Turns out money can buy happiness!

We all know that money can’t buy you happiness, right?  As it turns out, this is not exactly true

A recent study by University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, examining data from more than 150 countries using World Bank data, has shed new light on the interaction between happiness and the size of your bank account.  Their first conclusion: the more money you have, the happier you tend to be, regardless of where you are on the income spectrum.  They concluded that multi-millionaires don’t think of themselves as “rich.”


However, there do seem to be income levels where a person’s happiness can be increased faster than others.  Princeton University economist Angus Deaton has found that peoples’ day-to-day happiness level rises until they reach about $75,000 in income—a point where a person can comfortably afford the basic necessities of life without worrying where his or her next meal is going to come from.  After that, this type of happiness levels off. 

In fact, a report in Psychological Science magazine found that the wealthier people were, the less likely they were to savor positive experiences in their lives.  Another study found that lottery winners tended to be less impressed by life’s simple pleasures than people who experienced no windfall.  Once you’ve had a chance to drink the finest French wines, fly in a private jet and watch the Super Bowl from a box seat, then a sunny day after a week of rain doesn’t produce quite the same jolt of happiness it used to.  The additional money tended to have a cancelling effect on day-to-day happiness.

It’s another kind of happiness, which focuses on something the researchers call “life assessment,” that continues to rise at all levels of wealth.  The more money people have, the more they feel like they have a better life, possibly (Deaton hypothesizes) because they feel like they’re outcompeting their peers. 
 
Is there any way to more efficiently buy happiness with money?  A study by the Chicago Booth School of Business found that people experienced more happiness if they spent money on others than when the money was spent on themselves.  Treating someone else—or, more broadly, charitable activities—are among the most powerful financial enhancements to personal happiness.

Other research has shown that you get more happiness for your buck if you buy experiences rather than things.  An epic trip to Paris, or a weekend at a bead and breakfast near the cost, can be more enduringly pleasure-inducing than buying a new watch or necklace.  The watch of necklace quickly become a routine part of your environment, contributing nothing to happiness.  But your travel experience can be shared with others and reminisced about.

Finally, you can buy time with money—decreasing your daily commute by moving closer to work, hiring somebody to help around the house, hiring an assistant to clear your desk—all giving you more leisure time to pursue your interests.  With the free time, take music lessons or learn to dance—and you’ll be happier than somebody with millions more than you have.

About the author

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Ted Feight, CFP®

I have been an asset, financial, life and wealth manager for 36 years. During that time the profession has been in a state of rapid evolution. What my core clients expect of me today is very different from what they expected 36 years ago When I started, clients were just beginning to invest and had little. Now many are near and or are retired, and have accumulated a great deal.
I believe I have given my clients peace of mind and comfort that occurs when they have had a trusted relationship with someone for many years. What keeps my clients coming back to us is not product, but the confidence that someone is looking out for their best interest, listening to what they are saying and serving as a partner in helping them get where they want to be. Who else has asked the questions about who they are, where do they want to go, and what drives them? I have been my clients' sounding board, confidant, coach, guru and in the end the stronger the relationship we have had, the greater were their successes. We do not always have the "Be your client's best friend" type of relationship but, in the end, I want to be their "go to" guy when they need questions answered or need help.

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