fbpx Skip to content

Can Money Buy Happiness? | Micheal Norton (ep. 502)

Michael Norton

Social psychologist Michael Norton joins John O’Leary on the Live Inspired Podcast to reimagine just how money can buy happiness.

Does money buy happiness? According to Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, yes… if you’re spending it right.

Named by Wired Magazine as one of ’50 People Who Will Change the World’, Michael has spent decades uncovering the fascinating human truths that influence our relationship with money, social norms and political correctness.

Today, Michael joins us to share how smarter spending can lead to happier, more fulfilling lives.

Using numerous real-life examples and three specific practices, this conversation reimagines how to buy happiness.

Subscribe & listen on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyStitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio, or listen here:


  • “Often, we’re trying to do our best but it’s really, really hard in a complicated world to follow through on all of the good intentions we have.”
  • As the youngest of five, Michael’s curiosity in observing others spawned into his interest in social psychology.
  • When humans spend time together, conflict is inevitable.
  • After earning his PhD, one of the first topics Michael studied was why others refrain from describing others by their race.
  • IKEA Effect: If we invest our own effort into something, we value them more.
  • “Income is not a source of happiness or not, it’s what you’re doing with the income you have.”
  • When studying lottery winners, Michael notes that it’s not the money that changes the individual’s happiness, it’s how the money changes the relationships close to the individual.
  • Spending on yourself versus spending on others: The percentage of your income that you spend on yourself is completely unrelated to your happiness.
  • Regardless of the amount, giving money to others results in increased happiness.
  • Three was to buy happiness:
    • Invest in experiences
    • Make it a treat
    • Buy time
  • To teach kids how money can be used as a tool for happiness, Michael encourages parents to divide up a $3 allowance in $1 for themselves, $1 to spend on someone you know and $1 to spend on someone you don’t know.
  • To shift away from habits that aren’t increasing our happiness, Michael encourages each of up to audit our monthly spending.
  • “Money can buy you happiness – if you spend it right.”
  • Watch Michael Norton’s TED Talk How to Buy Happiness here.
  • Get Michael Norton’s book Happy Money here.

Did you enjoy today’s episode?

You’ll love my conversation with Ami Campbell. Did you know that one single act of generosity ripples out to four degrees of separation? Ami Campbell shares how generosity frees us from the grip that fear and insecurity have on us. You’ll leave this conversation ready to transform your community, live generously and to love and let go. Listen to ep. 480 now.


About our sponsor: Keeley Companies wholeheartedly believes that if you get the people right -the results will follow. They set themselves apart with a forward-thinking culture that empowers their people and fosters loyal partnerships. Keeley Companies are a proud sponsor, partner, and super fan of the Live Inspired Podcast. Learn more about Keeley Companies.



  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. The Gift by Lewis Hyde.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Wonder.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. A painting from my daughter and a guitar.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. My mom.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. It’s your duty to improve the world.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Don't worry about going bald.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. He was generous.