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, though this probably has to do with a variety of factors, such as having the money to pay for things like healthcare and schooling and more.
“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 happy or have “emotional well-being” 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 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: $88,725
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 $50,700 a year in the birthplace of the blues.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,035
Oklahoma’s high cost of living is likely going to be even more welcome than usual given the low unemployment rate is 3.4%. While you do need over $91,000 to be happy, you can settle for emotional well-being at as little as $52,020.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,455
If you’re looking at a figure of $91,455 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 $52,260.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $91,665
Kansas’ salary to be happy is $13,335 a year below the rate quoted for North America as a whole, representing a cost of living that’s 12.7% below the national average. However, the salary needed for emotional well-being is as low as $52,380.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $92,610
Iowans can enjoy lower costs than the nation on the whole, as well as much lower crime rates. As such, Hawkeyes earning less than $92,000 a year have plenty of reasons to enjoy life. Those in a state of life evaluation can get by for $83,790.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $93,345
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 3%. It takes even less to reach emotional well-being, just $53,340 to $66,675.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $93,870
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.7% of the Buckeye State was unemployed. However, that number has rebounded to 4.2%, hopefully improving the lives of many Ohioans.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,290
The unemployment rate in West Virginians is at 4.1%,and the cost of living index is 10.2% lower than the national average.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,605
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 $85,595 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: $94,710
Hoosiers feature a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.1%. To achieve a state of emotional well-being only requires $54,120.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $94,815
Tennessee’s cost of living is 10.7% below the national average. Here you only need to make $54,180 to achieve emotional well-being, though $85,785 is equated with the salary for being able to make a life evaluation.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,235
That $95,235 might seem out of reach for many Arkansans, but it’s notable that a range of $54,420 to $68,025 would get you to the “emotional well-being” stage described in the Purdue study.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $95,655
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 2.6%, it’s among the lowest in the country.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,243
Wyoming has a median unemployment rate of 3.7%. While closing in on $100,000 seems a high bar to be happy, emotional well-being is equated with as low as $54,996.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,285
The Great Lake State also has a lower cost of living than the rest of the United States by almost 8.3%. However, it has a rather high employment rate of 4.3%. Still, emotional well-being can be had for as little as $54,996.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $96,495
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 $55,140.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,230
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 7% below the national average. Residents can find a state of emotional well-being for $55,560.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $97,440
Being able to stretch your paycheck farther than most of the rest of the country has got to make life easier for all Kentuckyians– even those making well under $97,000 a year. However, residents can also achieve emotional well-being at $55,680.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,175
While it takes nearly $100,000 to achieve happiness here, the cost of living in general is 6.5% lower than the national average. And the range for emotional well-being is a lot lower, from $56,100 to $70,125.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,490
Kentucky’s relatively low cost of living and moderate unemployment make it a decent place to live. However, while it takes a lot to be happy here, you can settle for emotional well-being at $56,280.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $98,595
Plenty in the Badger State might view a salary of nearly $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 $56,340 to $70,425 will suffice.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $99,855
One thing that’s likely to help improve the happiness of Minnesotans of all incomes is the low unemployment rate: 2.5%. More people are likely to have jobs here, and if nearly $100,000 is out of reach, emotional well-being can be had at $57,060.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $100,905
South Dakotans can expect an easier time than most of the country when it comes to unemployment rates. It has an incredibly low unemployment rate of 2.3%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $101,115
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 have a lower rate of unemployment, at 3.3%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $101,745
Making over $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 $101,000 a year to be happy, but 27 others similarly call for a six-figure income to be happy. And here, you can still achieve well-being at $58,140.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $102,270
One of those lucky states where unemployment has remained below 3% — an extremely low 2.3% — 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 $58,440.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $103,110
Pennsylvania’s economy was hit harder than many others — its unemployment rate, though lower than its peak of 13.1%, is still higher than many others at 3.9%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $103,845
The people of Idaho certainly don’t think of $103,845 as small potatoes, but a salary ranging from $59,340 to $74,175 is enough to achieve well being.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $106,995
With its strong association with the hospitality industry, Nevada was among those hit hardest by the pandemic. It has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 5.2%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being for $61,140.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $107,100
While that six-figure income might leave some Utahans feeling a little intimidated, it should be noted that it only takes $61,200 to achieve emotional well-being.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $107,205
Virginia is among the more pricey places in the U.S., with a cost of living index that is 2.1% above the national average. Here, even the salary to achieve life evaluation is high, at $96,995.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $109,725
The Sunshine State is doing pretty well, despite previously high unemployment during the pandemic. Right now, unemployment is at 2.5%. While you do need to make a bit more than $109,000 to be happy here, well-being is possible at $62,700.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $110,460
Colorado is higher than the norm both in terms of cost of living and salary needed to be happy, but you can still expect to find “emotional well-being” in an income range of $63,120 to $78,900.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $110,670
Delaware’s unemployment rate has rebounded from its peak, down to 4.4%. So, while $110,670 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: $113,400
Arizona is 8% 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 4.0% unemployment rate is not as low as other states, but Arizonans can get by on just $64,800 for “emotional well-being.”
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $116,760
Rhode Island is one more New England state where it costs a lot to get by, and to be happy. The cost of living is $11,760 higher than the national average, but emotional well-being can be achieved at just $66,720.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $119,700
The Garden State has a high cost of living, 14% higher than the national average, though unemployment has come down to 3.4%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being at $68,400.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $119,805
While $119,805 may seem like a lot to achieve, residents here can still find “emotional well-being” in the range of $68,460 to $85,575. Unemployment is also low, at 4.2%.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,225
New England remains one of the more expensive places to live in the U.S, and Maine’s cost of living is no exception, at more than 14% over the national average. You can still achieve emotional well-being at a more moderate $68,700.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $120,435
New Hampshire is yet another New England state with a high cost of living, 14.5% higher than the national average. However, unemployment is relatively low at 2.7%. However, you can achieve emotional well-being at $68,820.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $121,170
Connecticut also has a high cost of living that is more than 25% over the national cost of living, and unemployment is also higher here than other states in the area, at 4.2%. Even though it takes nearly $122,000 to be happy, you can achieve emotional well-being at just $69,240.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $122,220
While it takes a lot of money to be happy in Vermont, unemployment is low, at just 2.6%. And, emotional well being is possible at $69,840.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $128,310
The cost of living is almost a full third higher than the national average and the unemployment rate is not as low as other parts of the country, at 4.5%. However, it’s possible to achieve emotional well-being around $73,320.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $130,305
Maryland’s unemployment rates are at 4% right now, especially with a cost of living $25,300 higher than the national average. But people can still find happiness here at around $74,460 annual income.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $131,775
It takes a pretty penny to achieve happiness in Alaska, and unemployment is 4.3%. To achieve emotional well-being takes a lot less: $75,300.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $142,485
The Empire State comes with some empire-sized costs of living, with the average New York resident shelling out over $37,000 more than the national average. And with an unemployment rate of 4.3%, times are tough for a lot of New Yorkers right now. However, one can still find happiness at $81,420.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $145,635
California’s notoriously high cost of living is on display here, with just over $145,000 a year being needed to secure happiness. While California’s staggering 16.3% unemployment rate at the height of the pandemic has come down, 4.1% is still among the highest in the nation.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $157,395
Much like the rest of New England, the cost of living is high here, over $52,000 higher than the national average. However, it’s possible to achieve emotional well-being at $89,940.
- Minimum salary needed to be happy: $195,300
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 almost $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 as hard to achieve here, at $111,600.
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 for Q3 of 2022. For supplemental data, GOBankingRates found each state’s December 2022 unemployment rate as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data was collected on and is up to date as of Jan. 25, 2023.
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