A new study defies the old saw that money cannot buy happiness. In fact, the poll says, it can greatly improve a person’s quality of life, and therefore, their ability to appreciate it. But only up to a point.
Less than $50 K ‘not very happy’
According to a Marist poll released Tuesday, most Americans from households that make less than $50,000 a year are “not very happy,” and they fear becoming a burden to loved ones. However, those who come from households that earn more than $50,000 annually reported a far greater level of happiness.
Most U.S. households earn less than $50,000
The poll determined that households making more than $50,000 are 12 percent more happy with their lives than those with lower incomes. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of American households — about 93 million — earn less than $50,00 a year.
Fear aging more
Only about 25 percent of those polled from households that make less than $50,000 said they were “very happy,” compared to 34 percent in the more affluent group. Those in the less affluent group also reported less satisfaction with their health, work, housing, finances, free time, neighborhood safety, social lives and family lives. They also reported a more acute fear of aging.
Money always a factor
Some Americans chose other factors affecting their happiness above money, but money was nearly always close to the top. Other factors that some chose over money were spirituality, family, neighborhood safety and housing.
A similar 2010 study by Princeton University found that, after the $50,000 point, money seems to be a lesser factor in personal satisfaction. That study found that those from households earning $75,000 or more reported happiness at about the same level as those from homes earning $50,000.
Experiential buyers happier
How our discretionary money is spent may also have some bearing on our level of happiness, according to an unrelated study by the website BeyondThePurchase.org, which was also released this week. The study found that people who spend more money on “experiences,” rather than on material goods, have higher levels of happiness than those who amass material things. According to the website, its data cuts across all political, financial, gender and ethnic lines pretty much equally.
Ryan Howell of BeyondThePurchase.org said:
“We’re excited about these results. They show that people from all walks of life are experiential buyers.”
People who spend most of their money on things rather than experiences tend to be more introverted and less social, the study concluded, pointing to other factors in diminished happiness.
Can money buy happiness?
Apparently, to a degree, money can contribute to happiness. However, to what degree is largely dependent on how much — or how little — a household makes, and on how our discretionary money is spent. Of course, happiness is also dependent on a thousand other sociological and physiological factors.
There is little doubt, however, that financial matters do have an effect on our well-being, especially in times of economic struggle. As in many things, though, a strong self-image and a tendency to count our blessings may well be the most effective antidote to fiscal unhappiness.