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Happiness: The Balance Of Generosity And Greed

Published: November 18, 2022

Time Is Not Money

For as long as I can remember we’ve been told time is money. But, of course, that’s not true. If time were money, I’d be rich, because I have all the time in the world. Just to be sure, I checked my bank account. Yup. Time is definitely not money. Time is life. 

I blame Ben Franklin for this bit of misinformation. In 1748, in the days leading up to the Industrial Revolution, he wrote an article called Advice to a Young Tradesman saying, “Remember that Time is Money” and admonishing workers that the way to build their wealth was to choose work over taking time to enjoy themselves doing other things. By Ben’s lights, if workers weren’t working, they weren’t getting paid and they were losing money. That was before golf. 

Benefit Of Happiness And Cost Of Unhappiness


Now we know the time is money formula fails to factor in both the benefit of happiness (health and wellbeing, personal development, community building, productivity) and the cost of unhappiness (chronic illness, depression, anxiety, anger, violence, crime). Certainly, money has a relationship to happiness and unhappiness, but it’s not the sole cause or cure. If money was all we need, the richest people in the richest country in the world would be the happiest people in the happiest country in the world — and we’re not. 

A Generous Country Is A Happy Country

The United States ranks 19th on the list of happiest countries in the world, and the countries that come before us on the list all have one thing in common. They’re more generous than we are, better at sharing and spreading the wealth of their nation. According to the World Happiness Report, which is science, not opinion — math, not woowoo — generosity is the defining characteristic of the happiest places on Earth. 

The Economic Value Of Happiness

Economists are measuring happiness because happiness actually has economic value. It’s not that money doesn’t matter. It’s that the system for earning money has become so oppressive that it creates as many problems as it solves. Work should be a way of getting ahead, not falling behind. People who devote their lives to work without feeling a sense of progress drift into hopelessness, and that unhappiness has real economic costs, most particularly healthcare and law enforcement.

That’s why happiness is the new buzzword in economics. Ben Franklin’s formula for economic success valued the self-interest of greed over generosity. A better formula for success would be the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Generosity is also motivated by self-interest.

Greed And Generosity

A happy country, like a happy person, maintains a balance between greed and generosity. Is your life in balance? It’s the season for evaluating ourselves and recalibrating our intentions. Consider generosity for a moment and see if you can work more of it into your plan. Remember, the happiest places are where people share the most. Share yourself, your home, your community, your humanity. Engage with the flesh and blood around you. Be generous. That’s the way for all of us to build wealth for ourselves and each other.

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About The Author
Billie Best
Billie Best
Billie Best writes the blog Beyond 60 — Loving Life, Staying Relevant at Her memoir titled "How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life (or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man)" and her collection of essays “I Could Be Wrong” are both available on
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