And it has nothing to do with "In God We Trust" printed on a $20 bill.

Every year, the respected Harris Poll quizzes thousands of Americans about their overall satisfaction with life. It’s called the Happiness Index — and this year’s headline is, “American Happiness at All-Time Low.”

When Harris launched the Happiness Index in 2008, 35 percent of Americans said they were happy. In 2016, it’s down to 31 percent.

Of course, this doesn’t answer the question, “Why are we unhappier?” I dove deeper into the numbers and found only two sub-categories that had swings of 5 percent or more from last year to this year…

  •  71 percent of Americans agreed with this statement in 2015: “My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me.” Today, it’s down to 66 percent.
  •  67 percent of Americans agreed with this statement in 2015: “I frequently worry about my financial situation.” Today, it’s down to 62 percent.

To sum up: Americans are better off financially but worse off spiritually.

Every other sub-category in the Happiness Index edged up or down by much less than the money and God sub-categories. For instance, 89 percent had “positive relationships” with families last year, and it dropped to 88 percent this year. Likewise, 75 percent were “optimistic about he future” last year, compared to 72 this year.

So how can the Happiness Index by at an “all-time low” if only two categories dropped significantly? While I’m no expert on spirituality, I’ve been studying personal finance for more than two decades, and I think I can posit a theory…


Money and God are two of the most important topics in our lives.

I’m certainly not saying money is as important as God. I am saying both categories permeate our lives. For instance, those other sub-categories of the Happiness Index are all affected when we have less money and less connection to God.

Don’t believe me? If you feel like you’ve lost your spirituality, then it’s possible you’re not optimistic about the future. If you’re in debt, it’s possible your family relationships are affected because you don’t have the money to pay for your children’s clothing or college; or retirement for you and your spouse.

Perhaps I’m just reinforcing what I already believe, but I’m convinced that financial independence is crucial for happiness. It has nothing to do with greed. I define greed as the pursuit of money to the exclusion of God and family. Money is the means to happiness, not the goal.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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