Money Can Buy You $75,000-Worth of Happiness

And after that it will still help your existential angst

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A new study purports to show that, to haul out the cliché headlines making the rounds, "money can buy you happiness"--but only up to around $75,000-worth. Beyond about $75,000 a year, your view of life's overall trajectory may improve, but as for mood, you're on your own. As you might imagine, journalists are eating this stuff up.

  • 'Having Money Clearly Takes the Sting out of Adversities,' Time's Belinda Luscombe explains. "Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had." Thus, 51 percent of divorcés "who made less than $1,000 a month reported feeling sad or stressed the previous day, while only 24% of those earning more than $3,000 a month reported similar feelings." It turns out that "at $75,000, that effect disappears." Beyond that number, "individual temperament and life circumstances have much more sway over their lightness of heart than money." And yet, each 10 percent increase in annual income, whether below or above $75,000, does increase a person's overall satisfaction with their lives by roughly the same amount.

  • The Poor Get a Raw Deal, adds BusinessWeek's Jennifer Goodwin. Not only does poverty "[exacerbate] the emotional impact of negative life events such as illness and divorce," but the "poor [don't] get as much of a happiness boost from weekends as those who were better off, according to the researchers."
  • The Big-Picture Conclusions "For one thing, the very rich do not seem happier than the middle class," writes 24/7 Wall St.'s Douglas McIntyre, interpreting the results.
A yacht, a mansion, an expensive car-none of these can drag those who are miserable out of their state of misery.

And, as for the middle class, or at least the high-end of the middle class, having enough money to own a home, put children through school and own one or two modest care is enough, if these people are already happy.

The poor or nearly poor are less likely to be happy, or have a sense of well-being-as if that would come as a shock to anyone.

  • But the Figure Varies by City The Wall Street Journal's Phil Izzo, taking off from colleague Robert Frank's observation that $75,000 doesn't buy the same thing in all cities, does some "back-of-the-envelope math" accounting for cost of living. Going by these figures, someone living in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area would need $96,750 to be happy and someone living in Anchorage, Alaska, would need $100,500. Some areas of West Virginia require only $63,000, Honolulu requires $123,750, and Los Angeles and New York fall in at $106,500 and $163,500, respectively. The Washington, DC area is also over the $100,000, as are San Francisco and San Jose. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is right at $75,000.
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