Only So Much Money Can Buy You Happiness
Bob Plain tweeted a link to a story on a study showing that the “comfortable standard” of income for being happy is, generally, around $75,000 in the United States. But whereas Bob indicated “$75k is the income Mendoza Line for affording happiness”, that’s a mischaracterization of what the research shows (granted, it was a character-limited tweet, so I don’t want to take Bob too much to task here. In reality, I’m glad he pointed to the story). In short, $75K is the point at which making more money doesn’t necessarily buy you more happiness. Happiness only grows incrementally with jumps in income and you can still be plenty happy with less than $75K .
Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.
Why, then, do so many of us bother to work so hard long after we have reached an income level sufficient to make most of us happy? One reason is that our ideas about the relationship between money and happiness are misguided. In research we conducted with a national sample of Americans, people thought that their life satisfaction would double if they made $55,000 instead of $25,000: more than twice as much money, twice as much happiness. But our data showed that people who earned $55,000 were just 9 percent more satisfied than those making $25,000. Nine percent beats zero percent, but it’s still kind of a letdown when you were expecting a 100 percent return.
Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make.
The rest of the story gives examples that are kinda of the “no s**t” variety (eating chocolate all the time isn’t as joyful as only every once in a while; giving to others generates more happiness than buying stuff for ourselves) and it seems to attempt (tenuously) to link so-called “underindulgence” as beneficial when enforced by government (citing New York’s large-size soda ban). But it’s a nice re-affirmation of something that seems sorta common sense to most of us: good thing science and the New York Times verified it!