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Barbara Corcoran has been rich and ‘dirt poor’—but money hasn’t made her happier

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If you think more money would make you happier, Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran has some bad news for you. Despite having sold her real estate company, The Corcoran Group, for a staggering $66 million in 2001 she claims that she’s no happier now than when she was “dirt poor”.

“I​​’m not going to use that cliché and say, ‘money doesn’t buy happiness,’ but it’s true,” Corcoran told CNBC Make It.

“I know because I’ve been poor. And I’ve been rich. And I’ve been in between. So I can speak to both.”

The greed fallacy

The issue Corcoran takes with being rich is that you can always get richer: Unlike, happiness, there is no limit to how much someone can earn, whereas emotions are much more nuanced than that. 

“You start looking toward the next thing that money’s gonna buy,” she says while adding that it results in a greed fallacy. “The greed fallacy is there are as many miserable rich people as there are miserable poor people. Money has nothing to do with being happier. It really doesn’t.”

We all need enough funds to cover our basic needs, but beyond that, Corcoran insists she has the same life worries today, as she did before coming into a windfall.  

“I’m no happier today than I was when I was dirt poor. You think something would have changed? No, I’m still insecure about the same things. I’m still nervous about the same things.” 

In fact, the opposite is probably true: She says her relationships are actually worse off now that she’s (by most people’s standards) well-off. 

More money, more problems

With the cost of living rising and inflation at a record high, it’s easy to look enviously at those with a seemingly never-ending supply of wealth. 

Asking for some financial help may some like a tiny dip into a wealthy friend’s fortune. 

But, as Corcoran suggests, it puts those with more money in an awkward position.

“Money complicates relationships,” Corcoran says. “Everybody’s got a $10,000 problem. They always come to you. It complicates things, your kids’ wills, it just complicates things.”

Between that and the “greed fallacy”, she’s drawn the conclusion that the happiest people are those who are in the middle class. “They’re always happiest because they’re not always chasing the next thing.”

She’s not entirely wrong. Research echoes that happiness plateaus after earning a certain amount—but there’s little consensus on what that threshold is.

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