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Does Money Really Make Us More Happy?

Rebecca Ki • January 13, 2022

Does more money really mean more problems? Let’s dive into this age-old question together, because the answer might surprise you!

So. Does money really make us happier?

The short answer is: Yes.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk! 

OK, so it’s a liiittle more complicated than that. Let’s dive into the psychological and statistical reasons behind the age-old question of how the green paper that “makes the world go round” actually helps our mental and physical wellbeing.

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What Salary Makes Us Happiest? 💰

You would think that the answer is “A higher one,” but surprisingly, that’s not exactly 100% true. Obviously, your salary is a huge factor in your quality of life. It determines where you live, what you eat, and how much savings you have—so a higher salary definitely correlates to a happier life, up until a certain number. 

According to a 2010 study from Princeton, that magic number is $75,000. Beyond that point, the correlation between salary and happiness is murkier. Turns out, people who can afford to meet their basic needs are happier! Who could have thought. 

While $75,000 is the results of the Princeton study, it’s interesting to note that many people have very different answers when asked about the amount of money to be happy. A University of California researcher, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky found that people who make $30,000 think that they would need to make $50,000 to be happy—but people who make $100,000 a year think they would need $250,000 to be happy. Basically, we all think we need to make more than what we already have to be “satisfied.”

Greed vs. Gratitude 🙌

Which leads us into our next point—it seems that with money, we’re always going to want more. For people who are making less than the poverty line, wanting to make more money is a matter of meeting basic needs, but for those who are making enough to live comfortably, there’s always more stars to shoot for. Once you make 6 figures, 7 figures is the goal. Once you’re a millionaire… well, why stop there? 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of hustle culture, and to forget that after a certain point, money is no longer the end all be all of goals. Instead of counting your burdens, try counting your blessings—literally! A study from psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough proved that people who did exercises that helped them practice gratitude, like keeping a journal, lead to them feeling more optimistic and fulfilled than those who didn’t. Isn’t it cool that changing the way we appreciate our lives helps us live better, too?

How to Spend Money To Maximize Happiness 💸

So, we know that having and money makes us happy—but what about spending it? After all, we’re not dragons hoarding our gold in a cave! Here are some foolproof tips on spending money to maximize your happiness.

Spend Money on Others 💑

Sounds counterproductive, right? But if you take that $10 you were going to spend on Starbucks, and get a small gift for a friend, or make a donation to a charity you care about, you’ll end up feeling better about yourself! There’s a mountain of research proving that even if you were tempted to spend that money on yourself, you’ll be happier if you did something for others. As a matter of fact, this applies to people who are struggling with money too—who knew a dollar or two can change so much?

It’s important to note that giving blindly isn’t the path to joy, instead, it depends on who and what you invest in. It has to be for a cause or a person that you really care about, and that you feel like you’re doing this out of your own free will. So go forth, start small, and give back to your heart’s content!

Spend Money on Experiences 🌴

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but experiences are the bread and butter (no pun intended) of happiness. The joy you’ll get from a delicious meal, a relaxing vacation, or even a great concert will last longer, and probably be more impactful to your happiness, than a new shirt or another tech gadget.

Of course, we get it—it’s so much easier to order things online for that instant gratification serotonin, but if you’re looking to get more out of those late-night Amazon orders, consider treating yourself to a spa day instead!


Spend Money to Buy Time ⏰

Time is the one resource in our lives that, once it’s gone, we can never get back. So why not spend some money on the time-consuming things you don’t love doing, so that you can spend that time doing something you love? With all the apps and resources out there nowadays, it’s easier than ever to buy some extra time for yourself.

Hate grocery shopping? Use Instacart, and spend that time learning how to bake. Dislike doing dishes? Buy a dishwasher. There are ways to improve your quality of life, and therefore, your happiness, as long as you have the resources to do so. 

The Pursuit of Happiness 🤗

In the wise words of the Wu-Tang Clan, cash rules everything around me. While money certainly impacts our joy, we are all capable of changing the happiness level of our lives. After a certain point, money matters less than the quality of your life, so by practicing gratitude often, spending money on people and things that are important to you, and making sure your loved ones are happy—you’re on your way to creating your own happiness. 💚

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