Forefront’s Monday Market Update: The Conundrum of Happiness

March 27, 2023

The Conundrum of Happiness


I finished reading a book this weekend that was so incredible that I immediately turned back to page one and began to reread it. The book is titled “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.” It is a study done over two generations, lasting over eighty years, asking a straightforward question, what makes you happy?


What Makes you Happy?


I have sat across a table from hundreds of Gen X and Millennials throughout my career, and at some point, in that first conversation, I always ask the same question; “what do you want out of life?”


Happiness isn’t a cut-and-dry topic and comes with many nuances. Still, the answers generally revolve around a career achievement, financial goal line that they can never seem to stop moving, or status amongst your peers.


Last week, I wrote about quantifiable vs. qualitative, and things like a high salary, fame, notoriety, or a good job was all very easily quantifiable. But unfortunately, what makes us truly happy is more challenging to quantify.  What the book brought to my attention, which should have seemed obvious, was that none of those things moved the needle when it came to happiness.




A good life and happiness mean something different to everyone, and people are complicated, so expecting it to look the same for all of us is foolish.


The one commonality amongst the happiest participants in the study was relationships—those who fostered relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. The connections fostered with co-workers or those you interact with daily lead to a more meaningful career that fills you with pride.  


My wife is a middle school, special education, and science teacher. Her job is to get hormonal teenagers to want to learn science. That sounds impossible, but every day, regardless of how difficult her day is, she is filled with pride and joy for the work she does and the connections she has with her students. But, of course, her favorite days are when past students come to visit her. That is the best gift she can receive for the relationships she has built.


The Effort To Be Happy


The effort we put into trying to feel happy by avoiding insecurity, uncertainty, or failure is what makes us unhappy in the first place. We are constantly trying to eliminate the negative rather than leaning into the messiness of life. One of the greatest life lessons I ever learned came from doing CrossFit: the idea of “getting comfortable, being uncomfortable.” Life is messy, embrace the challenges and difficulties in life rather than run away from them. Lean on the relationships you have cultivated and fostered throughout your life.


So What


When I was growing up, my father’s mood would change based on how the family was doing financially. He missed out on sporting events and significant moments for my brother and me because he was so dedicated to his work and success. The Indian culture is full of materialism, and he showed his family in India that he had made it by showing off.


I try to thank him every day for all he did for us and the opportunities he opened for my brother and me through his hard work, but I can’t shake the feeling that fewer meals out and a few more Friday night high school football games would have brought my father far more joy.


I didn’t do it purposefully at the time, but after reading this book, I have realized why I chose my career path. I am among the happiest people walking on this planet because of my incredible client relationships. The families I serve celebrate with me during big parenting wins or when my children find success and commiserate with me through life’s difficulties. For example, a client sent my son a good luck card this past week because he entered the 4th-grade science fair. I offered to work from a client’s home, so they could run errands while their spouse, who needed some care at the moment, hung out with me. These are not regular financial advisor/client interactions but the fruits of cultivating relationships over many years.


As we turn on CNBC this morning and inevitably hear about a recession, banking issues, or whatever the disaster of the day is, let’s all remember that our balance sheet does not bring us happiness; the people we love are what matter the most.

Stock market calendar this week:

5:00 PM Fed Gov. Jefferson speaks
8:30 AM Advanced U.S. trade balance in goods
8:30 AM Advanced retail inventories
8:30 AM Advanced wholesale inventories
9:00 AM S&P Case-Shiller home price index (20 cities)
9:00 AM FHFA home price index
10:00 AM U.S. consumer confidence
10:00 AM Fed Gov. Barr testifies to Senate on banks
10:00 AM Pending U.S. home sales
10:00 AM Fed Gov. Barr testifies to House on banks
8:30 AM GDP (2nd revision)
8:30 AM Initial jobless claims
8:30 AM Continuing jobless claims
12:45 PM Boston Fed President Collins speaks
8:30 AM Personal income (nominal)
8:30 AM Personal spending (nominal)
8:30 AM PCE index]
8:30 AM Core PCE index
8:30 AM PCE (year-over-year)
8:30 AM Core PCE (year-over-year)
9:45 AM Chicago Business Barometer
10:00 AM Consumer sentiment (final)
10:00 PM Fed Gov. Waller speaks
3:05 PM New York Fed President Williams speaks
5:45 PM Fed Gov. Cook speaks

Most anticipated earnings for this week:

Did you miss our blog last week?
Is My Money Safe In The Bank?


About Amit: I am a first generation American, the son of a working-class Indian family, and I lived through my parents’ struggle to find their place in this country, to put down roots that would sustain them as well as their children in a new land. As they encouraged me to excel in school and fostered my hobbies and interests, I was keenly aware of the dynamic between them. I understood that there was a difference between where they came from individually and where we were now. They worked hard in their individual capacities, but they weren’t always on the same page about financial issues – and that can make or break a family’s future. I didn’t know it at the time, but this laid the groundwork for my passion towards financial services and helping families succeed.