Want To Be Happy Every Day? Earn $75,000 or More

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In September 2010, Princeton University Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton tested the age-old question, “Does money buy happiness?” Launching their research study, the two found that while high income improved how highly people evaluated their lives (ie. those with more money felt better about their lives), their emotional well-being rose as well — but only up to a personal income of $75,000.

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Conversely, in 2021, the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew Killingsworth discovered that the $75,000 plateau was nearly non-existent, according to his research. Happiness, he found, rose with incomes reaching (and beyond) the aforementioned $75,000 threshold.

However, a third study, based on Kahneman and Deaton’s work and that of Killingsworth, has recently been completed, contradicting the earlier researchers’ idea of an income/happiness limit, albeit conditionally.

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The “adversarial collaboration” — a joint research study between Kahneman and Killingsworth, arbitrated by professor Barbara Mellers — showed that, in general, larger incomes are associated with higher degrees of happiness (something that Killingsworth contended in 2021). But this correlation might depend upon how happy, or unhappy, one is to begin with.

“In the simplest terms, this suggests that for most people larger incomes are associated with greater happiness,” stated Killingsworth. “The exception is people who are financially well-off but unhappy. For instance, if you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help. For everyone else, more money was associated with higher happiness to somewhat varying degrees.”

Way To Improve Happiness, With Money or No

Does money buy happiness, then? It seems that the answer is yes — but only in most circumstances. If you truly want to be happy more days than not, action is required… even if earning more money certainly helps.

There are a wide variety of ways to improve one’s happiness in the modern world, though some may be easier than others.

  • Improve your daily (or weekly) amount of exercise. Per the Mayo Clinic, exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. A little bit of extra money in the budget being available for a gym membership and a personal trainer may pay rich dividends.
  • Take some time off work and enjoy a vacation. Basking under the hot Caribbean sun can quite obviously improve one’s mood, especially if you’re suffering from a bit of job-related (or life-related) burnout. However, trips to sun-soaked destinations do take a toll on the wallet. If a trip down south isn’t in the budgetary cards, think about a staycation — far, far away from life’s daily responsibilities.
  • Keep a clean house or apartment. According to Homes & Gardens, numerous studies have indicated that a cleaner living space is conducive to a better frame of mind. Too much clutter in your kitchen, bedroom, or living room can lead to frustration and anxiety. If you can afford to hire a cleaning service once a month (or bi-weekly), you may find yourself enjoying the fruits of your investment as you settle into a fresh, comfy couch (in a clean house). If you can’t afford to splurge, take a few hours a day to ensure you’re taking care of your surroundings.
  • Invest in a hobby. Everyone needs to have a hobby — something to look forward to after work, or after a hard day of parenting. Some hobbies can tend to be expensive, however, from car restoration to sailing. Those who prefer more commonplace (but no less enjoyable) pursuits might think of taking up crafting, gaming, or recreational sports.
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It seems money can buy life satisfaction and happiness, especially for the already happy or emotionally well. However, as Killingsworth said, “Money is just one of the many determinants of happiness.”

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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