Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why I wont be a 'Happier' Billionaire

You may be thinking that I am a billionaire already and not very happy about that. No, that is not true. I am yet to become a millionaire let alone a billionaire. But every one is telling me that money does not buy happiness. The happiness research reveals that gross happiness income for a US family is 50K per year. Below 50K, you are unhappy and above that you are happy but no less happy than some one makes millions. So why bother making lot of money or at least that is my tortured logic on money matters.

But still, there must be some thing that the rich people love about money. What could be that?It is definitely not happiness because I have seen rich people cry in live TV. But sure, Larry King will talk to them for a full hour on live TV when they get in trouble. But then family friend Barbara Walters will say every thing about Paris Hilton getting into jail for violating the probation is "beneath me". Wealth does not seem to help the rich much in this country except that they can hire Johnny Cochran to say 'If the glove does not fit, you must acquit'. I am neither planning to drive drunk on the opposite direction of the freeway nor planning to write a book 'If I did it'!

So what is it then? Is it the charm of flying a Cessna? But that cant be much fun since I never enjoyed a ride in a much larger Boeing. I hate the plane toilets. But there are some benefits of flying your own jet. You don't have to take off your shoes at the security. Plus you don't need to cram the quart size zip lock bag with 3 oz shaving cream and gels.

It must be the exotic tropical islands the billionaires own. But then can you live in an island just by yourself? I thought it is pretty tough to be in a cast away island just talking to a valley ball all day all week all month all year! May be one could bring their friends and family to the island but then the whole point is to live exclusively in tropical islands.

Another possibility is that I could pay my way into space in a Russian rocket. I never had the courage to take one of the magic mountain rides yet fearing the zero gravity falls. Why would I then spend my millions to be crammed in a space that is perhaps narrower than the statue of liberty crown. I wont.

So my options are really limited. Oh I almost forgot that I could run for New York Mayor office using my own money. Then I realized that being an Indian national I cant even run for city council. I could run for higher office in India but there is no precedent in Indian history of a billionaire premier or a president. Having a degree from Oxford or London School of Economics is a much surer path to power than making lot of money.

The only option left is to give away money like Bill and Buffet. But that just reinforce what I have been hearing all along from happiness experts. Money does not buy happiness. In fact, they had to give away the the billions to be truly happy.

My first pay check, first car and first home; all gave me lot of happiness until I got to used to it soon. So getting the first million dollar will also pass just like any other material firsts. My best recollection of happiest moments had nothing to do with money. When my short story got published in a children's section of a magazine, when I scored then highest ever score for my school among the 1000+ students in the state exams, my cousin who came with me to check the admission list to IIT shouting to me, 'I see your name in the list!', weekend get aways to Sarojini Nagar market, first time I kissed my wife (of course after we got married; you stupid!) and first time I saw my son's face in ultra sound; these memories last a lifetime.

So the consensus is that I will not be a happier billionaire than what I am today. Yes, I can use couple of millions to buy a condo overlooking the pacific coast. I really don't enjoy the inland heat waves in summer. But by the time I have a million, a bottle of coke will cost $1,000 thanks to the sky rocketing price of corn syrup. All the corn in the world by then would go into to making flex fuels. Along with that, bulging US treasury debt and gap in social security would drive the inflation and tax rates to unimaginable heights that I would be lucky of I could buy 10 GOOG with my million!

The Bet - Anton Chechov's short story on Million Dollar Bet


Anonymous said...


Do you still remember Anton Chekhov's 'The BET'?

Sree said...

Thanks for leaving the comment although not sure who left the comment.

I have added a link to the wonderful story 'The Bet'. Also updated the blog. Check it out.


Sajee said...


It was me, not anonymous!

Rgds, Sajee said...

There is an animated version of the story here: