Calum Ross Mortgage Cares – Our 2015 Using Money to Buy Happiness Program
See contest rules at bottom of post:
Over the last two years I have put out an annual letter – my own form of “Happiness Campaign” during the holiday season. This journey first started the year after my own divorce in 2010. In September of that year I decided that I need to be more purposeful about the pursuit of happiness in my life. It was then when I came to terms with fact that despite having ‘made it’ in life by most standards – I was unequivocally not happy with what the traditional definition of success had brought me. You see by the age of 35 I had achieved my academic, financial, and most all of my life goals and (GASP) – I was having an early mid-life crisis. So what would the obvious thing to do – ah yes … go back to school – and so I did.
From December 2010 through until July of 2011 I flew back and forth from Toronto to Boston in pursuit of more studies and better understanding my life’s purpose. In the final month of the program I wrote out my ten-year vision for my life. When I graduated from the program in July I had decided that my single biggest goal in life was going to be the pursuit of happiness. In typical (double) business school graduate fashion I determined that I needed to do a formal analysis as to why this disconnect had happened in my life. After a weekend of reflection – I very quickly realized that in the previous ten years I had read more than 500 books on personal finance, leadership, wealth, productivity etc., but not even one single book on happiness.
It was at this point that I realized that if my ultimate pursuit was to above all else be happy in life then I would very likely need to apply the same discipline to this area as I had done in the other areas of my life where I had achieved my goals. I came to the conclusion that I was going to try to attempt to fix this in the manner that had served me well throughout my life to date – I was going to embark on a year of studying happiness. By the end of 2012 I had read over 30 books on happiness and the psychology of happiness at which point I was officially (at least in my head) – a happiness expert.
So what do the experts say about happiness? After a point, money itself doesn’t make us happier!
In 2014, I had my greatest happiness epiphany when I attended an event at which Harvard Business School Associate Professor Michael Norton spoke. His topic: “Can Money Buy Happiness?”
As I sat listening to Professor Norton (who was my marketing professor at HBS), I had to ask myself if I had missed something along the way. The science shows very clearly that money does not buy happiness after a certain point (that point is essentially where basic needs are satisfied, so $10,000 to someone making $30,000 makes a difference, but that same $10,000 to someone making $200,000 does not). Furthermore, the size of one’s house or the type of car one drives does not make a material difference on how happy one is. When I got divorced and moved from a large house to a place less than one third of the size, I might have contested this fact, but in hindsight, the size of my place had very little to do with my state of mind at the end of my marriage.
Professor Norton ran experiments where one group of people were asked to spend a specific amount of money (either $5 or $20) on themselves. Another group spent the same amount of money on others. At the end of the day, they were asked to assess their happiness levels. Those who spent the money on others were happier. Whether it was $5 (even just buying a cup of coffee for someone else) or $20, the amount did not matter. To negate the criticism that it is easier to be happy spending money on someone else when you are not poor, he ran the same experiment in Uganda, one of the poorest countries in the world. Even when people were struggling for basic needs, the study once again proved that spending on others made people happier than spending on one’s self.
At a basic level, Professor Norton’s message is a reminder that the constant pursuit of acquiring more wealth – while not bad – can and perhaps should be offset by a generosity many of us, myself included, may not think about on a regular basis. I give money to charity, and I make it a habit to give money to people I see on the street, but we owe it to ourselves and society to ask, is this enough? And are our goals, as they relate to wealth, driven by the right motivations? How can we take this pursuit and shift how we look at the goal of greater net worth?
How I Am Implementing My 2014’s Happiness Learnings
In an attempt to apply, Professor Norton’s studies last year I did my own “give money away” happiness experiments. I sponsored a full $10,000 Student’s on Ice Arctic Expedition as well as a surprise iPad Christmas gift to a mother who worked in McDonalds (for details see 2014 Using Money to Buy Happiness). As I reflected on the two acts – without a doubt the iPad drop off gave me a much better feeling. Last year when I wrote this asked the following questions: “What if, instead, employees were allowed to choose their own organization and direct a piece of those funds to an organization that mattered to them? How would that impact employees?”.
So for this Holiday Season – that is exactly what I will be doing! As of today I proudly announce – “The 2015 Calum Ross Team – Five Gifts of Happiness and Hope”. This year my four key team members (Andrew, Kellie, Sean, Valentina) and two daughters Abigail and Alexis (one vote together) will each be granting one family in need a $1,000 Happy Holidays cheque on behalf of Calum Ross Mortgage.
So this is where I need your help – we want you to help find the family! The contest rules are outlined below:
To be eligible for one of five holiday gifts the family must meet all of the following criteria:
– They must live within a 50 km radius of my office (check google maps if you are unsure).
– They must be able to provide evidence of financial need. This means that they must show proof that their household income is less than $26,000 per year.
– They must submit a complete Gift of Happiness and Hope Candidate Application form no later than December 13th, 2015 at 5 pm EST to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– They must prove that they are making a meaningful positive difference in the pursuit of being good parents and being a positive influence on the community around them.
Finally – it goes without saying that I owe much of my success to the unbelievably supportive and influential client base, my many mentors, and the countless contacts who have been incredibly supportive of my vision to drive positive change in the mortgage and personal finance industry. Without your support – I would not be where I am today!
THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU … MANY, MANY MORE TIMES!