Money Happiness: More Doesn’t Really Buy Happiness: Here’s Why

money happiness

IF Money Happiness isn’t everything, then what…?

Wait! I thought it was always true: that money happiness–they go together, like peas in a pod. Recent studies have actually found that–after a certain point when basic necessities have been taken care of, plus a little more–money is not the key to happiness. I’m wrong. Since I was a kid, I always thought that money happiness was the main thing life was all about.

money happiness
So Money doesn’t equal Happiness?

A Famous Money Happiness correlation study

In a famous Money Happiness 2010 Princeton study titled “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being” researchers talked to and then analyzed the responses of 450,000 Americans who were asked about their income and whether they were living the best possible life for them (essentially, were they happy?)

The results, using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, were interesting: Emotional well-being rises with income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ∼$75,000. Now, updating that income to today’s standards still doesn’t change it: More money does not correlate to great strides in Happiness. Even high wealth has a small effect on happiness. Really!

money happiness coursera science of well being

Free, Online Course on Happiness (for everyone)

To find out more about happiness and the rather exact science behind it, you can now take one of Yale University’s most popular classes, called the Science of Well Being, free and online at Coursera. In this personal development online course, you will be presented with a series of challenges to increase your own happiness and build more productivity in your life. Sound good?

money happiness

Money Happiness and How to Tell them Apart

To prepare for these tasks, Dr. Laurie Santos (Psychology and Cognitive Science professor at Yale) reveals misconceptions about happiness, those pesky features of the mind that lead us to think how and in the way that we do, and the research behind finding out what can and will help us change. The class will make you feel prepared to successfully incorporate a certain wellness activity into your life that you hadn’t done before.

Money doesn’t increase happiness in the way that we think… Practices like meditation, gratitude and making time for social connections have the biggest effect on our well-being.


A reporter from CNBC recently took the well being course at Coursera, and found that his life-long attitudes about money and happiness had fundamentally changed after taking Santos’ course on well being. He found that the course changed his thinking, in a good way, about the over-importance of money.

Generally, the class changed how he thinks about money, in particular how to spend it and how to prioritize it more thoughtfully. He is also working on changing his lifestyle and money mindset, after taking the course.

New Study Brings Money Happiness Research into Present Times

Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, looked at global income satiation levels and found that they are: $60,000-$75,000 for “emotional well-being” and $95,000 for “life evaluation.” In the United States, income satiation level is higher than $75,000 nowadays. The salary number is closer to $105,000 for life evaluation, which is not really a lot more, interestingly enough–and it can be used to determine the “salary you need to be happy” in America, for example.

There is an optimal point at which much money can make a person happy, and that amount varies worldwide, according to research from Purdue University in West Lafayette.

money happiness mansion

Keeping Up with the Jones’s

If you use the phrase “Keeping up with the Jones’s” you are saying that someone is trying to measure up with the Joneses or the people next door of down the street. You mean that they are doing something in order to show that they have as much money as other people and are wanting to display their wealth in very concrete ways to everyone around them.

The Purdue study found that there was “substantial variation across world regions, with satiation occurring later in wealthier regions for life satisfaction,” according to one of the researchers. This could be because evaluations tend to be more influenced by the standards by which individuals compare themselves to other people, or The Keeping Up with the Jones’s Effect.

They study also found that for money happiness, it is important for meeting basic needs, purchasing conveniences, and maybe even loan repayments, but only to a point. After the optimal point of needs is met, people may be driven by money desires such as going after more material increases and engaging in social comparing, which could even lower the overall well-being.

IF you are substantially under the $105K or even the $75K threshold, you might be looking for ways to find more money, which is understandable.

money happiness meditate
Money Happiness = meditating?

What is Well Being?

The dictionary defines it as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. It’s actually a very important concept, one that even the US CDC weighs in on, for example.

Tracking these conditions is important for public policy: the definition according to the CDC, is it is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us that people perceive that their lives are going well.” They cite that good living conditions (e.g., healthy living standards, housing, employment) are fundamental to a feeling of well-being.

money happiness

The Five Universal, Interconnected Parts of Well-Being

Researchers identified five universal, interconnected elements that shape our lives: physical wellbeing, financial wellbeing, career wellbeing, social wellbeing and community wellbeing in a recent, very comprehensive Gallup study of people in over 150 countries.

Well-being is defined differently by different people and in different countries. Some of the words people use to describe well being include: happiness, wellbeing, welfare, health, empowerment, good, benefit, emotional-health, comfort, prosperity and success. (The opposite of wellbeing words like ill health, infirmityunhealthunhealthinessfeebleness.)

Photo by Raghuvansh Luthra and Documerica on Unsplash