The Harsh Reality Why Money Makes You Happy (With Science!)

Everyone wants to be rich. The deceptional lies of society tell you it is shallow. Much like you shouldn’t judge by the cover although everyone does it.

Naval Ravikant said, “Money doesn’t make you happy, but the absence of money can make you very unhappy.”

I think the first statement is false because money is the foundation of survival. But why exactly does money have such a big impact on our life? Why money makes you happy has always been a big question. Short: because it is a primal instinct.

The human evolution towards money

Portrait of the Kalam Tribe

To understand this, we must look many years back into human evolution. In our early stages, we developed a so-called bio-survival instinct. As did all the other mammals. This instinct is the foundation of survival and thus our oldest instinct.

Its task is pretty simple. Secure survival of the host. This part of your brain does not take many things into consideration because there isn’t much time for such thoughts while in danger.

Think about it this way, if you are a monkey running through the jungle and suddenly you see another animal right in front of you. You don’t have time to run thoughts like “Is it a monkey? If not, is it pro monkey? Will it kill me, or not? Can we be friends? Is it male or female? Can we reproduce?”

If you stand there and evaluate the situation for too long, you will likely be mauled.

Therefore, this circuit acts very rapidly and only decides between flee, attack, mate. And sometimes, this decision is even wrong and you die.

The pack instinct

This bio-survival instinct first attaches to the mother, deeming it a safe space to be. Everything else is hostile. By aging, the safe space expands further into the world. From the mother to family, to the pack.

First humans then learned that within their pack or tribe they are safe (at least to a degree) and thus this secured their survival.

This is added to the genetic drive for survival of the gene pool. From a Darwinian perspective, survival of yourself or survival of your genes is virtually the same. One keeps your body, the other keeps your genetic imprint. This then works in tandem with why we feel safe within the tribe.

It is a place to safely further your genetic material.

Civilization ruined the survival instinct

A small village in the dunes

Since humans started living in big cities where there is virtually no danger of predators, it seems that we are safer than ever. This, however, is a blinding fallacy.

The tribe or pack-bond has been broken because humans just cannot take care of so many human connections at once. The Dunbar number states we can only take care of about 250 close connections to other humans. That means, even your 400 Facebook friends are not really your friends. In turn, while you are living close to thousands of your species, you are still alone. There is no bond with any of them.

While humans are more connected than ever in history, they are lonelier than they ever were.

This then created a new layer of survival mechanism. While there are no predators to maul us living in cities – except for Zoos – there is one huge predator looming above all of us: being broke.

Not having money itself is not the issue, it is the implications bound to it. You cannot live within the “tribe” of the city anymore, except maybe under a bridge. You lose contact with all your peers which sort-of form a tribe, and you might actually have to live in the woods where you might finally be mauled by a boar.

When in ancient history, the palisade walls around your tribe where the boundaries for your safe space, in modern times the minimum wage has the same effect.

This then is where the lack of money makes you unhappy.

Your basic survival instinct is triggered. You will most likely survive anyway, physically. But your current lifestyle and being will die and this triggers this very simplistic circuit in your brain. For this, even the thought of being broke when a ton of bills are coming in are accelerating your heart rate, clogging your thoughts, and ruining your mood.

All of it is designed to focus you on that one thing: survival.

In modern times: making enough money to survive.

Survival tickets

A lot of this knowledge is from the book Prometheus Rising from Robert Anton Wilson which you can get here. It outlines the basic functionality of humans and our brain.

In it, he calls money “survival tickets” which is a mental image I use myself.

The withdrawal of these tickets means that your survival is in danger and your bio-survival circuit releases feelings of anxiety.

Just imagine for a second what you would do if all your survival tickets are gone. Zero money in the bank account. No assets, nothing. This is exactly how humans felt back in the day when they were cut off from the tribe.

This is how people ensured that men and women behaved within the tribe. Because the fear of getting thrown out into the wilderness and fighting for bare survival easily overwrote whatever impulsive decision they wanted to make.

This is also why communism and socialism will never work. If all the tickets are distributed by the state, you live in constant fear of not being conform enough to receive them. As opposed to capitalism where you can express the freedom of your personality once you acquired enough of said tickets.

Why Money Makes you Happy – The Truth

Rich man holding money in hand

And this is precisely where we draw the bridge to the happiness-factor of money.

While the lack of it makes you very unhappy, people say that after a certain threshold more money does not make you happier.

I agree with that. Whenever I had enough money to live comfortably, getting more of it didn’t do much. Plus, buying new things only releases dopamine for a very short amount of time

However, once you have enough tickets to not worry about your survival, you will start to send those tickets outwards.

If you become rich at some point, you will naturally spend a lot of it on shallow things. It’s really just a display of power and a feeling of freedom. To be able to buy all these things.

At some point, you will most likely decide that you can help others with those tickets. The people within your tribe to secure their own survival. It’s exactly what humans did in the past when they’ve built walls around their tribes and set guards to defend them. It was to secure the survival of the tribe itself.

If you give money to friends, you expect them to stand in your favor, or at least you are trying to buy loyalty so they don’t backstab you.

People will mouth the words that they do it out of selflessness, but in my experience, this is a comforting lie. Reality paints that you do it to secure your own survival by offering survival to the tribe.

This then is where happiness is derived from. The bigger the distance between fighting for your survival, the more comfortable you feel.

Why a lot of money won’t make you happy

Business man pushing large stone up to hill , Business heavy tas

The sad reality, however, is that humans are never truly happy. Especially men. We are not meant to live in that comfortable state.

This is the lottery winner phenomenon.

All of a sudden, survival is completely out of the equation and they can just buy whatever they want in their bubble of comfort. This then is when they become sluggish and addicted to the dopamine.

Imagine an ancient tribe who never had to fight off intruders or enemies. There would be no need for walls. No need for developing new tools, no need for physical prowess to actually withstand the adversity at the gates.

This is exactly where the modern man lacks his grit. Modern society is comfortable enough (even if you’re not rich) that there is no need to be mentally, physically and morally fit. Your mere existence is secured regardless.

As a result, you see some rich people become morbidly obese and not contributing anything. And some rich people like Elon Musk who are worth $208 billion and still work 80 hours a week to change history and society.

One of them is mostly driven by their primitive bio-survival circuit, the other one has achieved a higher state of consciousness.


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See money as survival-tickets. These tickets keep you within the societal tribe and above the minimum wage so you don’t have to fight for survival each and every day.

After a certain threshold, more money won’t necessarily make you happier, unless you find ways to contribute to society that propels you forward and/or gives your life meaning.

Having enough money will also make you seemingly selfless when in reality you are selfishly trying to externalize your method of survival by buying friends.

Either way, striving for money is deeply ingrained in our bio-survival circuit. Thus making more money is not evil in any way. It’s a survival mechanism in a tribeless society where humans live in dirty cities and are pretty lonely anyway.

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