The Leon Hess Business School hosted an online, open forum that aimed to discuss the relationship between money and happiness on Thursday, Sept. 23.
This discussion was facilitated by two business students, Dustin Ho and Leslie Cruz, both of whom mediated responses from other students, faculty, and alumni of Monmouth University.
Cruz first introduced the agenda for the night, explaining that both herself and Ho would pose several questions and statements to spark a career-oriented dialogue.
In turn, Ho began by stating the first prompt of the evening— “If money does not make you happy, you are probably not spending it correctly.”
Students were quick to point out that while money itself may not bring joy, the experiences afforded to a person as a result of having money can.
One business student, Samantha Gallucci, brought up the example of traveling.
“Our family loves to travel and vacation, and we treasure those memories; if you spend money the right way, it does reflect a degree of happiness,” reasoned Gallucci.
Janeth Merkle, Assistant Dean of the Business School, refuted, “Money can be traced back to travel, but it is only a contributing factor, not the direct cause of one’s happiness.”
Another faculty member, Joseph Palazzolo, Ed.D., explained that he enjoys contributing to the Monmouth community’s scholarship funds, thus making him happy.
Richard Ricciardi, one of Monmouth’s contribuing donors, summarized the points of the previous respondents.
“Money gives you the freedom to go away, be philanthropic, etc.; however, true happiness can only come from within,” settled Ricciardi.
Cruz went on to address a second question, asking the audience to think of the social and cultural pressures that push the idea of making as much money as one can possibly make.
Merkle pointed to social media as a cultural influence in people’s desire for money.
“We want to look good in comparison to others. Notwithstanding that pressure, I think happiness is contentment with what you already have. Social media infringes on people’s ability to do that,” said Merkle.
Others agreed, and Cruz elaborated on the peer pressure that especially hinders the younger generation of professional workers.
Following that, Ho tailored a question specifically for the professional staff of the Business School, asking for the top three reasons why they chose to enter the business industry, and whether or not salary was a main determinant.
“Professors don’t do this for the pay,” joked Palazzolo.
Palazzolo went on to explain his involvement as Program Director at New Jersey Community Capital and how the people and gratifying nature of his work is what drew him to business.
“When I got this job, I noticed that the people cared about the well-being of the company and its clients— we are a family,” stated Palazzolo.
Carolyn Broderick, a corporate mentor for the Business School’s student mentoring program (SEEMA), was also not initially attracted by salary.
“I realized that HR analytics was a better fit personality-wise, and I liked what my company does to help people,” said Broderick.
The last and final question posed was asked by Cruz.
“What does happiness mean to you at the end of the day?”
Merkle ventured back to her response earlier in the conversation, underscoring the importance of contentment and being thankful for what a person already has.
Others responded with less tangible answers, such as health, comfort, and fulfillment— all of which are subjective and differ from person to person.
Ho added to that list of intangibles, knowledge.
“The things you learn no one can take away from you. A person’s education is a priceless luxury,” he said.
Towards the tail end of the discussion, one participant made note of one’s assignment of value and happiness to materials.
“If individuals measure their happiness by the size of their bank account, the square footage of their house, and the style of their car, they will face many issues down the line because that is just not what happiness is all about,” the participant said.
With most in agreement, Cruz ended the meeting by emphasizing one final point, “You are the finder of your own happiness; no one can do it for you.”