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Happy Go Money

Happy Go Money

Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life
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The magic number


We all need a certain amount of money to be happy. But how much?

For those of us who are on the verge of losing our homes, who fret about feeding our children, who cringe when the phone rings because debt collectors may be calling, without question, more money will make us happier.  But for the rest of us, before connecting cash with joy, we need to talk about what we mean by “happy.”

Scientists in neuroeconomics (the study of how we make economic decisions) break happiness into two types:

Life satisfaction: an evaluation of your well-being as a whole (the kind of happy where you’re pleased with life in general).

Day-to-day mood: the highs and lows, the joy, stress, sadness, anger and affection that you experience from one moment to the next — how you feel today, how you felt yesterday (the kind of happy that most of us relate to — the right now happiness).

 With life satisfaction, the richer people got, the more satisfied they were with their lives. In worldwide studies, people in richer countries reported higher life satisfaction than those in poorer countries. (We should also consider that wealthier countries are more politically stable, more peaceful and less oppressive — which affects well-being.) But according to a 2018 Purdue University study, there was a limit. That figure is $95,000 U.S. (pre-tax, per single-family household). After that, more money didn’t mean that you were more satisfied. With day-to-day happiness, the threshold is $60,000 to $75,000 per household, according to various studies.

The 2018 study showed that after these salaries are hit, life satisfaction and day-to-day happiness actually slightly decrease with more money.

What the what?

Well, apparently when all of our basic needs are met, we become driven by other desires such as chasing after more material stuff and comparing ourselves to others which makes us unhappy. Also, high incomes can come with high demands (more working hours, more stress and less time with family and for leisure).

This doesn’t mean that we should all go out and try to make exactly $75,000 US a year – our so-called feel-good financial sweet spot. The studies are averages and we all need different things to be happy. But ALL of us find joy in some simple things — kisses, laughter, getting IDed after the age of 25.

Marketing professor Hal Hershfield once told me: “Even if I have an amazing car in my driveway, a huge house and a big fat income, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll be happier on a day-by-day basis because the types of things that influence happiness are who I interact with, how I spend my time and the things that I do.”

Think of some of your happiest times in the past week. Were you spending it with people? Were you taking time to enjoy an activity, going for a run or catching up with a good friend? Would a wad of cash have made those moments that much better?

Probably not. If you answered “yes” to the latter question, how much more then do you need to be happy? Read on.

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