Most Americans Would Be Happy Making $65K a Year, Survey Finds

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How much money do you need to make to be happy? According to a recent study, the ideal income for life satisfaction in North America is $105,000. However, many Americans say they would be happy making much less.

Breeze asked 1,500 Americans the salary they would be content with, and the response is lower than you might think.

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Most Americans Don’t Need Six-Figure Salaries To Be Happy

Breeze asked its study participants, “Would you be satisfied if your maximum salary over the course of your working career capped out at $xx,xxx?” Over half of participants — 51% — said they would be satisfied maxing out at $65,000.

“The average annual salary in the United States is $51,168, which helps explain why 51% of employees would be satisfied with a maximum salary of $65,000,” said Mike Brown, director of communications at Breeze. “In comparison, only 39% would be satisfied with a maximum salary of $50,000, which is right below the national average.”

As expected, the percentage of Americans happy earning a certain salary cap increased as the salary increased — 61% would be satisfied maxing out at $75,000, 71% would be satisfied maxing out at $90,000, 78% would be satisfied maxing out at $100,000 and 81% would be satisfied maxing out at $115,000. Nine out of 10 would be satisfied with a maximum lifetime salary of $200,000.

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Women Are Less Likely To Be Satisfied With Lower Salaries

Despite the fact that women are paid less than men, on average, women were less likely to be content with maximum salary caps across the board. Only 35% of women said they would be satisfied with a salary cap of $50,000 versus 45% of men. Even at a salary cap of $250,000, 90% of women said they would be satisfied versus 92% of men. The percentages only even out at the two highest caps included in the survey — at a maximum salary of $350,000, 92% of both men and women said they would be satisfied, and at a maximum salary of $500,000, 94% of both men and women said they would be satisfied.

“I don’t have a specific reason as to why women were less likely than men to be satisfied with the various max salaries, but it’s a great thing to see,” Brown said. “The gender pay gap is very real in the U.S., with women earning 84% of what men earn. Our report shows women employees aren’t ready to just accept a lower salary because that’s the way it’s always been; they rightfully expect to get paid what they deserve to get paid.”

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There Is a Correlation Between Cost of Living and the Salary Needed To Be Happy

As to be expected, in general, people living in states with lower costs of living would be satisfied at lower maximum salaries than those living in states with a high cost of living. While the study discovered that this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it did hold true in many cases.

“Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina all have a very low cost of living, and these were the three states most likely to be satisfied with a max salary of $50,000,” Brown said. “On the contrary, states with a high cost of living, like Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, were amongst the least likely to be satisfied with a $50,000 salary.”

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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