An online search for the quote, "Money won't buy you happiness, but it'll pay for the search," indicated that the saying came from music superstar Prince.
This was the kind of quote that has usually resulted in a long line of "So true!" Facebook comments. The question here was not whether Prince, who died in 2016 of a fentanyl overdose, would have agreed with the sentiment. Rather, the question was whether there's evidence he said the words.
The International Business Times once published the saying in a list of quotes, but did not provide any source information.
Stand-up comedian Neal Brennan also once mentioned the quote on a podcast posted on July 27, 2023, during an interview with fellow comedian Tom Segura. The moment occurs at the 9:46 mark in the video below:
The quote has been featured on Twitter many times, usually with Prince's name. The oldest of these tweets was posted on March 27, 2009:
"Money won't buy you happiness, but it will pay for the search"- Prince #quote Pls RT
— Michael Garza (@Sierrafun) March 27, 2009
Hours after this story was originally published with a "Research In Progress" fact-check rating, we received a tip from a helpful Twitter user. That user showed with a YouTube link that Prince had, in fact, said the quote near the end of "Nothing Compares 2 U" during a recording of a concert for his "One Nite Alone Tour in 2002." The only change in the quote was that he started with a few extra words, then said "don't" instead of "won't."
At the 3:25 mark in the video below, Prince said, "They say that money don't buy you happiness, but it'll pay for the search."
During our initial search, we collected several somewhat related quotes that we found in past newspapers, thanks to Newspapers.com.
In 1955, E.V. Durling wrote in the San Francisco Examiner, "It was T. P. 'Tay Pay' O'Connor, the Irish nationalist member of parliament, who first made the statement: 'Money won't buy you happiness, but it soothes the nerves.'"
In 2001, Lynn Arditi wrote for The Providence Journal, "Remember how your mother told you money won't buy you happiness? Well, guess what: It won't make you stop worrying, either."
In 2006, a quote attributed to author and personal development adviser Karen Salmansohn appeared in the Dayton Daily News: "Money won't buy you happiness – it will buy you anti-depressants."
In 2009, Malcolm Berko wrote in Durham, North Carolina's Herald-Sun, "While money won't buy you happiness ... it certainly makes misery much easier to live with."