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Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Meridian Points

Attitude of Gratitude

Halloween is in the books and I am sure that Thanksgiving and Christmas will come and go faster than anyone can imagine. The retail industry has trained many of us to associate spending money with Happy Holidays.

Research has consistently demonstrated a connection between money and life satisfaction; we know that at least up to a point, people with higher incomes and savings balances tend to be happier and report a higher quality of life. Most researchers agree that happiness does not rise after a household attains an annual income of $75,000.

My observation is that your degree of happiness is closely tied to your family situation, giving and gratitude. A large net worth doesn’t provide any guarantee of a good life. How you spend your money matters more than earning a large income.

Everyone knows that it’s hard for parents to find happiness when their children are having problems. And it goes without saying that if mama isn’t happy….. But did you know that researchers found that life experiences (like a family vacation) give us more lasting pleasure than material things (like purchasing a TV). I think this is because vacations shared with our family members provides us with a sense of connection to each other that we remember and talk about long after the material goods have gone to the landfill.

Years ago my wife and I saved to take our four children to Disney World. On the drive home, each family member named his or her “favorite part of the vacation”. I was surprised to learn that 50% of the Coulter children declared the hotel pool to be their favorite part. We could have found a nice hotel pool in Pigeon Forge! So before you run off and spend all your money on a dream vacation, remember that it is not how much you spend on these life experiences!

People tend to be happier when they spend money on others or give it away rather than spend it on themselves. Try giving away some amount of money this holiday season. It doesn’t have to be to a charity. Maybe you know someone who is struggling. Perhaps you will see someone who could use a random act of kindness. If you can see your money making a difference in other people’s lives, it will make you happy even if the amount you give is small.

My mother (and yours too, I bet) used to urge me to count my blessings. I have been too busy to do this in a while. Behavioral finance research indicates that those who choose to be grateful for what they have and experience report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than those who don’t. They also report they sleep better, too.

I suppose mom knew this all along without any behavioral finance research. So I am going to try to slow down, quit taking what I have for granted, and remind myself to be grateful for everything I have.

As always, call or email me with any questions that you have.

This column was featured in the November 1 Knoxville News-Sentinel. You can read it here: Large Net Worth Doesn’t Guarantee a Good Life

Meet the Author

Tom Coulter, CPA


Tom is the President and a founder of Meridian Trust. Tom graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in accounting with honors, in 1978. Tom previously worked for the international accounting firm, Deloitte. He later joined the financial medical advising firm, FIS Associates, before founding Meridian Trust in 1997. Tom has worked extensively in retirement planning, taxation, estate and financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA).

Tom is also credentialed as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) by the AICPA.