“Money alone doesn’t make you happy” – you’ve probably heard these and similar sayings. But what does it look like when money means freedom? And what does science say on the subject?

Many people have seen the Will Smith film “The Pursuit of Happyness.” It is based on the true life story of entrepreneur Chris Gardner, who was homeless for almost an entire year. Smith plays a single father trying to provide his young son Christopher and himself with a normal, dignified life. One day, when he is offered an unpaid internship as a stock broker, he takes it, even though his resources are limited. He is now doing everything he can to change his situation for the better in order to be able to offer his son a future perspective.

Smith’s marriage and family life were particularly strained by his lack of money and his inability to pay his rent and bills. He once even had to spend a night in jail because he couldn’t pay a parking fine. Like many people, money became important to him not because he had too much of it, but because he had too little of it. Therefore, it was very clear to him that the “pursuit of happiness” was inseparable from the pursuit of money.

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann has a doctorate in historian and sociology. He has written and edited 25 books, including “Capitalism is not the problem, but the solution.” His book “A Capitalist’s World Tour” will be published in May. In search of the causes of poverty and wealth”. As an entrepreneur, he built up a million-dollar fortune. He is a member of the FDP.

Money makes me happy. Not because I can buy a nice car and an expensive watch with it – that’s really not important to me. But because money means freedom to me. What does that mean specifically for me? Freedom initially means: I alone decide whether I work, when I work, where I work, who I work with, what I work and how I work. I don’t need to work anymore, but I enjoy working. But I don’t like having a boss telling me what work to do. And I like to take my afternoon nap.

I like to travel a lot. And when I travel, I like to fly business or first class and stay in first-class hotels. In the last 20 months I have traveled to 30 countries on five continents – and written a book about it: A Capitalist’s World Tour.

A Capitalist’s World Tour: In Search of the Causes of Poverty and Wealth

And my passion is science: in recent years I have had surveys carried out by a renowned opinion research institute for my studies, which cost me around 650,000 euros. I didn’t have anyone to give me the money for it. I was able to afford this because I had built up a fortune as an entrepreneur and investor in less than 20 years.

All in all I say: money is not the most important thing, but it is very important because freedom is the most important thing for me. But not everyone sees it that way. Such an attitude is unusual for an intellectual. Even the ancient philosophers often made critical statements about wealth. Plato asked in his Politea: “Is not the difference between wealth and virtue that they are placed, as it were, on the scales of a scale, one of which rises while the other falls?”

Poets, singers and philosophers have repeatedly coined aphorisms that relativize the value of money and condemn the pursuit of wealth. “To have enough is happiness, to have more than enough is disastrous. This is true of all things, but especially of money,” said the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

Pop singer Bob Dylan asked, “What does money mean?” A person is successful when he does what he likes between getting up and going to bed.” And Albert Einstein said: “Money only attracts self-interest and always irresistibly tempts you to abuse it.”

On the other hand, there were always poets and philosophers who saw things completely differently. “A healthy person without money is half sick” – this sentence comes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And the Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza expressed his skepticism about people who speak too one-sidedly about the misuse of money and the vices of the rich: “The poor person who would like to be rich talks incessantly about the misuse of money and the vices of the rich Rich, but through this he achieves nothing other than that he is annoyed and shows others how he is displeased not only with his own poverty, but also with the wealth of others.

The German philosopher Gertrude Stein said: “I was rich and I was poor. It’s better to be rich.” And the writer Oscar Wilde, who always loved to provoke contradiction and reveal truths through exaggerated statements, wrote: “When I was little, I believed that money was the most important thing in life . Today, when I’m old, I know: It’s true.”

“Money alone does not make you happy” or “Better to be poor and healthy than rich and sick” are just two sayings that are used to dispute or downplay the importance of money for human happiness. This skepticism has seemingly been confirmed by scientific studies. The two Nobel Prize winners in economics, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, came to the conclusion that the connection between higher income and greater happiness does hold, but only up to a certain limit, namely an annual income of $75,000. Anything above that no longer has a significant influence on a person’s satisfaction, since they have already become accustomed to a comfortable financial situation and only adjust their lifestyle minimally with each pay rise.

However, a more recent study published in the American journal PNAS comes to a completely different conclusion. American researchers led by Matthew A. Killingsworth found that both “experienced well-being” and “evaluative well-being” increased with income.

“Experienced well-being” was measured by evaluating 1.73 million reports from 33,391 Americans. They were contacted on their smartphone at different times and asked the question: “How are you feeling right now?” “Evaluative well-being” was measured with the question: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?”

The interesting result: The limit of $75,000 claimed by Kahneman and Deaton did not exist. The connection between more money and higher happiness in life was clearly proven both for incomes up to $80,000 and for incomes above.

The study had some methodological advantages over older studies. In older studies, respondents could only answer the question about their happiness with “yes” or “no”, whereas in the current study a scale with different gradations was used. A big advantage was that the current emotional state was actually measured by making contact with the cell phone. In older studies, people were simply asked to remember how they felt. However, such memories are often distorted and strongly colored by the current emotional state.

If you understand money as “imprinted freedom” and rephrase the question “Does money make you happy?”, then the question is: “Does freedom make you happy?” Most people would probably answer this question in the affirmative. Check for yourself: If you no longer had to work tomorrow because you had enough money and could decide for yourself whether you should work at all and what you should do – would that increase your happiness in life?

Please make a list of all the worries you have had in the last three months. And then cross out all the worries that you wouldn’t have had if you had, for example, 30 million euros. Worries about job security, rent increases or expensive car repairs can be eliminated immediately.

Of course, concerns about health remained. But we know from scientific studies that rich people are, on average, healthier and have a significantly longer life expectancy than poorer people. Other worries remained, such as heartbreak. These worries don’t go away with more money – but at least as a rich person you have significantly better opportunities and choices when choosing a partner than a poor person.

In her dissertation on “Wealth in Germany”, the scientist Dorothee Spannagel examined the question of what people are worried about. 23 percent of the total population were “very worried” about their own health, but only 10 percent of high earners were. 25 percent of the total population, but only 6 percent of the “rich” were “very worried” about their own economic situation. And 54 percent of the “rich” were not worried about it at all, but only 27 percent of the total population said they were not worried about their own economic situation.

Of course, money alone doesn’t make you happy, and I’ve never met anyone who said that. Likewise, health or good sex alone do not make you happy. And yet this banality is only emphasized in the context of money. I have yet to find anyone who has taught us that “health alone does not make you happy”. Don’t let anyone tell you that money isn’t important. That’s simply not true – and basically everyone knows it.