Much of what we do at Stewardship Wealth revolves around helping people make informed decisions with money. Money is simply a tool we use to help create long-term financial security. The real value is often not the assets owned, but the peace of mind people gain from knowing that financially, they are in robust good health. The mental health benefits of financial security are well known, but does having significant wealth lead to true happiness? Should people pursue making millions, making memories, or making friends?

Here’s a unique study that comes closer to answering that question. In 1938 Harvard University began what has become the world’s longest running people study – The Good Life Project. It has been following people for over eighty years, and 19 of the original members are still alive. The idea was to uncover the secret ingredients that conspire to bring us lasting happiness.

What is clear is that being truly happy is not something that happens quickly. It develops over time and, while having sufficient financial resources is important, it’s not at the top of the list. The number one factor in enjoying a happy life is, unsurprisingly, having good, close relationships with people you love.

The big emotional audit and self-reflection that people undertook during, and post, pandemic, caused thousands to leave their jobs, move to the country, or in some cases, abroad. Another result was that people are now choosing to spend money on experiences and family rather than simply buying more bits and pieces for their homes, jewellery boxes, or garages. Experiences that create great memories have significant beneficial psychological impact. Far more than gathering material possessions.

So, while financial security plays a valuable supporting role, the leading members of the cast are your family and friends. Having lots of friends is great, but the study suggests it’s the quality of your relationships, not the quantity, that makes the difference. I appreciate this seems too simplistic, even obvious, but feeling part of something, being engaged in activities with people you care about really matters.

One of the most satisfying aspects of our job at Stewardship Wealth was watching the interactions at our Appreciation Dinner last year. To have so many of our clients together, catching up with friends and meeting others, potentially creating new friendships, is something we want to do again. We really value getting people together. It’s a worthwhile and rewarding investment, so watch this space.