then so yeah, it's more important than ever I think, to be focused on how to do life better and how to be happy because there are so many obstacles in our way.

Sean Pyles: So basically he says, “Yeah, there is that pressure, but it's actually a good pressure.” He also talked about what he called his north stars, his quote "pantheon of no-brainers to feel happier," including sleep, exercise, diet, nature and, of course, meditation. And then he talked about the importance of meaning and purpose in our lives, but he said the most important one was social connection.

Dan Harris: We've just come through a two-year experiment, unregulated and unplanned, into what happens when you deny people's social connection and the results are pretty obvious. You get really unhappy. We evolved to be in contact with other human beings. We're a social species. The data show that the number one variable for health and happiness is the quality of your relationships. As the great couple's counselor Esther Perel has said: “The quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life.” And that's not something for your coffee mug. That's something that science has borne out: That having better relationships reduces your stress, makes stressful things less stressful, and that has a massive impact on your health and will, in aggregate, help people live longer and happier.

Sean Pyles: One thing I didn't hear you mention in your pantheon of things that can help people be happier is money. Do you think money fits into this pantheon at all, or is it really a tool to facilitate these other aspects of our lives?

Dan Harris: I think money is such a fascinating area when it comes to happiness. And, in fact, we did a two-part series recently on my podcast about the psychology of money and the dharma of money. The dharma being a sort of Buddhist word for the Buddha's teaching; the dharma is what we call everything the Buddha taught. So we did a two-part episode. One was on what psychology says about money, and the second was what Buddhism says about money. And in ancient wisdom, in Buddhism and other ancient traditions, money was not left out. The Buddha talked about right livelihood, wise livelihood. We all have to earn a living, but can you choose a livelihood that is constructive and isn't harming other people? So that's one thing to say. The other thing to say is it's very easy, and I think we should give people permission to get, you know, this is an area of money that can bring out a lot of inner ugliness and I don't think it helps to deny that.

I think it's actually worth just looking at how crazy money can make us. Speaking for myself, it's a thing I'm still working on. How can you achieve some sense of enoughness or sufficiency around money? How can you not lapse into comparing mine, comparing yourself to your neighbor? How can you not lapse into freaking out because there's this thing you want but you can't yet afford and all of your attention is going in that direction. These are really interesting psychological/spiritual dilemmas that there's no simple answer for them, but they're worth wrestling with.

Sara Rathner: Sean, I want to go back to this whole meditation thing. If I meditate, will it improve my finances and my happiness? And if so, how and where do I start today? Should I just like wedge myself into the lotus position immediately?

Sean Pyles: Well, hold on. I don't want you to hurt yourself, Sara. Dan talks about this as a habit that you have to form over sometimes a long period of time and you have to give yourself grace while you're doing that and be patient with what it's doing for you and your happiness.

Dan Harris: Meditation's a tricky one because when you exercise, you get the endorphins immediately. Especially as you're booting up a meditation habit, it can be humbling because you're seeing how wild the mind is and it's very hard. A lot of people sit and meditate and usually in meditation instructions, we ask you to focus on one thing. Usually that's the breath. And so you try to focus on the breath and then you notice that you're getting distracted over and over again and you're trying to do this seemingly easy thing, just feel your breath coming in and going out, but the mind is wild and you're just off thinking about ridiculous things: Where do gerbils run wild, whatever. And the whole goal in meditation is to be OK with getting distracted, to know that this is going to happen and that it isn't a failure to get distracted.

It's actually, waking up from distraction is proof that you're doing this correctly. That's a bicep curl for your brain. And it shows up this exercise on the brain scans of people who meditate. So it's a little harder of a habit to establish because you don't get the endorphin rush initially. What you get is a lot of, it can be quite frustrating. It's difficult. Where I think you get the rush of pleasure is a few weeks or months in, when there's a moment when you might have said something that ruins the next 48 hours of your marriage or you might have gorged on a sleeve of Oreos and you don't because you've developed the self-awareness, otherwise known as mindfulness, to see what's happening in your head without being carried away by it blindly and reflexively. And that can be the moment where a great faith or confidence is instilled.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, I think about that a lot in the context of paying off debt. I wrote a lot about debt payoff early in my time at NerdWallet and it can be quite a slog, similar in some ways to building a practice of mindfulness where you're working day in, day out toward this goal that can feel elusive and like you maybe aren't making any progress on it. But there is often a point where you look back and you see, “Hey, I paid off a thousand dollars of debt and I feel so much more grounded, so much more liberated and confident in my ability to do something like this.” But even on a long journey to paying off debt or to becoming more mindful, there are going to be detours, distractions, disruptions, like you mentioned before. How do you think people can incorporate curveballs and challenges into very long-term goals, like becoming happier or paying off debt?

Dan Harris: I just want to say that I think your analogy there is really interesting. I like that. And you used liberated as one of the results of paying off your debt and liberation is a word that's a kind of grandiose term, but can seem a little bit like the beginning of this conversation where we're talking about empty cliches. But freedom is the goal of meditation, too. To be freed from old emotional patterns, psychological habits that are not serving you or the people around you, to get familiar and comfortable with the upheaval of the human mind, of your own mind, so that it's not yanking you around all the time. And that, again, it's not going to be going to a spin class where you feel great afterwards immediately. It takes a little while, takes a little trust that this thing will eventually work. Trust that the science shows that it has all of these benefits and invest for a couple of weeks, a couple of months, and you will slowly start to see that you're not as owned by your distraction, by your neurosis, as you used to be. And that's what you need if you're going to do anything great in your life, from parenting to your career to paying off your debt to public service. All of these big goals require a grit and a resilience or else we can never meet them.

Sara Rathner: Grit and resilience, good words, but kind of hard to maintain.

Sean Pyles: Agreed. And as we said at the top of the show, none of this is easy. So let's get a few more tools for the money and happiness toolbox.

Sara Rathner: So, Sean, I feel like one of the big lessons I took away from this series was that, like so many other things in life, our definitions of what it means to be happy change over time. You can start out with one idea of what happiness means to you and the role that money plays in it and then five, 10 or even 20 years later, it's completely different.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And one of the questions I asked lots of our guests was about how we set goals around happiness and whether that's even necessary or wise to do.

Sara Rathner: Right.

Sean Pyles: So to finish off, I talked with Dacher Keltner. He teaches psychology at UC Berkeley and directs something called the Social Interaction Lab. He also founded the Greater Good Science Center and hosts a podcast called "The Science of Happiness."

Sara Rathner: Perfect.

Sean Pyles: So here's what he had to say about the idea of setting goals around happiness.

Dacher Keltner: You bump into real trouble when you try to reduce happiness to one kind of goal. Like, “Do I maximize the pleasure of a lot of people around me?” And the reason you bump into trouble: We change as human beings. When you're 75, happiness is much different than when you're 16. And we change as a function of our culture. So my sense of happiness as somebody who lives in California is really different from my neighbor who's from Mexico who will define happiness differently. So I think that the definition of happiness is just feeling good — that life is meaningful — is just the starting point. And then the real action arises when we think about, “How do I do that? What does it mean?”

Sara Rathner: Very philosophical.

Sean Pyles: Very. So I decided to push on that and see what he thought about the extent to which money comes into play when people are building a happy life.

Dacher Keltner: I think that there are kind of three ideas that I see in the empirical literature on happiness and money. And the first is it matters a lot for really poor people, right? If you live in a really poor country or you grew up really poor — I grew up in a very poor neighborhood for much of my life — money matters for those people. If you're having trouble paying your food bill or electricity bill and you make 200 bucks more a month, it'll really increase your happiness. Second thing is that money does not matter as much for the middle class people and beyond. And then the third thing that I always teach people, Sean, is especially in the American context and in the globalized context of some western European countries, we overestimate how important money is. And that is also true that we, in the last 40 years as we've lived in this ideology if you will, of self-interest and maximizing your status and wealth, there's this famous finding called the commuters' paradox, which is people buy homes further out in the suburbs where they think that their money will be of better value and they'll get a big yard, but then they have to drive to and from their home out there, which undermines their happiness. And that's true of a lot of the ways in which we use money. So we got to watch it, we overestimate it.

Sean Pyles: Yeah. What should people be focusing on instead of money when they're trying to build happiness?

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, you know, part of it is social connection. Try not to trade meaningful social relationships for money when you make decisions. A second is rather than consumer purchases and making more money, focus on experiences. Focus on the meaningful experience with a friend. Or I've done a lot of research on awe, you don't find awe. Very often it doesn't take money to find awe. And those experiences actually have a bigger impact on your well-being than buying a fancy pair of shoes or the new couch or whatever.

Sean Pyles: Right. Well, it seems like money can be just a tool to create more instances of awe in your life. Like you mentioned going camping with friends. If you could visit a national park, but you'll need some money for the car that will get you there and the hiking shoes that will get you to the top of the mountain. What are your thoughts on that?

Dacher Keltner: It's funny, Sean, I grew up raised by utopian hippies and those were my parents. I grew up in an era where it's like, “Capitalism's bad and free markets are bad, and down with money.”

Sean Pyles: Yeah.

Dacher Keltner: Put a little bit more money — and what I love about the new science of happiness is it, just like you said, money's a medium, it gets you to things. And really, now, when I use money or technology, I'm really thinking about, “Is this going to give me more beauty? Will this give me more awe? Is there a way when I think about the expenditure I make on a day, will it get me into a museum? Will it get me to a piece of music that's awe-inspiring?” And so I think, you know, when we have these very old powerful emotions, right, of awe and beauty and joy, sensory pleasure and the like that are really informative about what means something to us, and use those as guidelines for how you use your extra capital.

Sara Rathner: Awe and beauty and joy, good things.

Sean Pyles: Yeah, in fact, he's just written a book all about awe.

Sara Rathner: And not like "Aw, isn't that a cute cat video?" But actual awe like A-W-E.

Sean Pyles: Yes, we all need more awe in our lives. I'm going to say both kinds to be honest.

Sara Rathner: Absolutely.

Sean Pyles: But anyway, Dacher is also a big believer in changing habits over a long period of time. It's not a “Do this one thing and you'll become happier” type of deal. As we've been saying this entire episode, it's a lot of adjustments to your life and your outlook.

Dacher Keltner: I work with health care providers and medical doctors, in particular, teaching these tools of happiness. And what I tell them is, “Move away from the idea, ‘I have to have a big epiphany and then I'll be happy or I'll find nirvana.’” Rather, in our very busy lives of the 21st century, the doctors that I teach are working 16 hours a day, right? People's lives are on the line. It's like, find three to five minutes a day where you're practicing something. It could be at lunchtime where you go outside and watch the clouds a little bit more carefully. It could be at a little moment at a team meeting where you say, "OK, we're going to all share a moment of gratitude or something we're grateful to our work colleagues about." The tools are out there. Find three to five minutes a day, and then find your sweet spots.

Sean Pyles: Yeah. In terms of how people manage their money, one thing that comes to mind for me is that sometimes when some people are stressed out, they will buy something. And I think one way to maybe get out of that habit and to focus more on a mindful practice of happiness would be when people recognize that they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed about something, stepping away from the internet for a little bit so you can't just impulse buy something and go on that mindful walk that you mentioned.

Dacher Keltner: Yeah, it's the same puzzle or paradox as with technology. We can get lost in our smartphones nine hours a day, whatever. We have to rely on our own personal criteria or guidelines for what will bring us happiness and meaning, not only with technology, but also with how we spend money. And here are some ways that really will bring you happiness with money: sharing it with other people, treating people to a nice dinner, finding the experiences, going for beauty and awe as opposed to something, you know, glittery that's a consumer purchase. So the message is really similar with technology and money, which is take a step back like you said, and really observe what is this bringing to you emotionally? And this is all, of course, we have to remember, if you're truly impoverished, then money has to go to essentials. And so it's a different story.

Sara Rathner: I'm glad he made that point, Sean, because for all of what we've been saying in this series about how money doesn't necessarily determine your base level of happiness, there are realities for a lot of people where money does make a difference just because you need it to live.

Sean Pyles: Absolutely. And nobody has said that it's not important at all or that it doesn't make a difference, but sometimes it does seem like we as a society and as individuals probably place too much importance on money and its role in our happiness. And hopefully we've given listeners some tools to get to a better, possibly healthier, point in that relationship.

Sara Rathner: I hope so, too.

Sean Pyles: So I'm going to give the final word to Dan Harris, the 10% Happier guy, because I want to leave everyone with a reminder that yes, this is a skill you can develop just like Dan developed skills around meditation, which you could do, too. We can all develop skills around money and how it affects our level of happiness.

Dan Harris: This is what the science is showing us. This is what allowed me as somebody who's fidgety and skeptical and atheist/agnostic to get into meditation in the first place, which is that the science is showing that happiness and the root of happiness, by the way, the linguistic root of it reflects our ambivalence about the subject. H-A-P is the same root of haphazard or hapless, so it has to do with luck. And that I think we have this sense that happiness is a thing that happens to us and it's dependent upon the womb from which we entered the world or the quality of our childhood, the quality of our romantic life, all of which are very, very important. I'm not diminishing them at all, but in the end, happiness is a skill that you can take responsibility for. And that's incredibly good news. And life is not predictable. Most things are not in your control, but can you learn over time to get more supple and skillful at surfing the waves rather than drowning in them? And that all speaks to this notion of happiness being a skill that is developed all the time throughout your life. You can just keep getting better and better at this.

Sean Pyles: Sara, we started the series talking about how money can shape our happiness and whether it should really have any role in how we feel about our lives. And over the past few episodes, I think it's become clear that, yes, while you need a certain amount of money to be happy, much of the work of being quote unquote "happy" comes from elsewhere. It's the strength of the relationships that we have. It's the messy habits that we have to rework, accepting life as it is and the long job of building the life that we want for ourselves and our loved ones.

So going forward, as I think about my money decisions, I'm going to ask myself, "Does this serve my well-being? How are my values being represented? And is it in service of creating a life that has meaning to me?"

Sara Rathner: Yeah, I think it is still helpful to acknowledge the role that money does play in happiness. It's not necessarily buying a luxury car, but it's giving you the ability to have transportation, right? It's about the convenience and comfort that money can bring to your life. And so it does affect your happiness in a way. And when you don't have those things, it can make life that much harder. But I think it's OK to honor money's role in life because it is important. And at the same time, honor where money can't actually bring you greater happiness.

Sean Pyles: Right. And that's it for our special series on money and happiness. We hope it's been helpful and enjoyable and maybe even made you happier. If it did, and even if it didn't, we would still love to hear your money questions. Turn to the Nerds and call or text us your questions at 901-730-6373. That's 901-730-NERD. You can also email us at [email protected]. This episode was produced by Tess Vigeland and me, Sean Pyles. Kaely Monahan mixed our audio. And a big thank you to the folks on the NerdWallet copy desk for all their help.

Sara Rathner: Visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode and remember to follow, rate and review us wherever you're getting this podcast. And here's our brief disclaimer: We're not financial or investment advisors. This Nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes and may not apply to your specific circumstances.

Sean Pyles: And with that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.