Today’s TED IELTS lesson tackles a very interesting question: “Can money buy happiness?” It’s based on the popular TED Talk by Michael Norton.


Before we begin, please familiarize yourself with the following vocabulary:


Experiment n. – a scientific procedure to determine something

Charity n. – an organization which collects money from the public for a good cause

Lottery n. – a competition where people pay money for a chance of winning lots of money

Donation n. – a sum of money given without expectation of return

Anti-social adj. – the opposite of someone who makes friends easily

Universal adj. – something that is true of all people around the world



Now fill in the blanks. Answers are at the bottom of the page.

After winning the _____1_____, the lucky couple gave a sizeable ______2______ to their favourite ______3_______.

The scientists conducted an ______4______ to understand why _____5______ behavior was so common in teenagers, and whether the phenomenon was _______6_______ or not.



Now watch the following video and do the questions below:




  1. Why does he think that money usually makes people unhappy?
  2. Describe his experiment.
  3. What were the results of the experiment?
  4. What are the “human universals” that he talks about?
  5. How can generosity help us in business?
  6. What is his conclusion?
  7. What does he suggest that the audience does to make themselves happy?


IELTS Skills for Money


Here’s a sample IELTS Writing Task 2 question related to the above video:


You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Some people believe that money is the most important factor for achieving happiness. However, others believe that happiness has nothing to do with money.

Do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

You should write at least 250 words.


All around the world, people seem to think that money equals happiness, and so they pursue financial reward in expectation of a better life. However, there are many people who would argue with this concept, instead claiming that more money leads to more problems, and that happiness can be found without financial gain. I would tend to agree with the latter opinion.

Firstly, while many people think of money as solving all their problems, we only need to look at the rich people in this world to see that they are not entirely happy. It seems that while money can get rid of some problems in life, it also creates new problems. People with little money might worry about paying their mortgage, but people with lots of money also have to deal with taxes and other expenses. The poor certainly envy the rich, but are they rich really happier? I doubt it.

If we look at happiness around the world, it seems to exist regardless of wealth. People in poor countries or deprived areas in rich countries are just as capable of happiness as those with big bank accounts. The happiest people on the earth have the support of their families, friends, and feel that there is meaning to their life. There are so many things that give us joy in this world, and these are things that money can’t buy.

To conclude, money can alleviate some problems in life, but it also creates others. Furthermore, the things that really make us happy are not things that we can pay for with cash or credit cards.

Word count: 266



  1. Lottery
  2. Donation
  3. Charity
  4. Experiment
  5. Anti-social
  6. Universal


  1. They’re not spending their money right.
  2. He gave different amounts of money to students, company employees, and sportspersons. Then they had to spend money on themselves or on others.
  3. People who spent money on themselves saw no change in happiness; people who spent money on others saw increased happiness.
  4. Shared values across cultures.
  5. Money can buy happiness but not if you spend it on yourself.
  6. Give money to a specific charity –