Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke recently suggested that happiness should be considered as a measuring component for how well this country was doing as a whole. Usually the metrics used to measure our economy include consumer spending, disposable income, household net-worth, and debt service payments. But now, we are supposed to analyze if we are happy?

Throughout my career as a wealth manager, clients typically have the same general consensus about what drives their financial concerns – they simply want to have enough assets that allows them to feel like they have control of their life so they can live comfortably, maintain their health, and pursue their opportunities of choice regarding lifestyle, recreation, and charitable involvement, to name a few.

Those who live in this “land of opportunity” are given every advantage to reach those goals and address their financial concerns. After all, life is about the choices we make. So as a nation, we should top the charts in overall happiness, right?

Wrong! In The World Wellness Report, we are only #11 for Average Life Evaluations on the Happiness Scale (a report done by Jeffery D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University). We don’t even make the top ten! So for all our affluencey and available opportunities, why are we not at the top of the list?

In the US, it seems we have created additional problems for ourselves, such as obesity, diabetes, eating disorders, psychological disorders, and all kinds of unhealthy activities. Add to that the over-committed financial burden faced by the average family on a daily basis, and the picture does not look happy. The real question becomes, “If money doesn’t create our happiness, then what does?”

I have sat across the table from more than 10,000 families, and I have seen it all. I’ve seen the happiest of families thriving in the worst of situations, and I’ve seen bitter battles where families were broken apart over mere trinkets. The difference in the two can generally be boiled down to one word: values.

The happiest of families chose to value relationships – with each other, with special friends, and with their Creator. Valuing our faith, family and friends, seems to me, to be the foundation for building a life full of true happiness.

I understand the importance of money in our lives – it helps us be independent, provides the basic necessities of life, and allows us to take care of our family now, as well as in the future. But it cannot and should not be the foundation for our happiness.

One of the biggest economic hits we’ve ever had came on September 15, 2008. That is when everything changed. The financial rules we once lived by were now worthless, and no longer could we trust in the fiscal economy, our government, or large corporations. I believe these events also caused the people of our nation to be divided into three different mindsets.

One group is standing around with their hands shoved in their pockets, waiting for things to change back to the way it was before. Instead of waking up and dealing with the new economy, they’re doing nothing, getting further behind, and playing the blame game with no winner in sight. Another group playing a game with no winners are those waiting for the government to fix all their problems. They are waiting for a hand-out that will never come, or at least not in the form they’re expecting.

Things will never go back to the way they were, nor will the government ever provide a perfect cure for all that ails us. The way I see it, as part of group three, is that we have to understand what the choices are, and pick one. We can either sit back and wait on help that is never going to come, or we can choose to move forward, take control of managing our own expectations and live life again.

In deciding to take action, we also decide to choose our own happiness, and that is a choice we have to consciously make on a day-to-day basis. When we understand that the new rules of this financial game are ever-changing and undependable, we can free ourselves from attempting to rely on them for some form of comfort.

It is up to us to realize that happiness is not a direct result of how much money we have in our bank account. Instead, we experience true happiness because of what we choose to value: our family, our friends and our faith. I think if we could all measure our happiness in this way, I believe somewhere in the future we will top the happiness chart, instead of lagging so far behind.

Article originally ran on guyhatcher.com. Used with permission.

Guy Hatcher – known as The Legacy Guy – has spent his lifetime helping families plan their legacy.  A Certified Financial Planner, Guy has been a leader in the wealth management industry, which has allowed him to have over "10,000 Kitchen Table Conversations."  This real-life experience merged with Guy's unique conversation style makes him financial advisor, family coach and family counselor.  His new book, Your Future Reflection: How to Leave a Legacy Beyond Money, releases November 29, 2013.  Follow him on twitter @guyhatcher.  www.guyhatcher.com

Publication date: December 4, 2013