The Money and Happiness Relationship

I have an unexpected fascination with money and happiness. Unexpected because I didn’t realize how far my quest to learn about the subject would take me. I’ve written about it before here, here, and here.

A recent Bucks Blog article by Carl Richards resumes my fascination with money and if/how it impacts our overall happiness.

Mr. Richards cites a recent study by Princeton University quoted in Time magazine.

According to the study,

people reported an increase in happiness as their incomes rose to $75,000 a year. Then, the impact of rising income on happiness levels off.

What’s odd about this statement is that it pegs happiness at a specific number—75K per year. Happiness would seem a much more complex issue, don’t you think? What about work environment, level of tangible impact a job has, and whether you actually like your job? And, of course, what about the world’s billions who live in abject poverty?

If you believe that happiness can be reduced to a functional equation up to $75,000, then how do you explain all those stories of people around the world with very little money and a whole lot of happiness?

As soon as you’ve defined happiness in such distinct terms, you’ve drawn a line where most of the world’s population falls woefully short. The moment we do this

we have to deal with the reality that there are plenty of people who seem to have very little money and lots of happiness.

The problem I see with this, and the problem the author finds as well, is that our westernized/capitalistic driven society likes to compare and contrast everything using numbers. We like to know where we stand in our company’s pecking order. And salary is the easiest most clean cut way to do that.

I wonder if linking happiness to money might be part of this continuing obsession we seem to have with measuring, comparing and competing.

I wonder too. I also believe that happiness is more complex. That one man’s happiness may be another man’s nightmare. And that if we can’t define happiness using an objective measure, why keep searching for it? After all,

[p]erhaps the more we try to define, measure and compete for happiness, the harder it is to find.

My thanks to Carl Richards for his enlightening insights.

5 Responses to “The Money and Happiness Relationship”

  1. nahummer October 5, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Seems to be an important question these days, what with incomes stagnant or falling for those of us not in the top 5% of incomes in the ‘western democracies’. Interesting study released last week by some boys from Berkley about job satisfaction and relative pay – http://www.nber.org/papers/w16396.pdf

  2. Jerret October 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I’ll check it out!

  3. roclafamilia October 21, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

  4. Jerret October 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for commenting!

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