Everyone wants to be happy, but achieving that goal is tricky sometimes. To the rescue comes Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project. She recently outlined one excellent way to get happier -- by hanging out more with other people:
One thing is clear: A major key to happiness -- in fact, the major key -- is having close relationships with other people. We need close, long-term relationships, we need to be able to confide in others, we need to belong, we enjoy activities more when we're with other people. ... In fact, people who claim to have at least five friends with whom they can discuss important problems are 60% more likely to describe themselves as "very happy."
Given that, it's worrisome that we Americans are ending up with fewer and fewer good friends. We're also less likely to know our neighbors. Here are some tidbits from a study by sociologists Lynn Smith-Lovin, Miller McPherson, and Matthew E. Brashears:
- Between 1984 and 2005, the percentage of respondents with no confidant in their lives more than doubled, from 10% to 25%.
- The mean number of people with whom respondents are able to discuss important things fell by almost a third, from 2.9 in 1985 to 2.1 in 2004.
- The percentage of respondents who discuss important things only with family members rose from 57% to 80%.
What to do
Now that we've received this bad news, what should we do about it? Well, we should get out there and mingle more, obviously. But since I'm discussing this topic with you in a financial forum, I need to find a financial angle for this story, fast. Fortunately, there is a clear one: Form an investment club.
Rubin herself advocates forming or joining clubs of all sorts. A kind of group we've long advocated here in Fooldom is the investment club. That's where you gather with, say, five to 20 friends or relatives (or acquaintances), pooling small sums of money regularly (often between $20 and $100 monthly) and investing it together, after sharing research responsibilities and discussing the merits of various investments.
Investment clubs are compelling opportunities in many ways. They're great forums for newcomers to learn investing. They're also good for experienced investors. You might know just about all there is to know about stock analysis, but let's face it -- you just don't have the time to study too many companies. But if you and 12 others each study three companies per year, you'll be able to cover 36 companies. It's called leverage!
Invest better, live better
The Fool offers plenty of tips on investing clubs. The folks at better-investing.org can help you, too. More than 11,000 investment clubs across the country, encompassing nearly 120,000 members, belong to BetterInvesting. Members' average household income is $114,100, suggesting that many people with significant incomes and financial success still find clubs useful.
It's also interesting to look at the companies clubs pick. Here are the top five:
If the idea of pooling money with others has you nervous, know that there are creative alternatives. It can take more discipline to stick with it, but you can run a club that stops short of pooling money. In other words, you can choose companies to study, share research responsibilities, discuss lots of stocks, and then go home and make your own decision, investing or not with your own money in your own accounts.
So there you have it -- a way to get wealthier and happier, all at the same time. And often with refreshments served, as well!
Giving to others can also increase your happiness! As Foolanthropy enters its second decade, join us in working to bring financial education to the world's children. Learn more about Foolanthropy's new direction.
Once you start your club, why not get some ideas on how to invest? Our Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter offers a summary of research our analysts have done on the recommendations of the month -- that can give your club a head start on its own work.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Home Depot, General Electric, and Amgen. Home Depot and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.