Can money buy happiness? According to a recent Purdue study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, income can correlate with emotional well-being and life satisfaction.
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“Globally, we find that satiation occurs at $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being,” said the study’s authors in the journal. However, the study also found that the ideal income for life satisfaction in North America is $105,000, as reported by Inc.
To estimate how much money you might need to be satisfied or happy in every U.S. state, GOBankingRates factored in each state’s cost-of-living index and used the $105,000 figure as the “benchmark.” The states were ranked from least to most amount of money needed to be happy. GOBankingRates also included unemployment and crime rates for many states for informational purposes.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that “happiness” is subjective. The cost to live comfortably can vary from person to person. Keep reading to find out how much it takes to be happy in your state.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $87,465
If you love living in Mississippi, lucky you! The state’s low cost of living means you can stretch your paycheck that much farther. And while nearly $90,000 is a lot more than most Mississippians earn in a year, the range the study sets for “emotional well-being” goes as low as about $50,000 a year in the birthplace of the blues.
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- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $90,825
Kansas’ salary to be happy is $14,175 a year below the rate quoted for North America as a whole, representing a cost of living that’s over 11% below the national average. However, the salary needed for emotional well-being is as low as $51,900.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,295
Oklahoma’s high cost of living is likely going to be even more welcome than usual given the low unemployment rate is 2.7%. While you do need over $92,000 to be happy, you can settle for emotional well-being at as little as $52,740.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,295
If you’re looking at a figure of $92,295 and thinking it’s just not realistic in the Yellowhammer State, you should know that the study’s band of incomes allowing for “emotional well-being” runs as low as $52,740.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,445
That $93,555 might seem out of reach for many Arkansans, but it’s notable that a range of $54,540 to $68,175 would get you to the “emotional well-being” stage described in the Purdue study.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $93,240
Not only can Georgians claim to have one of the most attainable levels of income to be happy, they also live in one of the states that’s lucky enough to still be showing an unemployment rate below 4%. It takes even less to reach emotional well-being, just $53,280 to $66,660.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $93,450
Tennessee’s cost of living is 11% below the national average, but its crime rates are higher — potentially making happiness that much harder to attain. The state sees 6.70 violent crimes and 24.84 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,290
The “life evaluation” stage — in which you feel comfortable about providing for your basic needs and start considering other, bigger questions — would come at a more attainable $85,310 in the Show-Me State. In a state with a low unemployment rate, it’s a good place to be.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,550
Being able to stretch your paycheck farther than most of the rest of the country has got to make life easier for all New Mexicans — even those making well under $90,000 a year. However, residents’ happiness levels could be limited by the high rates of violent and property crime.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,130
Hoosiers features one of the lowest unemployment rates on this list at 2.2%. Additionally, Indiana has a low crime rate that should help residents manage the crisis just a little easier. And to achieve a state of emotional well-being only requires $54,360.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,395
Iowans can enjoy lower costs than the nation on the whole as well as much lower crime rates. As such, Hawkeyes earning less than $94,00 a year have plenty of reasons to enjoy life. Those in a state of life evaluation can get by for $85,405.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,865
The Great Lake State also has a lower cost of living than the rest of the United States by almost 11%. However, it has a rather high employment rate of 4.4. Still, emotional well-being can be had for as little as $54,780.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,865
At the height of the pandemic, 13.7% of the Buckeye State was unemployed. However, that number has rebounded to 4.1%, hopefully improving the lives of many Ohioans.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,705
Residents of the Longhorn State are fond of saying “everything’s big in Texas,” but that definitely doesn’t include prices. The cost of living there is over 10% below the national average. Residents can find a state of emotional well-being for $55,260 and can get peace of mind with a low violent crime rate.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,025
While the unemployment rate in West Virginians is at 3.7%, the state does have an especially low rate of property crime going for it. There are just over 13.92 a year for every 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,650
One thing that likely makes it harder to be happy in Louisiana is that it has the highest property crime rate of all the states. There are nearly 28.77 such incidents each year for every 1,000 people living there. However, unemployment is low and it only takes $55,800 to achieve emotional well being.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,755
Kentucky’s relatively low cost of living is paired with its very low rates of crime. There’s just over two violent crimes for every 1,000 Kentuckians each year, and just under 18 property crimes.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,385
Nebraska’s normally low cost of living is looking even better right now as its unemployment rate continues to lag way behind the rest of the country. Sitting at just 2.0%, it’s among the lowest in the country.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $107,205
The people of Idaho certainly don’t think of $107,205 as small potatoes, but even those earning less than that can enjoy decently low rates of violent crime and property crime in the country. And a salary ranging from $61,260 to $76,575 is enough to achieve well being.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,015
Illinois’ current unemployment rate hovers north of 4.7%, suggesting that a lot of people there are currently focused on making ends meet for the present. However, people can still find emotional well-being at just $56,580.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,015
Wyoming has a median unemployment rate of 3.4% and it has low violent and property crime rates to offset economic issues.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,280
North and South Carolina have virtually identical costs of living, so there’s no difference in what it takes to be happy between them. However, South Carolinians are victims of far more property crime as 1 of just 3 states with 28 or more such incidents per 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $100,485
Making $100,000 a year is often considered a long-term goal for many Americans, and that could be reinforced by the conclusions of the Purdue study. North Carolina is among those states where you need to make at least $100,000 a year to be happy, but 29 others similarly call for a six-figure income to be happy. And here, you can still achieve well-being at $57,420.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $101,220
Plenty in the Badger State might view a salary of over $100,000 outside of what they can expect from their career, but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a life of being overworked. For a state of “emotional well-being,” anywhere from $57,840 to $72,300 will suffice.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $103,110
One of those lucky states where unemployment has remained below 3%, North Dakotans are still looking at a considerable sum to reach happiness as defined by the Purdue study. However, they can achieve emotional well-being at a minimum of $58,920.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $103,950
While that six-figure income might leave some Utahans feeling a little intimidated, it should be noted the state has a lot going for it — like comparatively low rates of unemployment and violent crime.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,050
South Dakotans can expect an easier time than most of the country when it comes to property crime and unemployment rates. The rate of 19.70 crimes per 1,000 residents falls in the nation’s median range and it has an incredibly low unemployment rate of 2.5%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $105,735
While the cost of living in Montana is higher than the nation as a whole, it might not be felt as hard there at the moment. Plus, you can achieve emotional well-being at $60,420. Montana’s unemployment rate is also comfortably low at 2.3%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $105,315
The Sunshine State is doing pretty well, despite previously high unemployment during the pandemic. Right now, unemployment is at 3.2%. While you do need to make a bit more than $105,000 to be happy here, well-being is possible at $60,180.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $105,000
One thing that’s likely to help improve the happiness of Minnesotans of all incomes is the relatively low rate of violent and property crime, with rates of just 2.75 and 21.07 per 1,000 residents, respectively.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,890
Virginia boasts the sixth-lowest violent crime rate in the country, and the relative peace of mind that can come with a firm sense of safety is hard to put a price on. However, in terms of the cost of living alone, the state is among the costlier of the rest of the country.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $108,360
Arizona is just a tenth of a percent higher than the national average for cost of living, making it a great way to get a sense of costs for the typical American. The state’s 3.3% unemployment rate is lower than the rest of the country and Arizonans can get by on just $61,920 for “emotional well-being.”
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $107,625
Pennsylvania’s economy was hit harder than many others, with an unemployment rate, though lower than its peak of 13.1%, is still higher than others at 4.9%. However, the most recent data on its property crime rate shows them to be among the nation’s lowest.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $110,565
Colorado is higher than the norm both in terms of cost of living and its rate of property crimes per 1,000 residents, but you can still expect to find “emotional well-being” in an income range of $63,180 to $78,975.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $113,295
Delaware’s unemployment rate has rebounded from its peak, down to 4.5%. So, while $113,295 a year likely seemed out of reach for most residents in good times, the slight rebound in employment should be helping.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $111,615
With its strong association with the hospitality industry, Nevada has been hit hardest by the pandemic. It has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 5.0%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being for $63,780.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $115,395
The cost of living is high throughout New England, and New Hampshire is no exception, with residents paying 9% more than the national average. But the high cost to live here correlates with the state’s safety. New Hampshire has extremely low crime rates — it’s 1 of just 5 states with fewer than 2 violent crimes annually per 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $117,180
While $117,180 may seem like a lot to achieve, residents here can still find “emotional well-being” in the range of $66,960 to $83,700. Unemployment is also low, at 4.2%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,960
The Garden State might have some of the lowest crime rates in the country, but it’s also coming at a high cost of living, 9 percent higher than the national average. And that can’t be easy to bear right now, with an unemployment rate over 4%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being at $69,120.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,750
Maine represents the nation’s safest state, with just 1.08 violent crimes annually per 1,000 residents. However, living here isn’t cheap, with a cost of living that is more than 9% over the national average. You can still achieve emotional well-being at a more moderate $69,000.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $122,850
While it takes a lot of money to be happy in Vermont, the state boasts a violent crime rate of 1.68 per every 1,000 residents, Vermont also has one of the nation’s lowest rates for property crime at 11.80 a year per 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $123,060
Rhode Island is one more New England state where it costs a lot to get by, but the crime rates are very low. The cost of living is $18,000 higher than the national average, but there are just 2.22 violent crimes and 12 property crimes per 1,000 residents each year.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $127,680
While neighboring Rhode Island was hit especially hard by the pandemic Connecticut avoided some of the worst of it. Unemployment there remains below 5%. Even though it takes nearly $130,000 to be happy, you can achieve emotional well-being at just $72,960.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $130,200
Maryland’s unemployment rates are at 4.6% right now, especially with a cost of living $25,200 higher than the national average. But people can still find happiness here at around $74,400 annual income.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $133,455
The crime rates in Alaska are among the highest in the country. Its violent crime rate is 8.35 a year per 1,000 residents, and its property crime rate is 22.54 a year per 1,000 residents.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $136,605
The cost of living is more than a full third higher than the national average. So while the unemployment rate is down to 3.8% being out of work there is likely a much more difficult proposition than in other parts of the country.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $141,750
Much like the rest of New England, Massachusetts has a combination of relatively low crime and high costs. The cost of living is over 36,000 higher than the national average, but there are only 3.03 violent crimes per 1000 people, and the property crime rate is just 10.33.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $149,310
California’s notoriously high cost of living is on display here, with just over $149,000 a year being needed to secure happiness. While California’s staggering 16.3% unemployment rate at the height of the pandemic has come down, 4.9% is still among the highest in the nation.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $155,610
The Empire State comes with some empire-sized costs of living, with the average New York resident shelling out $50,610 more than the national average. And with an unemployment rate of 4.6%, times are tough for a lot of New Yorkers right now. However one can still find happiness at $88,920.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $202,965
The cost of living in Hawaii is just under double that of the rest of the country, making it especially costly to be happy there. You’ll need to plan on earning over $200,000 a year to reach that state of bliss in the Aloha State, though you can settle for emotional well-being, which doesn’t seem hard to achieve here, at $115,980.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the cost-of-living-adjusted minimum salary needed to be “happy” based on income satiation levels identified by Purdue University researchers. Global income satiation levels are the following: $95,000 for “life evaluation” and $60,000-$75,000 for “emotional well-being.” In North America, the income satiation level is $105,000 for “life evaluation,” according to Purdue. To get a state-by-state breakdown, we factored in each city’s cost of living index, sourced from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center: Composite Cost of Living Index Quarter Two of 2021. For supplemental data, GOBankingRates found each state’s March 2022 unemployment rate as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and violent and property crime rates (per 1,000 residents) as sourced from NeighborhoodScout.com. All data was collected on and is up to date as of May 9, 2022.