Ah, happiness – an ideal many of us chase, hoping for contentment, bliss, and joy along the way.
While it may not be lasting, studies suggest that money can actually help you buy happiness. Forbes reports that University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers convincingly demonstrated that the affluent are more content with their lives than the poor; in a paradigm-shifting study, they also showed that rich countries house happier citizens than poor countries. But why is that?
Their findings are not much of a shock, if we pause to muse. Money is a tool, and we use it to purchase high-quality food, fresh water, medical and dental care, and access to gyms or fitness classes that help keep us physically healthy. It takes funds to buy books, magazine subscriptions, adventure trips, or membership in hobby clubs to keep us intellectually stimulated. Dollar bills pay for the gas, air fare, and admission fees required to see those sites our souls thirst for, such as art museums or religious locations overseas, and allow us to donate to causes we believe in.
Money can create emotions that lead to positive circumstances. A new outfit, for example, is commonly considered to boost confidence. Increased confidence can land you that job, date, contract or simply add some hip-loosening swagger to your step. Money can buy fresh experiences and the equipment required to pursue hobbies, over time allowing you to cultivate a better sense of self and a creatively well-balanced being. For those who crave a sense of security, there is peace in knowing that enough money is saved in a bank account to cover a car that breaks down, a medical emergency with a child, or another unforeseen circumstance that can be smoothly and easily handled with appropriate funds.
Money worries literally kill unions, as Jeffrey Dew presents in a 2009 work on the various correlations between financial problems and divorce. Loneliness or lack of a partner is a keenly felt source of sadness for many, and it stands to reason that a fulfilling, supportive partnership would be a source of happiness. An outlay of funds may also help hire nannies, cleaners, property maintenance crews, and other support staff to help a home run smoothly, easily, and with less stress on the couple in the marriage, perhaps in turn improving the chance of success in their partnership.
Buying happiness may not be quite that simple, however. Princeton University expert Angus Deaton’s work with Daniel Kahneman found that while the rich report feeling more positively about their lives, there is no direct correlation between wealth and a satisfied daily emotional state. Furthermore, they found that health, care giving, loneliness, and smoking were more prominent indicators for daily emotions. In conclusion, they argue that income can buy satisfaction but not happiness, though lack of income has a negative effect on both.
How much money does it take to reduce stress and potentially allow for greater satisfaction or happiness? Enough to take care of needs, but not more than $75,000 in the United States, argue Deaton and Kahneman. After that threshold, subjects reported no greater increase in happiness or satisfaction than they experienced at that point.
Is money earned more satisfying than money inherited? Is it possible to quantify whether expensive tastes negatively impact happiness? The relationship between money and happiness is a complex one, but it seems that dollars can buy delight. For those who can afford it, at least.
Wondering if anything presented here applies to you? Check out these 50 Money Quotes by Famous People that Can Change your Attitude Toward Money.
Featured photo credit: M.C. Chavez via flickr.com
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