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Posted on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Faith and money: In the end, where do you invest in happiness?

By Wayne Baker


IN THE END, WHERE IS HAPPINESS? In Florida, senior citizens invest time in public physical fitness parks. (Photo in public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing faith and money.

Let's get serious.

When we’re facing life’s final years, what is more likely to make us happy? Seniors choose from a wide array of pursuits these days. Today, I’m asking you to choose between two options: Investing time in a congregation — or investing money in practical financial planning?

The answer might surprise you!

This week, we’ve discussed several surprising findings about the relationship of faith and money, based on the reporting of veteran journalist David Briggs. His reporting has highlighted: How churchgoers are more delighted with their material possessions than their spiritual lives, the decline of the ‘Protestant’ work ethic, the fact that many regular churchgoers are stingy contributors to charity, and how the faithful strive for excellence in the workplace.

So, which investment pays off in our choice today: Spiritual or financial?

Turns out: The answer is both, according to research cited by Briggs. Having enough money is helpful, of course, but spiritual investments in religious faith, regular church attendance, and engagement in a congregation also return benefits.

Faith can help older people cope with uncertainty and adversity in the latter stages of life. Health issues, the loss of loved ones, declining mobility, and retirement from work pose serious mental health challenges that an active religious life can help manage.

Regular attendance at services provides older adults with supportive social networks and a sense of belonging. Religious music provides “a greater sense of control and a decrease in death anxiety.” Long-term religious experience increases resilience, increases life satisfaction, and decreases depression.

The key here is “long-term experience.” Just as there’s no quick fix for a weak financial situation, there’s no quick fix for a lack of faith. Creating a secure financial future requires long-term planning, saving, and investment. Securing the mental health benefits that come with faith requires long-term investment in religion and religious activities.

Do you have financial and spiritual goals for your golden years?

Does your “retirement portfolio” include faith and money?

Of all the facts about faith and money we’ve discussed this week, which one is the most surprising?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

WHOLE DUDE - WHOLE INDIVIDUATION: The term 'individuation' refers to form into an individual and develop as a separate organic unit. Carl Gustav Jung(1875-1961), Swiss psychologist, and psychiatrist had used this term to help his patients to find happiness and satisfaction in their lives. God is a personal God. If Church is described as the Body of Christ, it does not mean that God has affiliation with any particular group or congregation, or a denomination. It just remains as a personal relationship, and each individual has no choice other than that of finding the satisfaction of that personal, individualized experience. I claim that man is created by the Law of Creation and Individuality and the satisfaction/happiness in life comes from being an Individual.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Jun 7, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

I would want to look at the design of the study. Is it really "faith" per se, or the social/community/support network that's most important in long-term happiness and health? I'd think an atheist who was active in book clubs, humanist groups, etc. might reap many of the same benefits.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Amen....I mean so be that. The value of social/community/support networks during later years, faith-centered or not, is already very well documented.