All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending

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How happy would you be if you had all the money in the world? The universal lament about money is that there is never enough. We spend endless hours obsessing over our budgets and investments, trying to figure out ways to stretch every dollar. We try to follow the advice of money gurus and financial planners, then kick ourselves whenever we spend too much or save too little. For all of the stress and effort we put into every choice, why are most of us unhappy about our finances?...

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All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth

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Overview

How happy would you be if you had all the money in the world? The universal lament about money is that there is never enough. We spend endless hours obsessing over our budgets and investments, trying to figure out ways to stretch every dollar. We try to follow the advice of money gurus and financial planners, then kick ourselves whenever we spend too much or save too little. For all of the stress and effort we put into every choice, why are most of us unhappy about our finances?

According to Laura Vanderkam, the key is to change your perspective. Instead of looking at money as a scarce resource, consider it a tool that you can use creatively to build a better life for yourself and the people you care about.

For instance, the average couple spends $5,000 on engagement and wedding rings, making these pricey purchases largely because everyone else does. But what if you decided to spend $300 on rings and apply the rest to future date nights, weekend getaways, and thinking-of-you bouquets over the next ten years? In he long run, what would bring more joy to your marriage? Likewise, will owning a home with a pristine lawn and a two-car garage—the American Dream—really make you more satisfied? Or are you saving up for this investment just because financial planners tell you it’s worth it?

Vanderkam shows how each of us can figure out better ways to use what we have to build the lives we want. Drawing on the latest happiness research as well as the stories of dozens of real people, Vanderkam offers a contrarian approach that forces us to examine our own beliefs, goals, and values.

Among her advice:

  • Laugh at the Joneses: It’s human nature to compare yourself to those around you, but you can create lifestyle hat rings you personal satisfaction without copying your neighbors.
  • Give yourself the best weekend ever: Studies show that experiences often bring more pleasure than material goods. With a little planning and creativity, you can give yourself a memorable getaway without leaving town or going broke.
  • Embrace the selfish joy of giving: Giving back not only helps you build karma, it also helps you build a community—which is much more fulfilling than a tax deduction. All the Money in the World is a practical and inspiring guide that shows how money can buy happiness—if we spend it wisely.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Money is a powerful, complicated thing, and our beliefs about it—and behavior around it—are muddled, says Vanderkam (168 Hours). To become more mindful about our choices, she writes, we should explore the link between money and happiness, and use money to optimize our well-being and the well-being of people we care about. We need to stop thinking about money as something evil or soulless, or as a point of competition with others. Vanderkam explores the ways in which thinking more cogently about money’s role in our lives can bring us peace, and asks: if you had all the money in the world—not literally, but all you wanted—what would you change about your life? She walks readers through rethinking retirement, eschewing keeping up with the Joneses, filling time with favorite activities, giving to charities, and, overall, figuring out how to create the life they want. Vanderkam’s gracious, levelheaded polemic will give readers some much-needed sanity around this difficult topic; as she observes: “If money can’t buy happiness, perhaps we’re not spending it right.” Agent: Emilie Stewart, Emilie Stewart Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Gretchen Rubin
“Money is one of the most complex, emotionally charged issues within the larger subject of happiness. In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Laura Vanderkam explains how we can get the most happiness bang for our buck—right here and now, in the way we live our ordinary lives.”
-Gretchen Rubin

“Money is one of the most complex, emotionally charged issues within the larger subject of happiness. In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Laura Vanderkam explains how we can get the most happiness bang for our buck--right here and now, in the way we live our ordinary lives.”
-Adelaide Lancaster

All the Money in the World offers a total rethink on personal finance. Instead of prescribing the same-old hard-to-follow rules, Vanderkam encourages you to take your own values and goals into account when it comes to saving and spending. It is packed with creative ideas on how to get more, spend less, and most importantly, better use what you have. This book shows you that it’s not dollar signs that are standing in the way of what you want in life.”
-Crystal Paine

“Bravo! Laura writes another thoroughly-researched and thought-provoking book! Whether you're an extravagant spender, a frugal coupon-clipper, or anywhere in between, All the Money in the World will challenge your longheld financial beliefs and practices. This book is guaranteed to make you think long and hard about how to allocate your money to bring you true fulfillment.”
-Zac Bissonnette

“With extensive research and rare insight, Laura Vanderkam reveals the financial mindset that can lead to lasting happiness.”
Kirkus Reviews
Vanderkam (168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, 2010, etc.), a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, takes a fresh look at financial planning. The author debunks the traditional approach to budgeting in which fixed percentages are allocated to predetermined categories that prioritize the basics such as housing and food. According to Vanderkam, the trick to remaining financially solvent without sacrificing is not to scrimp and save on the small items--the lattes and occasional nights out. She offers a road map about how this might be accomplished and substantiates her claim that "the resources we already have or can obtain can do more for our happiness than we think." A key tenet is that our happiness is not based on the accumulation of big-ticket items--diamond engagement rings, super-sized homes and cars--but on the accumulation of everyday pleasures, especially those activities we share with friends and family. Vanderkam provides thought-provoking examples of how it's possible, even in a depressed economy, to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities to supplement income as an alternative to penny-pinching self-denial. She also warns of the pitfall inherent in saving for retirement--not only because of the effect that market volatility can have on a nest egg, but also the possibility of inflation. She suggests that it is better to find rewarding work than plan for early retirement, and warns of the dangers of becoming entrapped by the "hedonic treadmill" of increased expectations and spending more for less. Quirky, insightful and enjoyable--a welcome corrective to the typical advice from economists and financial managers steeped in the "dismal science."
Moira E. McLaughlin
Vanderkam's compelling book is not a lesson in greed or shallowness; rather, she asks you to consider ignoring what society says you ought to buy or own, and instead make choices according to your actual needs and desires…The result is a book that will quell readers' anxieties about money and inspire them to stop seeing its limitations and start seeing its potential, no matter what their tax bracket.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591844570
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
  • Publication date: 3/1/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 5.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and Grindhopping:  Build a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues, which the New York Times hailed as “loaded with smart observations.” Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, the Huffington Post, USA Today, Scientific American, and Reader’s Digest, among other publications. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their three children.

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Table of Contents

Introduction You Have More Money Than You Think 1

Chapter 1 What Else Could That Ring Buy? 15

Getting

Chapter 2 Don't Scrimp More, Make More 35

Chapter 3 Rethink Retirement 60

Spending

Chapter 4 Laughing at the Joneses 85

Chapter 5 The Best Weekend Ever 109

Chapter 6 The Marginal Cost of Children 123

Chapter 7 The Chicken Mystique 141

Sharing

Chapter 8 The Selfish Joy of Giving 161

Chapter 9 Another Way to Invest 183

All the Money in the World

Chapter 10 Ode to a Ziploc Bag 203

The How to Buy Happiness Handbook 203

Acknowledgments 227

Notes 229

Index 241

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    All The Money In The World is predicated on the idea that, if yo

    All The Money In The World is predicated on the idea that, if you had all the money in the world, how would your life change, and how would that money buy you happiness? Vanderkam wants you to consider both the dream purchases and the practical, everyday impacts that money would create...and then find the ways to start building that life here and now, with the money you currently have. In a similar vein to 168 Hours Vanderkam illustrates the control we have on our finances-- that how we spend our money is choice, that one dollar spent on something is one dollar not spent on something else. This mindset enables one to think more carefully about where their money is going, and if it is being used to build a happy life. Vanderkam starts almost immediately with reframing the idea that money can buy happiness....if you make smart, personal choices with it.

    While Vanderkam avows that she is not a financial guru, her book still gives practical, sensible and usable advice on how we get, spend, share and feel about money. She encourages people to play "offense and not defense" with their money-- thinking how you can make more, rather than how you can scrimp to cut spending. "The Joneses" become a target-- as Vanderkam forces us to question whether the stereotypical major purchases of modern life really bring us happiness, or are we just buying what we think we should be buying, because society encourages us to have big houses, shiny new cars and overflowing closets. I am someone who has always focused on the allocation of money-- from as young as I can remember, when I used to sort my babysitting money in envelopes for spending and saving. I've always also attached a lot of guilt to money, being hypersensitive on every dime I spent, always worried if it was a necessary purchase, or if I could have gotten it for less. This work has reframed my thinking of my finances, and given me the freedom to believe that, if this money is buying me happiness and helping to build the life and world I want to live in, then it is money well spent.

    I argue that both this and Vanderkam's earlier book, 168 Hours, are companion works. Both are built on the same foundation: we don't think we have enough time, we don't think we have enough money, but if we analyze and rethink some aspects of our lives, we will find that we do. I also found that they echoed each other in many places. You can buy time with money, and time well spent can earn you more money. I am so thankful that I've read both of these works. I feel like I am smarter and more sensible as a result, but more importantly, happier.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Ms. Vanderkam’s intentions for writing this book are made

    Ms. Vanderkam’s intentions for writing this book are made clear early, “If money can’t buy happiness, perhaps we’re not spending it right” (p.10). There are three ways to become “rich”: obtain more wealth, use less of the wealth one has or be satisfied with the amount one already possesses. This well done, clearly presented tome is not about money/wealth management, investing nor is it an instruction book on “how to get rich” in the manner that phrase is generally understood. It is, rather, a discourse on how wealth can bring more happiness regardless of the amount of money (or wealth) in one’s “pocket.”
    The suggestions Ms. Vanderkam makes are along the lines of asking the reader to consider how they approach, use and think about wealth. As “wealth” is measured in much broader terms than a particular monetary unit, the answers quickly begin to shift one’s perspective both of their wealth and the meaning of that wealth. When one understands wealth in the limited terms of numbers (bank accounts, houses, cars, etc.) then one seeks to add pleasure by adding “things.” When one asks, “what makes me happiest?” or “what brings me the most pleasure?” the answers rarely take the form of “numbers.” Often, it does take money to fill the list discovered by the questions (proving the truth of the proverb, “Money is only important when you DON’T have it.”) but it does not take as much capital as one fools himself into believing it requires,
    The research the author presents consistently shows two foundations for “being happy” as they relate to wealth: 1) experiences last longer and bring more pleasure than possessions and 2) the pleasure found in giving lasts as long as the memory of the gift and is not dependent upon the particular gift. She repeatedly insists that money does not equal happiness – it is but a means to the end of “happiness.” “Finding” the money to have such experiences, give such gifts or obtain increased “numbers” is a vital part of her argument and a major focus of this work.
    The book does not present itself to have a faith-based or religious basis but it does contain several Biblical references relating to wealth and happiness. Ms. Vanderkam’s research indicates that supporting local businesses does more for the local economy so strongly that the reader will be tempted to boycott all Big Box stores, if only for a day, and buy “local.” With like vigor, the reader’s will begin to accept, at least those who can afford to buy this book (whether they do so or not), that they are among the wealthiest people in human history, irrespective of the size of their bank account, stock portfolio or wardrobe.
    This book will be the next addition to “The Marital Reading List” I give to couples wanting to marry or wishing to strengthen their union. Routinely reassessing one’s view of money/wealth is important; discussing the subject of wealth in a committed relationship is a non-negotiable if the couples wish to afford the happiness they desire. The book can help start that chat.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2012

    This book has some weird ideas that for this reader kept me thin

    This book has some weird ideas that for this reader kept me thinking to myself WTH…
    But in another hand it had some up points too.
    The book was interesting and informative to a point as long as the author quite straying from the flock so to speak from ideas and idioms.
    Here's a list the ideas that book basically has in it:
    Become aware of what you're doing with your money
    Question yourself about spending, saving and earning
    Determine what you are spending on and why you are doing it
    Make financial decisions accordingly by asking yourself are they worth it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Hwellllo

    Gdsgdjq this is so goood i think you shouldread it even my grandma enjoyed ittttttttt.. oh ywah

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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