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  • Writer's pictureBridget Sullivan Mermel CFP(R) CPA

Spending for Happiness | Easy Way to Improve Relationships

Spending for Happiness: There are some easy ways to spend some money and get more happiness. In this video we talk about the ins and outs of one way--celebrating successes.

It turns out that celebrating both big and small is a great way to improve relationships. We talk through the risks involved in telling people good news, celebrating with trips, big and small celebrations, plus why sharing the good news helps.

00:00 Welcome!

00:45 Beginning

03:20 Risk of sharing good news

08:53 Mindshift—it’s an investment

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Bridget: John, I'm interested in how money can bring more happiness and how we can spend to be happier and find more meaning in our lives. And I found one big tip that we're going to talk about today that can help people find more happiness and meaning through their spending. I'm Bridget Sullivan Mermel, and I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Chicago, Illinois.

John: And I'm John Scherer. I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Middleton, Wisconsin. Before we start talking about finding more meaning from our money, I want to remind everybody to hit that subscribe button. By subscribing you help other people find our content here on YouTube, so please hit that subscribe button. And Bridget, I'm excited to talk about this. I love the research that you're doing on these things and that idea of money as a tool. And if you can use it to bring more happiness, I can't think of a better use. So what's on your mind today talking about how we can do that?

Bridget: Well, one of the things that I've been looking at is an article that talks money and meaning. It's more about people appreciating things, but then it ends up into talking about what actually can help relationships, what you can do to help relationships. And one of the big things they came up with was celebrate successes. And this naturally has money connotations, because we often celebrate and spend a little bit of money.

So that's what I really want to talk about today is how to celebrate successes for more happiness and meaning, and it'll bring you closer to people. The first type of thing is on a small scale. You see that somebody had a success. And first of all, it helps if in the moment, when they tell you about it, you're excited, because it takes some risk to even tell somebody that a good thing happened: I just got a promotion; I'm making more money; or whatever it is.

There's a risk because you're not sure how the person is going to react, so if you're on the receiving end of that, saying, “Oh, that's great,” will help your relationship. Honestly, I thought that was a very interesting topic of highlighting that there's a little risk in even telling somebody, because you don't want them to rain on your parade.

John: Yeah, isn't that interesting, that idea of taking a risk? I never thought about that before, but as you reflect on it, yeah, sharing some of those things does have some risk to it. So maybe that's part of this on one side is being able to share and be thinking about that on the giver side, but on the receiving side, being genuinely happy. And I'll tell you, I think of celebrating the little things, maybe taking somebody out for dinner to celebrate something.

And I think about making them feel good, but the idea that it deepens relationships I think that's really interesting. I mentioned it's a subset of what I've thought before, but the idea that maybe being intentional about that and looking for ways to do that can help me, whether it's in my marriage or with friends or other family, that's really powerful.

Bridget: Yeah. Because sometimes people, when they're telling you, they don't really know how great the news is themselves. And so, they're kind of slightly positive, thinking, “I have this good news to share.” And then your reaction can either amplify it or dampen it, so you have an opportunity for either. And so, if you amplify it with them and say, “Oh, that's great, let's go celebrate,” that helps your relationship, because they feel that you see them and that you see what's important to them and that your happiness is kind of tied to their happiness. A little bit like that you are getting a kick out of the good thing that's happening to them, and that helps everybody feel better.

John: A celebration. When I use that term, my mind jumps to having a party, going out for dinner, those sorts of things. Is it the same with maybe getting a little gift, buying a book or something to that effect—some little thing to commemorate maybe an accomplishment or educational accomplishment, work or personal? Does it work the same way?

Bridget: Yeah, I think so. I think gifts for a celebration are great. And if you're older and it's somebody who's younger, you can always give them money. And I'm saying older to mean somebody who's wealthier and more established, not a peer. You don't really want to give a peer money.

John: Right.

Bridget: If I give you money, then you think, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

John: “What's going on here?”

Bridget: If there's an unequal relationship, giving some money is fine. But also, the thing is, it depends on how long lived the celebration is and maybe how hard they worked for it. Because the longer you work for a goal, the more invested you are in this result. So that would depend on what you do for it, because you probably don't want to go way overboard.

John: Right.

Bridget: And I think that's why it's easy to have these kind of benchmark celebrations, like graduating from high school. But it is probably a good idea to celebrate every A or celebrate every B or whatever your benchmark is, because it's like all that little stuff adds up to the celebration. But every celebration is a positive. And so, one of the things that you're trying to do is increase your positivity.

And a little positivity helps by saying something like, “Oh, let me buy you this coffee! I’m so happy that this happened to you.” This works especially well if it's for one of those smaller goals that you don't need to get together. For example, you probably wouldn’t say, “Let's schedule this coffee date in a month. I'm so glad you landed this client.” You might want to do it a little bit closer and more spontaneous if it's a shorter-term goal.

John: Yeah. It's really interesting to think about the idea of celebrating short-term and long-term goals. I'm just thinking back, my wife and I had our 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago and we went up to a fancy resort—the kids went to Grandma and Grandpa's for the weekend—and had a little getaway. And I think of those as fun things to do in the celebration but not necessarily deepening our relationship.

But of course, it sounds like that's what these things do. What better return on investment can you have than spending money on somebody that you care about to help them celebrate, help them feel good, and to deepen that relationship that you have with them. One of those non-financial returns on investment that's hard to quantify.

Bridget: Well, and I want to unpack another part of what you just said. You're celebrating and you're having an experience, especially for a benchmark, bigger celebration. And so, you're traveling for it, which takes planning, et cetera, but a travel is a great way to spend money as far as happiness goes, because they call it buying experiences.

Not everybody loves to travel, so if you don't love to travel, then this isn't a great way, but buying experiences, something that you're doing together, can be really good. And spending money to celebrate something that you enjoy together, or even if you don't do it together, is a good way to celebrate. But in this situation, if you want to celebrate with somebody, you probably want to have it be something you do together.

I guess what I’m really trying to communicate is to do it on a low level and on a bigger level. These anniversaries of the large benchmarks are important: a party for this, that or the other. Spending money on that actually gives you a good return on it. Sometimes you don't want to spend the money but actually marking the event is a great idea. It really helps you deepen your relationships.

John: Yeah. And for those of us that have sort of a natural tendency not to spend money and not to not go overboard—perhaps that’s not the right term—it might help to shift the perspective in that it is an investment, not in a financial sense, but in the relationship sense. That's a really interesting way to look at things. The other takeaway I'm getting from this conversation is looking out for places to celebrate, being intentional about finding those things, whether it's a cup of coffee or just a note or those sorts of things. It's not just a nice thing to do for somebody else, which is how I've always thought about it.

Bridget: Yeah.

John: But it's actually an investment in that relationship with that person.

Bridget: And it's like opening up to letting their good news make you happy, too, so it can be a positive for you. Experience that a little bit; their good news is your good news, so you can say, “Oh, I feel good about that.” Again, that helps deepen the relationship and it helps you feel happier too.

John: Yeah. That's fantastic. That's great.

Bridget: Awesome. So with those tips, we'll leave it there, John. I'm Bridget Sullivan Mermel. I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Chicago, Illinois.

John: And I'm John Scherer. I've got a fee-only financial planning practice in Middleton, Wisconsin. And before we sign off here, just wanted to remind everybody to hit that subscribe button, which helps other people find our work here on YouTube. And both Bridget and I are members of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. If you like the way that we work and the things that you hear on our show, check out to find an adviser in your area.

At Sullivan Mermel, Inc., we are fee-only financial planners located in Chicago, Illinois serving clients in Chicago and throughout the nation. We meet both in-person in our Chicago office and virtually through video conferencing and secure file transfer.

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