Category: Musings

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s still nice to have a fat bank account

money doesn't buy happiness

Freedom of choice, tolerance, security, and a great sense of belonging or solidarity played the biggest roles in the life satisfaction of people from the happiest countries in the world, according to World Values Survey. A strong correlation between wealth and happiness still exists, though. Majority of the top 10 are from Europe, joined by countries from Latin America, and then Canada. Denmark is still the happiest place on Earth (GDP Per Capita: $37,400), while Zimbabwe is the most depressing (inflation rate at 2,200,000%). Our happy country is 38th in the list, with a GDP next to Switzerland (7th happiest with GDP per capita of $41,100), but with 84 million more mouths to feed and per capita income of $3,400. I guess that our tolerance for corrupt politicos, gossips and traffic, penchant for borderline insane religious beliefs, and having strong family ties make up for what we lack in the money department. We may be 122nd in the purchasing power parity list, but hey, we’re not doing so bad when it comes to finding reasons to be happy…somewhat.

From BusinessWeek:

“…freedom of choice and social acceptance are the most powerful forces behind national moods. ‘Money’s pretty powerful, but it’s not the whole story,’ says Inglehart, though he maintains that a strong correlation still exists between high standards of living and happiness measures.

“Generally, a rising global sense of freedom in the last quarter-century has eclipsed the contribution of pure economic development to happiness, he says. This is especially evident in developed countries with stable economies, where the freedom of choice gained through wealth has made people happier—not necessarily the wealth itself.

“What’s more, ‘there are diminishing returns to economic progress,’ Inglehart says. In poorer countries, happiness can be linked to solidarity among tight-knit communities, religious conviction, and patriotism, which probably explains the happiness of some relatively poor Latin American countries,’ he says.

“Social tolerance is another important factor in how happy a country rates itself…’The less threatened people feel, the more tolerant they are,’ says Inglehart. Tolerance simply has a rippling effect that makes people happier. “

Further readings:

The 10 Happiest Countries
Happiness Viewpoint: It Doesn’t Take Much
What is Happiness?

Citibank ad photo by tantek.

Exported Teachers


“To many school officials, Filipino teachers are ideal job candidates. The mostly female recruits speak English, hold advanced degrees and pass internationally recognized teaching exams. And they see the salaries offered here as small fortunes. But for all their enthusiasm and experience, they first have to learn how to manage unruly American students.

“In Prince George’s, the starting teacher’s salary is $43,481 — almost 10 times what the same teacher would make in the Philippines. Many Filipinos, like Mabel, can make much more here because of their years of experience. Salaries for someone with two decades of experience and a master’s degree can be more than $80,000.

“Perhaps most important, the teachers get a shot at becoming Americans. If they perform well for three years, the county will sponsor them for a green card, or permanent residency. It can take years for them to actually get the card and, later, citizenship, because of the government backlog. But theirs is a much easier path to the United States than that of many other immigrants. They don’t have to come here illegally or win a visa lottery. They just have to do their jobs.

“As life-changing decisions go, Mabel didn’t agonize that much. Going overseas for more money is common in the Philippines. About 10 percent of the country’s 89 million citizens live abroad, according to the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas.”

“Lessons Far from Home,” The Washington Post

Pencil by Balakov

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

I never paid much attention to the lecture that got the rounds of blogs, press, and video-sharing sites featuring inspirational anecdotes by its lecturer, Randy Pausch, who announced at the event itself that he was dying of pancreatic cancer. Probably I was too cynical to even watch a video that was supposed to cheer me up, or that I had had enough of stuff like Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven, or Paulo Coelho’s overrated The Alchemist. I still think Alchemist is overrated, the others are too pa-senti, and I don’t deal well with sentiments.

Carnegie Mellon University spearheaded a lecture series which it used to refer to as “The Last Lecture.” Professors were asked to give lectures as if these were their last. Pausch, who had less than a year to live at the time of his lecture, shared valuable wisdom on how to “really achieve childhood dreams.” He passed away last July 25, five months later than the deadline doctors gave on his lease on life, and after co-authoring a book that reached the New York Times best seller list and having a cameo appearance in a Star Trek film.

Sit through the lecture for it could be one of the most inspiring, feel-good 76 minutes of your life. The video received more than 4 million views on Youtube alone.

Some random lessons learned:

  • We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.
  • Respect authority while questioning it.
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • Never lose the child-like wonder.
  • Decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore
  • Help others.
  • Loyalty is a two-way street.
  • Never give up.
  • Brick walls let us show our dedication.
  • When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.
  • Get a feedback loop and listen to it.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don’t complain; just work harder.
  • Be good at something; it makes you valuable.
  • Find the best in everybody, no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it.
  • Be prepared; luck is when preparation meets opportunity
  • Most of what we learn, we learn indirectly (or by “head fake”).
  • It’s not how you achieve your dreams; it’s how you lived your life. If you live your life the right way, karma will take care of itself.
  • You can’t get there alone.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Be earnest.
  • Apologize when you screw up.
  • Focus on others, not yourself.

Wear red shoes

Wear Red Shoes by Marie Patterson.


I had always wanted to get a pair of red shoes. So after mulling about whether it was worth my time, money or what was left of my already tiny shoe drawer space, a 350-peso (from P700) pair at B Club which I chanced upon while wasting time at Glorietta offered a great excuse to give in to the red force.

Just relax

Maturity is a function of accepting complexities

I don’t think that I can come up with a more obvious description of what it’s like to grow up or be a grown-up aside from an enumeration of the typical things adults are expected to do, such as having a job, paying bills or being in-charge of one’s affairs. But beyond securing one’s physical well-being, maturity is an endless process of reassessing one’s place under the sun and asking a million and one questions whether the choices that one has made have been all worth it.

An article in New York Times points to the role that lost selves–”the person that you could have been”–play in the way personalities are molded, and presents an argument that “ruminating on paths not taken is an emotionally corrosive exercise.” A study by Laura A. King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, shows that as well-adjusted adults grow older, they tend to incorporate more points of view in recollections of past decisions that were in one way or another caused them regrets.

In essence, looking back at a regretful event in one’s life and recalling not only the loss but, more importantly, also the lessons learned from the experience, is what a mature person usually does. You can cling to a sad event for all the world cares, but at some point, you need to learn a few valuable lessons, like your (and other people’s) role in that event and what you gained from it, and then move forward. You cannot blame yourself forever, too.

This brings to mind one of those movie lines from a rather non-sensical chick-flick: Life does not revolve around your little version of the universe.

That’s how people grow up.