Success = money = happiness

If we allow success to be driven by money, then it is highly likely that money becomes our sole motivator

In an age where “success” is plastered across every tabloid, magazine or on-line gossip column it seems very easy for us to lose sight of what success is.

We could argue that it is a fairly new phenomenon but if we go back to the 1980s without 24-hour access to people’s lives we could be forgiven for thinking that working in the city and driving a flash car meant success. And as we go back through time there are perhaps numerous examples we could turn to.

If we assume that success is about the money we have, and therefore the happiness it brings then why does it seem that “successful” people seem incredibly broken or unhappy. Take recent lottery winners whose marriages have crumbled, and family relationships broken down or footballers who end up doing destructive things because they lose sight of what drove them to their levels of success.

We could go on, and in this blog we want to consider what success might be and how we might achieve this.


We recently interviewed Circe’s Diner (a band from Bristol) and talked about success, they responded:

“…We believe that you define your own success and it is what you want it to be. Success can surprise and ultimately it is about what makes you and your journey companions happy.”

The important point of this is that success for them is happiness and not money. Of course in the conversation with Circe’s Diner we talked about money, and it is important for them to have enough to enable them to do what they want to do, but it is not the driver.

Success is not necessarily about money, rather it is more about defining what we want to achieve, and to some extent being flexible i.e. seeing it as a journey.

Achieving success

I read a lot of books on financial planning.

It sounds very boring, but I have learnt a great deal about planning, especially that it can ultimately put us in control of our futures.

If I scribble down my worries without even considering plans they might be:

  1. Paying the mortgage
  2. Paying for the holiday
  3. Paying off the credit card
  4. Unemployment
  5. Retirement
  6. Children’s education

And so the list goes on, in fact just looking at that scares me a little. The problem is that all of these things can make me unhappy. If I consider I have 25 years till I pay off my mortgage that’s a long time, if I try to clear my credit card something else may have to give; how do I pay the bills if I am made unemployed and so on.

What I find liberating is this, we take a blank sheet of paper and sit down as a family and ask what is important to us; what do we like doing, what will make us happy as a family etc.

By doing this the list changes, it might look like this:

  1. Family holiday
  2. Doing things together
  3. Retiring at 55 and driving around Europe in a campervan!

And so on; this shift in dynamics is really important because the focus is about what we can do as a family and then we put our plan into action. This usually involves setting out a savings plan to see how much we can put by each month to reach our goal.

Money of course comes into this because to achieve these things requires funding, but the amount depends. A two-week family holiday can cost over £3,000 or it can cost a few hundred pounds. Doing things together can be expensive but equally it can cost nothing but still make amazing memories. Success is about achieving what you set out to achieve and creating those memories. An important element is about allowing success to surprise.

Of course some dreams are just that, perhaps retiring at 55 is a pipedream that we simply don’t have the means to fulfil but are there other routes to achieving a more relaxed life.

Developing a road map to success

There is nothing wrong with ambition or drive, and we see this with sport stars. They work hard to be successful and the level headed ones focus on their goals and don’t allow their success to alter what they have set out to achieve. They might be rewarded for their success but that is different.

Having a road map is crucial to success. As a family we a have a road map that is split into short, medium and long term plans. The long term is about retirement and saving for that. Our pipedream is to buy a campervan and drive around Europe during the Summer! In the short term it is about holidays, doing things as a family etc. These are our goals.

A simple plan might look like:

Short term

Family fun

Medium term

Saving a redundancy pot
Children’s weddings

Long term

Retirement fund

It is important to add that flexibility has to come into the plan because things change. Over the last ten years I have been unemployed twice; your plans go on hold because the focus is on ensuring your family are protected and you get a job.

This sounds really easy but is actually the hardest part of planning, and why many turn to a financial planner for help. As an individual it is just one person and making plans is a lot easier, as a family there are more people to get involved and this is where it can be complex.

The route to happiness

One the biggest causes of arguments in a household is money. For example, one person may overspend, or one person has no concept of what is going on with the finances; we can no doubt all relate to this. Talking about money is something many don’t like to do because it’s emotive, and nobody wants to be restricted or controlled, and it can lead to arguments.

But working to a road map, knowing what we are looking to achieve and how we financially achieve this can be liberating and ultimately this success can lead to contentment.

So how do we start

Going back to that first list many people can relate to these points, they feel out of control and are constantly chasing their tails. This I would argue is where success becomes blurry. People will turn to the lottery as a quick means to financial success. £50 million will change our lives forever; the day-to-day worries many have are gone but this life changing amount of money brings new challenges.

Equally there are people who have had life changing financial events and it has made no difference to who they are and what they do. Perhaps it takes worries away but they continue to do what they have always done and what they plan to do in the future.

If we allow success to be driven by money, then it is highly likely that money becomes our sole motivator and often people lose sight of what is around them; their family and friends. We can achieve great things but not always feel completely happy.

As an alternative I would advocate that as individuals or as a family, sitting down to work out what is important, what we want to achieve and how we achieve it, is a better barometer of success and almost certainly will lead to greater happiness.

Note: This is written in a personal capacity and reflects the view of the author. The post has been checked and approved to ensure that it is both accurate and not misleading. However, this is a blog and the reader should accept that by its very nature many of the points are subjective and opinions of the author. Individuals wishing to buy any product or service as a result of this blog must seek advice or carry out their own research before making any decision, the author will not be held liable for decisions made as a result of this blog (particularly where no advice has been sought). Investors should also note that past performance is not a guide to future performance and investments can fall as well as rise.

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