$75,000 is the price of happiness.


Money can’t buy happiness. This, we know. We know because of the oodles of self-destructive celebrities, the narcissistic millionaire misers, the lottery winners who’ve gone out in a blaze of glory a la Young Guns II. Time and time again, we’ve seen that wealth and fame and possessions don’t guarantee anything more than a black Amex and a hefty tax bill.

Simultaneously, of course, we’ve been brainwashed by consumerism since we were impressionable youngsters — led to believe that a Lexus with a big red bow, a handsome husband or a sprawling house in the suburbs are all we need to be happy. Intellectually we know better, but we still buy into it.

We know what matters, yet we keep seeking what doesn’t.

We know money can’t buy anything meaningful, yet we persist in wanting more clothes, more toys, more technology, more cold hard cash.

The statistical truth is interesting indeed. As it turns out, $75,000 is the magic number. Call it the price of happiness. Up to that amount, happiness does increase with income. Hit $75K, however, and it’s plateau city. Which means, all those dreams of paradigm shifts induced by MegaMillions are a moot point.

(Note: this doesn’t mean people who make less than $75,000 aren’t or can’t be happy. It just means that, statistically, happiness increases with income — up to $75K.)

The study that came to this pretty significant conclusion was dubbed: High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being, carried out by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton. Basically, they analyzed Gallup surveys of 450,000 Americans in 2008 and 2009. The duo concluded that there were two forms of happiness: emotional well-being (day-to-day mood) and life evaluation (satisfaction with one’s overall place in the world).

“We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being,” the study reads. Unsurprisingly, poverty doesn’t buy happiness, but clearly, neither does wealth.

As Deaton told the Associated Press: “Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life.”

Daily mood, however, is what really matters. And all the money in the world can’t change that. What can? Proven strategies to help happiness — gratitude, exercise, meditation, volunteering, cultivating close relationships — etc.

So no matter how compelling the dream of MORE might be, it’s a mirage — an insidious lie that’s keeping you from the joy you deserve. Don’t buy into it. Stop trying to fill the void, and reach out and grab happy instead.


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