Yes, money does not buy happiness; but make sure you have lots of it before saying such nonsense.

Days of the past: My brother — Miller Juma — about to prepare some breakfast

“I always thought that just a little bit of it could actually buy happiness, but it actually doesn’t,” said Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and the President of Alphabet Inc. In case you didn’t know, Alphabet Inc just became the world’s most valuable company, overtaking Apple Inc and Sergey Brin is worth over $35 billion (Disclaimer: this is as at the time of writing this article, not date of publishing).

We live in our world where all we hear about money are the phrases “money does not buy happiness” , “money is not everything” , “money is the root of all evil” and all such nonsense. What intrigues me more is the fact that some of these sentiments come from the world’s richest people; from Bill Gates to the late Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg to Elon Musk to Warren Buffet….name them. What exactly is the truth in this statement?

This is a message to all those who believe them: yes, money does not buy happiness, not unless you have lived in and known real poverty. If last night you slept without food, woke up in the morning and took no breakfast, went on to do hard chores and blue-collar jobs, came back to the house only to find no food, then please tell me confidently that money does not buy happiness. Not unless you have had the “privilege” of walking bare footed on a hot road from school through a distance of kilometer units, you have no audacity to lie to me that money does not buy happiness.

Unless we have a different definition of happiness, please come clean and tell me how not having money can make you happy. Come and tell me how being denied the chance to go to the next class despite being a top pupil because you didn’t sit for an exam since your father could not afford KSh. 20 for the examination papers can make one happy. If only my dad could afford Ksh. 450, I would have bought the rim of foolscaps required in school and consequently, I wouldn’t be at home while my classmates are being happily taught in school. But you still tell me money will not bring the joy of being in class with my classmates. You still tell me that if only I could get the Ksh. 2800 fees required this year for my studies, then I would still not be happy. Why are you lying to us? Why Bill Gates? Why Warren Buffet are you misleading the peasants’ children?

Days of the future past: Tassia Slums.

If that kid who is driven daily to school where they pay hundreds of thousands of shillings as annual fees is not happy and I, who goes to the forest bare-footed to illegally cut down trees to burn charcoal, which is sold at Ksh. 90 per sack, to be able to buy my school uniform, is happy, then I want to revisit my dictionary for a clearer definition of happiness. If walking to school as an adolescent teenager with torn school uniforms, sole-less shoes and a polythene paper bag as a bag for 12 books; being subject to mockery and embarrassment as your polythene of a bag relents to the weight of the books and gets torn scattering your books on the road, makes one happy, then please Mr. Amuom, I need you to re-teach me English.

KCPE is approaching. Only 500/- is required for enrollment and here I am, unable to pay for it- luckily, my teacher is the good Samaritan who comes to my rescue. 4 years later, it’s not different: KCSE comes by, it’s only 2 days to the enrollment deadline and you still don’t know whether you will enroll or not — reason being lack Ksh. 5000 required for enrollment. Whereas others have already paid Ksh. 100,000 as fees in other schools, your father is wondering about what you will eat at night, leave alone where you will get the Ksh. 5000 required for enrollment. Still, I am supposed to believe money does not buy happiness. You’re kidding me.

I remember very well the money-related quarrels my family had, the sad face in my parents’ eyes every time we couldn’t afford a meal, the sad face in my mum’s eyes every time I had to cycle from home to Oyugis back to school — “Don’t worry Atuny — these shall one day serve as a memory so you never forget where you’ve come from.” Those were not happy days; they weren’t the saddest of days either; don’t get me wrong but I know we could have been happier with just a little bit more money to at least meet the basic needs.

Everyday we try to make mama proud and happy.

Today I am posing a question and I need an answer: how does it feel that you lose your father due to Malaria because you could not afford the dispensary, leave alone hospital bills; when someone can easily be flown to India for cancer checkup? Not unless you will ever lose your beloved because of an easily treatable ailment due to lack of money, not unless you are the bereaved who cannot afford mortuary bills and have to spend a hell of a night with the foul-smelling lifeless body of your dear deceased father in your one-roomed house, who cannot afford a proper coffin and have to make use of a sketchy wooden structure-like coffin, who has to endure the indecent send off of your father, while others are lavishing in wealth, you have no moral obligation to tell me money does not buy happiness.

You are morally unwarranted to claim money does not buy happiness not unless you have ever lived in a grass-thatched house where the whole mud-floor is filled with water from leaking roofs. If you have never looked up on your elder sister, who dropped out of school to seek house-help employment — being beaten every time by the boss and scantily paid despite the huge workloads, to send some little money at home for you to afford a meal, after days of going without any, then you should feel ashamed saying money does not buy happiness.

If today you could point to me a poor and happy family, living below a dollar a day, then I will believe that in deed money is not what’s needed to be happy. If only you could call me and tell me the family that has gone without food for 5 days and the kids are happily playing, the mother is happily looking into the eyes of the husband to say “I love you” and still manage to have no quarrels despite the hunger and desperation; if only you have been in one such family; if only you have been such a father who cannot afford clothing, proper shelter and food for the kids and you are still happy, please respond to me in writing or through my phone number and tell me how exactly you don’t need money to leave your miserable life and be happy.

Yes, money does buy happiness and money is everything. Money does allow you to educate your kids in the best of schools, money does allow you to eat the best of meals available, money does allow you to travel by the safest of all means, money in deed does allow you to pay a doctor and protect you life and obviously, money does allow you to live in a decent mansion and of course, money does allow yo to have a scintillating marriage. That you are unhappy despite having all that is not because of money, it’s just because you cannot balance your work-life-family circle. So for all of you reading this: money is not everything, but make sure you make lots of it before saying such nonsense.

Can’t wait to make my first billion dollar and tell them stupid nonsense like: “Money is not everything; money does not buy happiness.”

Founder, Techpreneur, Engineer and Data Scientist