How Expensive is This Happiness Thing?

They say that money can’t buy happiness, but I only halfway agree.


True; money doesn’t directly purchase a meaningful relationship with another person, a healthy child who grows up to support and love you, the satisfaction of completing a challenging job, nor creating something with your own hands.

It does pay for the braces, beauty products, restaurant food, cell phones, wedding, new spouse’s parents’ costs, anniversaries, random presents, midlife marriage counseling, throw pillows, curtains, rediscovery vacations, and all the ending of life costs -that facilitate a meaningful relationship with another person.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

think I’m saying money is necessary for happiness. You can’t be happy with no money to speak of or not enough for your needs. Heck, life’s difficult with not enough to cover the cost of a few wants, too.

What about a couple who really wants to have a child, yet can’t afford expensive IVF treatments or adoption? Or that retired guy who just wants a place to live amongst ever-rising house prices? Or the kids who grow up with terrible friends in a bad neighborhood because the parents worked two jobs, put them in the local (awful) daycare, could not pay for sports programs, and felt too depressed themselves to listen to their children’s needs?

Are they happy?

I know, I know. Mr. Optimist says they could be. They could find their happy place even in a sad, little, dark corner of the world in which they sit with rising medical costs for a genetic disease that prevents them from working so they can’t even buy decent housing and food nor meet anyone who wants to be friends.

…That may have been Sadness talking.

To play my own devil’s advocate, the reverse of my argument may also be true. I mean, I have enough money. I live a really cushy life compared to most people in the world. Yet, I’m not happy. A good chunk of that is beating myself up for not being happy despite having such an easy life, but we might want to get into that in another post.

I believe my point is that money is essential for happiness. One needs to spend it in the right way and with the right attitude, but cannot be happy without it.

What do you think?


Think about it and let me know. For now, here’s my previous week, free of charge:
Wednesday, January 23: Several helpful friends helped solve whodunit in “It’s All a Mystery.”
Thursday, January 24: “The Cure for Depression: Connect with a Human,” the first tip in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, January 25: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to D. Wallace Peach!
Saturday, January 26: Announced the tenth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Enter it!
And, “Insided Out,” self-reflection at an internal, emotional level.
, January 27: “Grandma’s Tears” for Carrot Ranch‘s flash fiction prompt.
Monday, January 28: A great quote from Len about love and marriage.
Tuesday, January 29: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty One.”
Also, “A Head Start on the Day?” at my mothering blog.
Wednesday, January 30: Today!

71 thoughts on “How Expensive is This Happiness Thing?

  1. masercot January 30, 2019 / 1:03 pm

    You can be happy without money, under the right circumstances; however, if you’ve got people depending on you for their survival, having enough money takes that tightness out of the pit of your stomach…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 3:59 pm

      “Happy under the right circumstances?” Like, having a rich sponsor? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • masercot January 31, 2019 / 1:48 am

        If I knew I had food and shelter, I doubt I’d need much else…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 6:29 am

          I’d need some basic supplies, a dentist, and stuff for my kids. Maybe if I were more unattached I’d feel similarly?


  2. D. Wallace Peach January 30, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    I agree with you, Chelsea. It is easier to find happiness when basic needs are met – food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, safety (the old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Too much stress is detrimental, and a lack of basic necessities establishes a baseline of stress that everything else piles on top of. But you are also right that there is a piece of it that’s related to attitude and choice. There are people who find happiness in the world who have very little or have lost everything, and at the other extreme, people with wealth who are miserable. Is there a formula? I don’t think so, but the reflection is useful, I think. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:02 pm

      Ah, yes. I should have mentioned the hierarchy of needs. I forget. 🙂

      And I was hoping for a formula. I’ll do more research.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lesleykluchin January 30, 2019 / 2:33 pm

    I am going to have to agree to disagree with you on this subject. I have had too many unfortunate things happen in my life and I still come up smiling… so here is my answer to your question. Money is necessary for survival. It is NOT necessary for happiness. I have been through several situations in my life where money has been an issue. Trust me, it isn’t a recipe for happiness or unhappiness. That is the choice of each and every one of us We do have a choice. When I was 25 years old my first husband left me with a ten month old baby. I was heartbroken and crushed that I had to start life over and leave my baby behind to go to work. Each morning as I took my little one to the sitter’s house, I still wasn’t unhappy. Heartbroken, sure. I missed my baby and I missed being married. But, I wasn’t dying and my child was healthy. AND, I had a job. So, instead I was grateful. People heal. My basic personality is one of being a happy person most of the time. I learned that if i didn’t have enough money to pay the electric bill I would find a way. There are always ways to make money. During summer vacation when I wasn’t on a school salary I made a deal with Florida Power and Light and pay a portion of my utility bills while my salary was different. (During the summer I had to work other jobs). As I became a more experienced teacher I could get summer school teaching jobs which were given out based on seniority. There are companies who allow you deals and in the fall my finances went back to the full amount, they added what I owed to each month. I learned to make extra money tutoring, I did water color paintings for baby’s rooms and sold them, I did calligraphy for weddings and bar mitzvahs for money etc. There were many creative ways to make ends meet and I did a plethora of them to support my son as a single working mom. I didn’t have a lot of money but I had a roof over my head and I was happy..AND I was inventive enough to finds ways to make a supplemental income. Did I have sad days? Of course, I wanted my son to have that perfect family life, but I learned early on that we have two choices in life. You can either be miserable. Or you can choose to be happy. I choose happy!
    I have lost both my parents, been divorced twice, and had my second husband die. All difficult life situations. I made sure to see a grief therapist for a certain amount of time to heal after each death. Because In order to be happy, you have to take care of yourself. BUT, I have always talked myself into the positives. I look in the mirror, talk out loud and tell myself it will be okay or that I can get through anything. I can’t make myself wealthy. It isn’t in the cards for me. BUT I CAN make myself happy. Daily I think about all the positives in my life and try to be grateful. It helps. I avoid negative people. They bring me down. But the best learning experience on how to be happy was after I had a severe accident ABOUT 3 YEARS ago that left me in a wheel chair for 6 months, then a walker, and eventually I was able to move normally, I learned a good lesson through that experience. The truth is, I was not depressed about my limitations.Why??? Because I was ALIVE! Yes, I was alone, no husband to take care me. I did have a few neighbors who cooked for me. My son and grandkids visited on the weekends. But the day to day circumstances left me struggling to get myself into a wheelchair by sliding myself into it and wheeling myself to the bathroom and back to bed. After several weeks when the pain started to improve, I was just happy to be alive and not in agony so I would wake up each morning and think. Hooray! I am getting stronger. My wheel chair was too wide to get out of the bedroom so to avoid cabin fever, I asked my son if there was anything I could write for the reading/poetry program connected to the learning center in his non profit organization. He said absolutely. And so each day I created lessons for students until I had written an entire elementary school poetry curriculum. All from my wheelchair or my bed. It was adapted by the school board and promoted by the Foundation my son works for. And as long as I was creating I was happy. When I was healed enough to use a walker and could actually leave my bedroom and get to my living room it was like I was on holiday. And every day I heard in my head the theme song to Rocky. I wasn’t depressed because I was improving and getting stronger! All the money in the world could not have healed my body until it was ready to heal. Oh sure I could paid to have had fancy 24 seven nurses but the more I did for myself, the happier and prouder I was.

    To me good health is what creates happiness. if we are lucky enough to have good health so that we can create and help others, then we become happy. Money cannot make you creative or happy. It can pay your bills. That is all it can do. Money would not have cured my second husband’s pancreatic cancer. I lost my home during the Bush housing crisis because my husband was sick and I tried to refinance. Money would have helped me stay in my home, but it would not have saved my husband’s life. So, I got another, smaller and cheaper place to live. I worked hard and got back on my feet. But my happiness came from my desire to be grateful for the good in my life. Not for what I did not have.

    So No money cannot make us truly happy.. We have choices. We can be miserable. Or we can find joy in the rain, in a song, or in a poem. Happiness does not cost a darn thing. What I learned during my convalescence after my accident was that every day when I opened my eyes and I thought… OMG I am alive! Then it was a good day. And if I was alive and I could see from my bed that the sun was shining it was an even better day. Happiness is everywhere if we just look for it. Heartbreak is too. We can allow ourselves to hurt once in a while. But we must also allow ourselves to find joy. We deserve it. Happiness is free!!!!!! Money is nice and necessary for survival. Happiness is too but we have to choose it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:11 pm

      I always feel my responses to not nearly be as in-depth as yours, Lesley. 😀

      You are a testament to the propose behind the aphorism: that our attitude really does determine our happiness. You and my therapist…

      Being naturally negative-minded (or trained to follow negative neural pathways, dear counselor o’ mine), I’m much more inclined to not go quietly into life’s terrible circumstances. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lesleykluchin January 30, 2019 / 4:31 pm

        Chelsea I think we have to constantly fight the negativity. Since the current resident in the WH has been in DC I’ve had to fight harder to stay positive because everywhere I turn I feel like I don’t recognize my country or my neighbors any more. This has been a challenging time for us all. Being home with so many little boys is enough to drive any woman batty. It’s a blessing for sure, but come on, that has to be overwhelming. Motherhood is a struggle not to lose yourself. Trust me I understand what it is to be surrounded by negative pathways. I’m Jewish remember? All our songs and prayers were written in minor chords. My mom would say “Oy Vey I’m having a good day.” As if she didn’t deserve it or as if she was shocked that a day went well. Her parents literally walked hundreds of miles in the snow ( yes really!)in Russia to find ships to take them to America. Happiness to them was a dream. My grandmother didn’t know how to embrace it. She lost a child to diphtheria, my mom’s older brother, during the depression and still cried over him until she died at 103. Sometimes people have been hurt too much to let happiness in. It’s so easy to be engulfed by negativity. We have to fight it. I find I only start to succumb to it when I’m very sick. That’s depressing to me. But the minute I wake up feeling fine, it’s like I’m walking on sunshine. (BTW I keep that song on my phone and play it whenever I get down). It will cure whatever ails you!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:33 pm

          😀 “Oy vey, I’m having a good day!”

          Tip noted; it’s a great one! I’ll keep fighting. …okay, I’ll start fighting.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Lesleykluchin January 30, 2019 / 5:09 pm

            Yes! Fight! I’ve been called an empath because I feel the pain of others so deeply. Some people feel it more than others. So yes, you must fight. I’m guessing that depression or unhappiness is perhaps like an an addiction. I’ve never had an addiction…well, maybe coffee, shopping, and cheesecake…but not a really bad one. I imagine for an alcoholic or a gambler they are pulled in that direction as if a giant tornado is sucking them in and they can’t get out no matter how hard they try to break free. Think of it In Star Wars terms. Don’t let your self go to the dark side. “May the Force be with you”, Chelsea. ❤️


            • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 5:28 pm

              😀 Interesting about the empath; I am, too.

              …and have some addictive traits.

              I need to not give into the dark side and to get addicted to feeling happy, instead.


        • FuriousPockets January 31, 2019 / 12:39 pm

          This reminds me of my favorite Jewish joke:

          Two gentile businessman meet on the street. One of them says, “How’s business?” The other one says, “Great!”

          Liked by 1 person

        • Michael B. Fishman February 6, 2019 / 8:05 am

          “Sometimes people have been hurt too much to let happiness in. It’s so easy to be engulfed by negativity. We have to fight it.” Wow, this is so true and so sad. And that fight is so difficult. But difficult isn’t the same thing as impossible, right?!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Lesleykluchin February 6, 2019 / 5:14 pm

            Right! Not impossible, just challenging.


  4. Bladud Fleas January 30, 2019 / 2:42 pm

    It makes exchange easier, certainly. We exchange part of ourself – time, talent etc. – for money so we might have those things we think we need but can’t easily provide for ourself.

    Supposing you lived in something like a nunnery and were cared for, were given three square meals, useful work, a sense of purpose, fulfilment but no money. Could you imagine being happy? That’s a bit Freudian, I suppose. Love and work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:17 pm

      Did you say, “Get thee to a nunnery?” 😀

      You’ve introduced just the situation I sought to mention as I wrote, and I think you’re right.

      This all reminds me of something I heard once, a bit like “moving won’t solve your problems because you’re always taking them with you.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Bladud Fleas January 31, 2019 / 6:21 am

        It’s a thought rather than a proposal. 🙂

        Wouldn’t work in my case. I’m with Sartre in that “Hell is other people”. Present company excepted.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 6:44 am

          😀 Don’t worry; I’m the sort to sit and read books in company.


  5. Violet Lentz January 30, 2019 / 2:56 pm

    Money is necessary, but I do not believe what we actually buy with it is happiness or contentment. To me those are a state of being and if they are tied to anything material, a very fleeting state of being.. jmho….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:20 pm

      It’s a thin line. I agree that our context should not determine our happiness, but then am affected by Feng Shui and beautiful vacation destinations and such.

      I guess money can help make us more comfortable -but even that can be mental.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lesleykluchin January 31, 2019 / 2:19 pm

        See, here’s the thing Chelsea. What if, everything you had right now was instantly taken away? Life would become challenging. Even awful perhaps. But the interesting thing is, if you watch children in horrible circumstances, they find little things here and there to entertain themselves. They gather up something from somewhere to make them smile. As a teacher Ive seen Kids with neglectful or abusive parents still able to laugh. I’ve seen it all. Happiness emerges from the depths of hell because children have a desire to be happy. Growing up in the 1950’s, I watched concentration camp survivors deal with their horrors and still find great joy in life. They embraced art, music, literature and most of all, freedom. It’s the little things that made them happy. Like friendship. One woman with faded blue numbers on her arm, told me her own baby died in Auschwitz. So she took comfort in caring for those around her. Singing was what brought her joy and helped take away the nightmares.

        We human beings can find moments of happiness if we look for it. Perhaps being Jewish and growing up when I did, I saw such extreme strength among survivors. And I watched how they let joyous moments heal them. I grew up expecting that everything could be taken away from me in an instant simply because I was Jewish. I learned early on that happiness had to be sought out and clung to whenever possible. Wherever I was, no matter what happened to me. These haunted people, with pain behind their eyes, had smiles filled with such hope and love. They taught me the key to finding happiness.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 4:34 pm

          I have such admiration and respect for them, and you. I tend to take those stories and tell myself to feel badly that others suffer. :/

          Kind of a failed Rorschach Test.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 5:00 pm

              P’haps you’re only catching the positive ones?

              I thought I was writing an even mix, then could only find posts discussing depression or poems written from negative moods. There are no poems about joyous, overwhelming happiness. I aim to fix that.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. mistermuse January 30, 2019 / 3:59 pm

    “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at some of the people he gives it to.”
    On the other hand:
    “There are more important things in life than a little money, and one of them is a lot of money.”
    (both quotes courtesy of Evan Esar) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      😀 I agree, yet I also have met a lot of affluent people who are still more than decent sorts, and yet also untroubled by disparity the way I am.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. H.R.R. Gorman January 30, 2019 / 5:06 pm

    I think a key word here is ‘just;’ we want ‘just’ a place we can live in retirement, ‘just’ to own our own house, ‘just’ a better car. All those things are great and, in many cases, necessary – but it’s rarely ‘just’ what we wanted. Contentment is hard to get, I think, when you’re a goal-driven person. You ‘just’ want the next thing, even if you got what you previously ‘just’ wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 30, 2019 / 5:27 pm

      You are so right, yet I have this mindset. I think it’s because where I’m at feels a bit of a ‘stuck’ position so I’m trying to look forward to things.

      My counselor admonished against this the last time we met, saying that I can be happy within the bounds that I have set and that I can’t be waiting for an event to make me happy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • H.R.R. Gorman January 30, 2019 / 7:37 pm

        I may be weird, but what helps me is to imagine that happiness isn’t valuable. I think it’s hard to achieve, so I stopped trying, and that helped.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. LA January 30, 2019 / 5:34 pm

    I think you need money, but having money doesn’t ensure happiness

    Liked by 1 person

  9. howikilledbetty January 31, 2019 / 5:39 am

    Ooooh I’m loving this! Well Princess Diana had a lot of money, but a lot of problems. She was definitely not happy. Money helps without a doubt … something about it being easier to cry in the back of a Mercedes than on a bicycle, springs to mind. So yes I agree that it helps, but however rich a person is, they still need to find that complete drive within themselves to get better. And it’s so darn hard. Brilliant, fab post as ever! Katie x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 6:43 am

      Too true, Katie. 🙂
      I think we’d all choose to cry in the back of the Mercedes, but also know that a cushier life seems to bring more time for mental drama.

      Liked by 1 person

      • howikilledbetty February 1, 2019 / 2:45 am

        It does yes. Also, my (very first world and middle class) problem is that I was over-loved in many ways and when everything is done for you as a child, you don’t learn any life skills. So when you enter REAL life, you’re absolutely clueless as to how to cope. So for example, when my first husband had an affair and subsequently left me rather suddenly with two tiny children, I fell apart … for years. Poor little rich girl you might think, and yes, you’re probably right … but I suppose what I’m trying to say is that white, black, rich or poor, depression and/or anxiety can hit anyone. I’m rambling! Sorry! Katie x

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens February 1, 2019 / 7:18 am

          Your ramblings are always worth it. 😀

          I’m sorry about the affair; I relate to that sort of reaction, which is why we’re in correspondence. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens January 31, 2019 / 9:58 am

      I’m pretty sure the lyrics say something different in that song…


  10. Monique February 1, 2019 / 8:25 am

    A classmate once told me that it isn’t all the time that happiness comes from within. We gotta acknowledge the hard truth that sometimes, there are external factors to happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens February 1, 2019 / 8:28 am

      I believe this, but am told differently by my counselor and others. I think an ideal is that we can be happy no matter what, but the way most people function easiest is by external aids -which also allows for time for internal introspection.

      Do you think so?


      • Monique February 1, 2019 / 8:34 am

        Being on the quest for “true” happiness, I can only attest for times when I felt happy because I was able to do something I really wanted. And all those times, there were stuff that aided me and money was one of them. By true happiness, what I mean is that quiet, peaceful, not-a-care-in-the-world feeling that stays, no matter how everything else in the world gets. Guess I’m just not there yet. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Monique February 1, 2019 / 8:39 am

          Let me just add. Never let anyone tell you how shallow your happiness is compared to theirs. We all have our trials and difficulties and whatever makes us feel better should not be measured against any metrics. To be feeling what they think of as “shallow” may already mean the world to some.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens February 1, 2019 / 8:42 am

          😀 You and the rest of humanity.


  11. Charli Mills February 1, 2019 / 10:36 pm

    We don’t have much. But we are making deliberate choices to be happy. To remind my husband throughout his struggles, I bought him a plaque that hangs by his coffee to strengthen his connection to his past (he grew up on a dairy farm) and simple joys of the present moment. It reads, “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy cows. Cows provide milk to make ice cream. Ice cream makes you happy.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens February 2, 2019 / 7:24 am

      I believe so, too. We moved to a neighborhood with some very affluent people, and I’ve seen their ‘struggles’ vs. those in our siblings’ families. Money definitely helps with those troughs, as you said.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. mymindlessdrivel February 4, 2019 / 11:07 pm

    Agreed. There may be people living in poverty who are happy despite their circumstances, but it is much easier to be happy when the stresses (expenses) of life aren’t weighing on you. How happy can you be knowing you might be homeless next week if you can’t sort out the past due rent issue? How happy can you be when you have a curable illness but instead must suffer because you can’t afford treatment or medicine? You can’t buy happiness itself, but you can use money to remove some of the impediments to it. Whether or not you’re happy once the impediments are gone is another matter entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nitin February 6, 2019 / 5:30 am

    There’s nothing wrong in being rich. It’s self-indulgence and an excessive thirst for more that can’t really buy you happiness. Really good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens February 6, 2019 / 6:11 am

      Thank you, Nitin.

      …As a side topic, I think there IS something wrong in being rich. You really don’t think there is?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nitin February 6, 2019 / 7:31 am

        It’s the love of money. Not the money itself that’s the root cause of evil. Earn more, but be content and give more. I haven’t come to practising the last part, but it’s a good ideal.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chelsea Owens February 6, 2019 / 9:03 am

          That’s probably why I see money as evil. We have a lot more than we’ve had before, but also have four kids…. Plus, spending money on charity just makes it worse. It’d be better if I could spend time, but I don’t have that either.
          …Mostly I don’t know to be happy within my circumstances.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nitin February 7, 2019 / 3:19 am

            That’s a struggle we all face Chelsea. I’m addicted to buying books. I do read vigorously, but I haven’t completed even a quarter of what I have at home. So, that thirst to know and be entertained more consumes me thoroughly that I’m not content. But the flip side is that I thoroughly enjoy reading and it helps me just take my mind away from mundane things. If I were content with completing the books I have (which I’m working towards) then, I don’t see the problem with spending at all. So money isn’t inherently evil. Just like technology isn’t or music isn’t. It’s how you use these resources given to you that determines things. I’m a bachelor and I don’t plan on settling down anytime soon. But I understand that a family brings in the struggle to separate the time you spend on yourself from the time you give your family.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Chelsea Owens February 7, 2019 / 7:21 am

              I love buying books, too! You have a good grasp of acceptance and priorities that I need to somehow also grasp.

              Liked by 1 person

  14. Michael B. Fishman February 6, 2019 / 7:13 am

    I’m not sure that money is necessary for happiness. It helps, yeah, but what is happiness? I think a lot of unhappiness stems from not living “correctly”. And I put that in quotes because I don’t want to sound like there’s a right way and a wrong way to live because I don’t believe that; I believe we all live in our way and as long as we’re not hurting anyone else then whatever we do, it’s just fine. But I think we look outside of ourselves too much for the source of happiness and I think that’s when we run into problems. Is happiness having a million cable TV channels? Is it binge watching the latest TV show that we DVR’d? Is it driving a fancy car? Having a boat? A cabin? Eating in fancy restaurants? Going to concerts and sporting events? Or is happiness achieving a sense of calm and peace and a thought of “It’s enough.”? In Buddhism there’s something called the Four Noble Truths and I’m not really a Buddhist so I can’t really explain this stuff well, but that fourth truth is the eightfold path and it gives us eight suggestions on how to deal with our thoughts and attitudes and how to live life and end suffering and I think if we can live life following those suggestions we might, regardless of money, experience a sense of happiness. And I’m rambling here and I apologize, but it doesn’t help that we live in a country and a world that values “things” so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chelsea Owens February 6, 2019 / 8:30 am

      All good ramblings. 🙂 Thank you.


  15. BlackSheep October 22, 2019 / 6:26 am

    Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness, please give me your money and I will prove you wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

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