Money and happiness: Over $75K doesn't matter
September 1st, 2010
02:13 PM ET

Money and happiness: Over $75K doesn't matter

Who are the happiest Americans? According to a new study, they may be extroverted, earning more than $75,000 a year, healthy, and engaged.

The analysis was conducted by Keirsey Research, an organization that looks at how personality relates to a person's preferences in  consumer choices, political opinion, and a variety of other factors.

The survey looked at 3,900 adults ages 18 to 70 who had completed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II, a personality test. Participants answered questions about how happy they were with life overall, then provided a variety of information about their gender, employment, marital status, and other elements of their lives. Because they had also completed a personality test, survey analysts were able to also look at that in relation to happiness.

They found that the three highest factors affecting happiness are personality type, household income, and health. About 74 percent of extroverts are happy, vs. 56 percent of introverts. That's a larger gap than Kip Parent, CEO of Keirsey.com, expected, but it makes sense in terms of how people with different personalities operate, he said.

"Extroverts recharge themselves through contact with other people and introverts recharge themselves through solitary time," Parent said. "Maybe it’s that when we're drawing our energy externally through other people, that gives us a little bit more positive charge."

For household income, 73 percent of those earning above $75,000 per year were happy, vs. only 59 percent for those under $50,000. It's perhaps not surprising that money brings happiness to some extent, but the survey found that $75,000 is the "magic point": Beyond that, greater incomes do not seem to bring greater happiness, Parent said. Similarly, below $50,000, people were consistently less happy.

And for health, 72 percent of people who say they're in "excellent" or "very good health" are happy, vs. only 39 percent who say their health is "only fair" or "poor."

"Lots of money doesn’t buy happiness, but certainly having enough money helps a lot," he said.

In general, more happiness comes with age, as several studies have reported in the past. But there is an age bracket where happiness dips noticeably: among 35- to 44-year-olds. Parent suggests that is because issues with children are the heaviest, and related it to another finding of the survey: that people with children who are separated or divorced tended to report unhappiness.

When it comes to relationships, people who are engaged are the happiest, whereas those who are separated but not divorced are the least happy, the survey found. But after coming out of the limbo of separation, people seem to be happier, Parent said. Married people are somewhat happier than divorced people, but even they have about average happiness, he said.

And here's the political piece: Democrats and Republicans have about the same level of happiness; members of the Green Party said they were the least happy, followed by Libertarians.

"The unhappy people seem to be the people with stronger views," he said.

soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    $75k per year where? There's a BIG difference in quality of life earning $75k per year in high-cost areas like NYC or LA, versus low-cost areas like rural towns in the mid-west. And quality of life plays a major role in overall happiness.

    September 1, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Travis

    Wow!!!! What a completely pointless article stating the obvious.

    September 1, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. MG

    Money can't buy you happiness.

    But then again, being poor can't buy you S(*%.

    September 1, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. ch3cooh

    People who make good money, don't have health issues, and get laid are the happiest?

    Truly groundbreaking research!

    September 1, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. El Gordo

    Whenever any scientific study is covered in the press, the two most frequent posts are:

    1. "Well duh! This is no surprise. I could have told you that rich people are happier. My sister is a CEO and my brother is homeless. My sister is a lot happier than my brother. Well, duh!" These are people who spent science class in high school shooting spitwads at the smart kids. They are still doing it.

    2. "So how much of MY hard earned tax money was wasted on this crap? I work my butt off to get what I have so some pointy headed professor can write three paragraphs on happiness. Obama, Obummer, Obozo, Obommunism, Socialism, Lesbianism, Feminism, Anarchism, Elitism, Death Panels, Socialism, impeachment, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit." Of course, these people make the same comment about everything.

    September 1, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ann

    i am happy living in a household income of $300,000 with 2 kids and more comming. we don't have fancy toys nor expensive birthday. none of our kids have their own bedroom but we all happy or at least I

    September 1, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karol

      Good for you Ann! WAY TO GO!

      September 1, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
  7. odysseus14

    This is complete BS. The Very Rich in controling the church sent out the message that the meek will inherit the earth, and that someone's reward would be waiting for them in heaven. This is nothing but PROPOGANDA to try and make regular people okay with being poor, and being exploited by the Very Rich. And that $79k number is a complete joke. It's more like $100k to $120k gross per year is more like what a realistic 'minimum wage' is in America today.

    September 1, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JF

    Tired of hearing people talk about introverted people as though they have a disease or there is something "wrong" with them. This entire western society is geared towards the outwardly social. Everyone else.....sucks to be you. So what if some people are a bit different and don't go with the flow. I am healthy and happy and have a wonderful wife and family, though I'm certainly not wealthy. I know this sounds a bit impractical in this day and age, but bartering was a much fairer economy. I wish money would just go away.

    September 1, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karol

      Yay!!! Way to go – oh what I'd give for more people who think ,like you :)!

      September 1, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
  9. Liza

    I have lived as a poor person and a relatively financially stable person. I am here to tell you, that money may not buy true 'happiness' but it sure makes life easier. I can assure you my poorer times were stressful and unhappy for me. When I was in debt, poor and not sure where my next check was coming from, I was pretty stressed out, lacked sleep and became isolated. I do believe that having enough money changes your life. I don't make a lot of money now by any means, but I make enough to pay my rent now and buy myself a few nice things from time to time. Granted, there are rich people who are unhappy, but that's because of the type of person they are and also they don't value money the same way others do. I don't agree with this article on some fronts. Money can make you happy on some levels: education, travel, nice things to wear, medical insurance, etc. These things make me happy. It does not solve all your problems though.

    September 1, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Bob

    Everything in moderation.. too much or too little of life"s physical neccessities bring you out of balance causing unhappiness.. The middle-way is best!

    September 1, 2010 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. peaceandlove

    do what you love, don't care what others think about you, and live your life to the fullest.

    Unhappy people do not know who they are and I mean really know who you are. You base your life around your achievements, income, status, cars, etc. Hey, if you like all that go for it but even after you have got all of that you may end up feeling empty.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. sonny h goodlove

    ok........... you people suck we already know that.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sonny h goodlove

    srry I'm just kidding,

    September 1, 2010 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. From Ohio

    Happiness is a state of mind, its not about buying or selling ... but Money sure can bring sense of security, independence, different choices/options in life ....and a Bentley.

    I can't imagine my life w/o money.....I crave for Lots of Money....!!!!

    September 1, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. m&m

    Money can't buy happiness...just look at the people with lot's of money! They are the most miserable creatures on earth. They spend their money trying to find happiness but no amount of things can make anyone happy. Happiness is when you are content with what you have and make the best of it – if it's a little money or a lot of money. Happiness is giving to someone less off than yourself. Yes, money can make you live a better life and be able to afford everything you want but that does not equate to happiness.

    September 1, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Karol

    This is a boatload of non sense :). I am a 37yr old black (non-american born) female, single professional with a few close quality friends who I know I can count on NO MATTER WHAT and they know the same about me. I am introverted, not engaged or in a relationship, make between $72K-$85K/yr and I'm DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY!!! No, it has NOTHING to do with my income. REALLY. Introverts can be happy – just because I don't go round the world procalaiminbg how happy I am, just because I retreat to myself doesn't equate to me being unhappy. This society has a bias against anything non main stream, introverts included. It doesn't appreciate individuality without conformity. That is the REAL problem.

    September 1, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andy

      Wow, I think I love you. 🙂

      June 12, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
  17. Patty

    Wow, this is me. To be honest with you I'm too stressed to notice if I'm happy or not!

    September 2, 2010 at 01:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Laura

    I love how these statistics supposedly include "me". Here's a thought. Anyone who has a full-time job makes 75K minimum. That way everyone has a chance at happiness, minus the "love" part. CEOs and their ilk don't need millions. They really don't.

    September 2, 2010 at 06:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Will

    The people who are happiest make over $75,000 a year, are healthy, engaged and extroverted.
    This is the kind of research that drives me nuts. How much money was spent doing this study?
    Is this really something that we didn't already know?

    September 2, 2010 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. John777

    Money can buy happiness. Have you ever seen someone on a jet ski not smiling

    Second, just by reading the headline I knew there would be a lack of causation and correlation. I think walmart had a sale on causation and correlation last week

    September 2, 2010 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. TJ

    Engaged people are happier because of irrational expectations. That's a dumb category to even include, since it's like saying people on a roller coaster the most excitable....sure, cause they are on a freaking roller coaster. Married and Single people deal with reality....it's not a transitional state.

    75,000, I agree with. It's about what you have to make to be middle class these days and have any level of comfort. I don't know how people live with less than 50k and I don't know why anyone making less than 500,000 would vote Republican, because it's their party's policy which has destroyed all income growth. In REAL dollars – most people made over $75,000 before Reagan, now we make more as a whole but most of it goes to a select few.

    Extroverted vs introverted is too simplistic a breakdown. You'd almost have to word the questions differently to each group to get an accurate result. I'd like to see a breakdown of happiness by Meyers-Briggs scores.

    September 2, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Wilson

    imagine myself... unemployed, ilegal inmigrant from Mexico at Arizona, separated from my family and with strong religeous and ecological beliefs...

    September 2, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. me

    "Extroverts recharge themselves through contact with other people and introverts recharge themselves through solitary time"

    Yeah, the damn extroverts recharge themselves from the introverts! They're emotional vampires, I tell you.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. alan hiestand

    In my personal experience, wealth does not bring happiness. At 35 years of age, and after making great money as a machinist in a paper mill, i moved from Los Angeles to a rural community 5 miles outside of a town of 2,000 people in rural south eastern Arkansas. I bought mobile home with 12 partially wooded acres, and a 3 acre pond for 1/3 of what my California home cost, in a neighborhood that was becoming infested with gangs. Now my neighbors are honest, loving, people, and with only 2,000 people in town, businesses can't be dishonest, or everybody will know within a month. i make less than 1/2 the money i did in California, and could not be happier. I married a good, southern woman, who values things beyond the superficial nonsense that is important in California. We have deer wandering around our property, fish in our pond, and great joy in our lives, at less than 1/2 the $75,000 income that was deemed the peek of happiness. My storage shed is nearly full, so buying more toys would not make me happier, just make my shed more cluttered.

    September 2, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. IowaMan

    Money may not be able to buy happiness, but with money you certainly can rent it.

    September 2, 2010 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. MicheleMoore-Happy1

    Fascinating article, many thanks!

    Happiness and Material Wealth or Success or two very different things. There are lots of very successful and wealthy people who are not especially happy.

    Wealth does buy freedom from some worries: adequate food, shelter, health care and a certain degree of social acceptance. Past that many studies have shown that money and material wealth does not buy happiness.

    If you are wondering what you can do to be happier right now, given who you are and where you are, see http://HappinessHabit.com for the results of our research.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. MicheleMoore-Happy1

    Ooops! Sorry for the typo! This is what I meant to post...

    Fascinating article, many thanks!

    Happiness and Material Wealth or Success ARE two very different things. There are lots of very successful and wealthy people who are not especially happy.

    Wealth does buy freedom from some worries: adequate food, shelter, health care and a certain degree of social acceptance. Past that many studies have shown that money and material wealth DO not buy happiness.

    If you are wondering what you can do to be happier right now, given who you are and where you are, see http://HappinessHabit.com for the results of our research.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ronald

    Here’s my take ...

    When I was a poor student-to-entry level worker, I was clearly not happy.

    Then, when I’d increased my income, along with tuition reimbursement, then my happiness factor shot up some more.

    And finally, when I got a job where I could control my hours, telecommute half the time, and still have a good deal of money left over, for both travel and coursework, I was the happiest.

    Now, my latest goal is to be able to work 1/2 that time, while completing the rest of the income stream, by trading futures/options. Once that happens, then I would have reached a pinnacle of operational happiness.

    So I don’t believe this `money doesn’t lead to happiness` sophistry. It certainly does but yes, you need some commonsense to make it work out.

    The hedonic treadmill vis-a-vis `keeping up with the Jones` is a cop out. It’s a way of selling out and being mainstream, instead of being an individual. Those are psychological hangups, money didn’t create them. They were in one’s psyche from either familial or cultural conditioning. Overcome them and you’ll see, money does give you a heck of a lot of freedom and subsequently, a great deal of happiness.

    March 28, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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