Book Review – Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money by Ken Honda

Happy Money by Ken Honda

IntroductionHappy Money the Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money by Ken Honda

We’ve recently covered the fact that bipolar disorder can wreak havoc on our finances. The good news is that there are lots of resources that can help us change the way we think about money. I, for example, have Free Printable Money Worksheets. But what I’m here to draw your attention to today is Ken Honda’s magnificently weird – and possibly paradigm-shifting – book, Happy Money.

What on Earth is Happy Money?

Happy money, according to Honda, is money that you acquire and spend in a state of appreciation and gratitude.

Without a sense of stress.

In a world where homelessness, hunger, and lack of healthcare (hello, my mentally ill friends) are pressing concerns, does an idea like Honda’s hold any water whatsoever?

Happy Money presents its arguments about “smiling money.” The idea is that happy money is an extremely practical and even liberating way of managing money.

So, what gives?

Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money, A Review

Ken Honda, author of Happy MoneyWell, here’s Ken Honda. He’s got a happy face. I wonder if his money is as happy as he is.

This is a bizarre book.Is this money smiling? It comes straight at us, flinging itself at our bare, unprotected heads, and then hits us on the noggin with brand new ideas.

Ken Honda looks beyond the budget. Beyond the spreadsheet. Beyond the expense tracker and the slick new banking or investing app.

He asks the question: what is money? He presents an answer: a neutral force of nature.

And, once he separates money (the force of nature) out from its representations (coins, bills) he says that money is an energy flow.

An energy flow that, much like a body of water, can flow in lakes and pool in rivers and stagnate in ponds.

And then he teaches us how to shape a beneficial flow of money through our lives – how we spend it, how we save it, and how we earn it.

How Happy Money WorksFriendships form bonds that help us stay secure

Honda starts by explaining that when we worry about money, we are usually worrying about the future. However, he says, the solution to feeling more secure about the future isn’t to get more money in the bank.

What is the secret to true secret to security? The solution, he goes on, is to cultivate a network of friends who will let you live with them for a week or a month when you need help.

With those social bonds firmly in place, you have no fear of going hungry or being homeless.

Therefore, with those fears laid to rest, you can focus on receiving and releasing money with a sense of appreciation and gratitude: money becomes a natural flow of energy that winds through your life.

He goes on to suggest that the best way to begin a flow of money is to give money to others as gifts, gift loans, extra tips, extra payment, or buying from people you like. Then you save some money up for a stock of funds, spend some money on life-enriching experiences, and give money to people and causes that you believe in.

Well, okay. These are Ken Honda’s ideas. I hope I’ve done them justice.

But how well does the Happy Money model work for people who have bipolar disorder?



Prosa thank you gift

Well, when someone’s distracted (read: (hypo)manic) or depressed, Happy Money offers some helpful soundbites. Here are some (paraphrased) examples:

  • The best way to prevent yourself from being homeless and hungry is to develop strong friendships.
  • Money is an expression of gratitude, so if you do work that makes people grateful, you will make money.
  • If you enjoy your work, you are more likely to do work that other people appreciate – and that helps with that whole grateful part. Win-win.
  • Money is best spent on experiences and contributions, so invest in trips and people you love.

All of these can help us take a breath, check our attitude with regard to money, and make some strategic financial plans when we’re mentally stable.


We know that one of the most common ways in which people with bipolar destroy their finances is by giving overly generous gifts. That we quit steady jobs to pursue new entrepreneurial ventures or investment opportunities.

It would be all to easy to rationalize these risky financial behaviors by using Happy Money as an excuse. Happy Money makes real sense as a long-term, slow and steady, baby-step-taking journey. It doesn’t make sense as a splashy full-body jump into a whole new way of doing things.

I suggest approaching Happy Money through a series of baby-steps and assessments, not as a “bold, new” change.

Is There a Better Personal Book Than Happy Money?

If you want a more basic book about money – something that will teach you the fundamentals of personal money management – I recommend Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. She’s great at pointing out solid financial priorities and methods.


Happy Money is thoroughly refreshing. It takes on the topic of money from a completely different perspective. Its unconventional approach draws on some elements of the mystical (Honda mentions the Law of Attraction more than once) but it also has several nuggets of highly practical insights.

While this book won’t teach you how to make a budget or set up your investments, it will help you make all-important lifestyle decisions. And those lifestyle decisions are crucially important – after all, they create the expenses that you’ll end up spending money on, and how you’ll earn that money to begin with.

My rating: 8/10

Easiest place to buy: Amazon

(If you buy this book through any of the links on this page, I’ll get a cut of the profits and that will help me keep this site afloat at no additional cost to you.)






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22 thoughts on “Book Review – Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money by Ken Honda

  1. Dealing with money with a mental disorder is one of the most stressful experiences. This book has a very interesting approach and it would be nice to read it. Being grateful is one of the most powerful remedies for most of the issues in life and I don’t doubt it can also help with finance.

    1. Yeah, that’s one of the best parts of this book – finding ways to relax about it, accept it’s inflow and outflow, and treat each transaction with appreciation. 

  2. Oh my God, the first paragraph in the cons totally described a friend I used to have … She did exactly those things, an exaggerated generosity, and leaving jobs for entrepreneurial enterprises of her own …. Does that mean she may be bipolar …? I stopped contact with her when she got mad unprovoked and became verbally abusive (and very overwhelming, she wouldn’t stop) So, that paragraph got me thinking …

    Happy Money looks like an interesting book. It looks indeed like a handy guide for good lifestyle choices. The second book you recommend has probably more tips on money management,  and I am tempted to get that one.

    Great review, thank you!

    1. Hi Christine! Extreme irritability is one of the symptoms of mania, so you may have stumbled on a possible reason for her erratic behavior. Who knows?

      I love, love, love Your Money or Your Life, and I highly suggest it. =)

  3. Ken Honda has a very interesting view of money. I think we would all agree that we probably put too much emphasis on money, at least here in the United States. And although I have a great circle of friends that would absolutely help me if needed, and have many times in the past, I don’t agree with the idea of using them as a safety net essentially when you run out of money. I do like the idea of money being a flow of energy, going from one place to another in a constant stream. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yes! I feel a little bit uncomfortable at the thought of relying on my friends to take care of me when I’m down too. 

  4. Hi Wendy,
    I have a sister who has bipolar disorder has gone through several crises in different hospitals. The times he had some money becomes very dangerous. 

    We never knew what she was spending it on, maybe the book Happy Money can help her. Some aspects that you mention are interesting to me. 

    I will talk to your children before making the purchase. 

    Thank you!

  5. Hi Wendy – This is a refreshing post!  It was fun reading about Ken Honda’s ideas on money.  As unconventional as they are, there are some merits.  There are some fresh and useful approaches concerning money.  However, I agree with your suggestion of taking baby steps and assess.  This is definitely a situation where the expression: “chew the meat and through away the bones” applies. 

    Thanks for this opportunity!

  6. Hi Wendy, thanks for the great post! I’ve read a lot of success oriented books, and a lot of them are really similar, so it’s refreshing to see one that has a different point of view on money. I particularly like how Honda describes money as an energy flow. Do you know the word count of the book? I usually like to know how much time I’ll be investing before I buy a knew book.

    1. Yeah! It’s something a little different. I don’t know the wordcount, but it’s 241 pages long, if that helps. 

  7. Happy money on its face sounds ideal and I appreciate your recommendation and thorough review here on Ken Honda’s book on just that, Happy Money.I agree with your assessment that we should approach Happy Money with baby steps. For me, living with friends off and on does not sound particularly appealing, but I could certainly see how this form of cost-cutting could work for others. I’m glad that you’ve provided an alternative to Happy Money in Your Money or Your Life as it looks like there are some great money-managing techniques included. I’ll definitely check out this book further through your link and thanks for a great recommendation!

  8. This looks like a must read and a welcome change from the normal money and budgeting books that you see for sale. 

    It also make sense to spend and receive your money with a happy and grateful heart. It might just be that this shift in focus  is just the thing needed to generate more long term wealth. Does the author give you steps to take to help you to develop this way of thinking?

  9. Wow, this book sounds interesting and unique. Some of the tips I will definitely be applying to my everyday like spending my money on people and experiences I love, also establishing strong friendship bonds with people who will gladly have your back during downtimes. but like you said some of the concepts need to be approached with baby steps. Anyway thanks for your review,I will definitely love to read the whole book and the book by Vicki Robins you recommended, thanks.

  10. Hi. I believe that money is neutral. I think that it is not good or bad; these are just our limiting beliefs. I believe that money is   an energy flow. The book Happy Money seems very intriguing. I will read it. Thank you for the review. But I also think that you need to know how to make a budget or set up your investments. Thank you for suggesting the Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. I will read this book too. Your website is fascinating. I like the worksheets, and I will use them. I am so happy to find your site; I will read more from you with pleasure.

    Have a nice day.

  11. Now this is a very interesting book and I think money was made to be enjoyed and partially in a way I do agree with Jen’s way of thinking. However some might mistaken him for saying you just use money anyhow you want and only care about living the moment and forget the future, the future matters too as you live in the present day make sure your money makes you happy but also make sure your tomorrow is secure because you may soon be homeless, hungry and ill. 

    The approach by a Honda works well if you are already a person with lots of money and also should be taken step by step as suggested as big steps will only make a fool out of you. I think I will enjoy reading this book, I hope I get my hands on it pretty soon, I totally believe in making sure the money you earn creates for you a happy life.

  12. Actually, this book is just what I need. I often chase my money goals, forgetting why I want that money in the first place. From reading your review I can tell that this book gave me another perspective on money and making money. I also enjoy spending more money then I should. 

    That is why this book will really make me happy.

    I can’t wait to grab it.


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