New studies reveal that money can, in fact, buy happiness. But only up to a point. The Center of Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University reviewed a survey taken by 450,000 Americans for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and found that people's overall emotional wellbeing increases along with their income up to about $75,000. So why does this study annoy us so much?
Many of us hold dear the idea that the best things in life are free. You can't buy a cupcake delivery from your sister when you're heartbroken or a sunset so pretty in stirs up a deep quiet in you. Some things are priceless and accessible to all of us no matter how little money we have: love, family, friendship, and a belief in something bigger than ourselves.
This study flies in the face of that feeling. But it also brings something home anyone who has struggled to rub two nickels together knows to be true: it is really hard to be happy when you can't stop worrying about money.
This study suggests that when you have enough to cover the basics and still splurge on a vacation and that Saturday morning latte without fear of breaking the bank, the potential for happiness is greater than when you're constantly fretting about how to make a dollar stretch into the third meal of the day. As Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, told NPR, "Stuff is so in your face it's hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment." One can assume that by "stuff," he means the nuts and bolts of living--rent, house payments, grocery bills, insurance, electricity. In other words, how you're going to get by.
To anyone who has had to choose which bills to pay in a given month, that much isn't a surprise. Perhaps what is surprising, however, is that day-to-day happiness doesn't increase when your income grows. You will likely have a greater feeling of success and accomplishment, the study reports, but "Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood," said Deaton. Money-encouraged happiness has an upper cap, and it's probably lower than most of us think. You don't need millions to get that footloose-and-fancy-free feeling.
In that sense, the study confirms the central tenets of the money-can't-buy-happiness believers. A hug from your kids, we know, is worth way more than their back to school clothes. We just may not appreciate it as much when we're worried about how to keep the nightlight on.
What do you guys think? When money is a real struggle, does it affect your day-to-day sense of happiness? How do you stay upbeat when money is your biggest concern?
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