Does Money Actually Buy Happiness After All? It’s Complicated.

A new study reveals the limits to what increased income can accomplish. Does Money Actually Buy Happiness After All? It’s Complicated. Giphy

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More than a decade ago, researchers determined that a certain amount of money really does contribute to increased happiness. At that time, it was believed that after earning about $75,000 per year, there wasn’t much correlation between income and happiness.

Revising the figure upward

A more recent study suggests that the real threshold for money-related happiness is significantly higher — specifically, about $500,000 per year.

While inflation might have something to do with the fact that this number is much higher than the result of the 2010 study, there’s clearly more at play than just market forces.

Economist Dan Kahneman was involved in the earlier research and wanted to join forces with the researchers responsible for the more recent study in order to find out why there was such a gaping disparity.

At the end of the day, however, one broad hypothesis holds true in both cases: Money can buy happiness … up to a point.

There are some exceptions

As researchers found in their survey of more than 33,000 working adults across the United States, a small subsection of people don’t seem to be affected by increased income. You might initially assume that these folks are happy at any level of wealth — but the opposite appears to be true.

Whether due to personal loss, depression, or some other fundamental issue that impedes happiness, this group of people are unhappy regardless of how much money they have.

“If you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help,” concluded researcher Matthew Killingsworth.

For about 30% of those included in the study, however, there’s a major correlation between a greater sense of well-being and increased income above the $100,000 per year mark.

As Killingsworth advised: “Money is not the secret to happiness, but it can probably help a bit.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 10th, 2023
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