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More on money (not) buying happiness
September 6th, 2010
03:00 PM ET

More on money (not) buying happiness

You may have seen our coverage of a recent study showing that most people with a household income of $75,000 per year are happy, but that happiness doesn't appear to increase with incomes higher than that.

A newer study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences backs that up when it comes to everyday happiness - but not when people were asked to think about their overall satisfaction with life.

Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton of Princeton University analyzed poll data from the Gallup Organization from more than 450,000 U.S. residents in 2008 and 2009. Their study was conducted completely independently of the Keirsey Research analysis CNN reported  last week.

The Princeton group differentiated between life evaluation, which measures satisfaction with one's life overall, and emotional well-being, which reflects everyday experience. Analyses of happiness don't often make this distinction, and it is an important new development in this line of research, Kahneman said.

He and Deaton found that people's emotional well-being did not increase with higher household incomes after $75,000 - meaning day-to-day happiness does not rise after that point.

But here's where their study parts from the Keirsey analysis: The new study finds that happiness in terms of overall satisfaction with life does continue to rise with higher incomes after $75,000.

The Princeton researchers were surprised by the sharp difference in life evaluation and emotional well-being results after the $75,000 point. One theory behind these findings is that increases in income beyond $75,000 do not improve a person's ability to spend time with people they like, avoid pain and disease, enjoy leisure, and engage in other activities important to emotional well-being. But when people stop and think about their life as a whole, being wealthier makes everything seem better.

"We suspect that this means, in part, that when people have a lot more money, they can buy a lot more pleasures, but there are some indications that when you have a lot of money, you will savor each pleasure less," Kahneman said.

On the other end of the spectrum, less money is associated with emotional pain, the researchers found. Poverty exacerbates the pain of misfortunes such as asthma, divorce, and being alone, as well as stress.

"Reducing suffering is an important social objective, and it's not quite the same thing as making people happy," Kahneman said.

To put this all in perspective, about one third of households had incomes above $75,000 according to the 2008 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. The average U.S. household income was $71,500 in that survey.


soundoff (434 Responses)
  1. Richdude

    Another worthless article from CNN. Of course having more money makes one more satisfied with life. Money buys freedom – having F***You money means you can quit your job and live the rest of your life off of savings. If you have enough money, you can partake in any pleasures you desire – whether it's traveling the world, skiing, boating, sex, drugs or rock n roll.

    September 6, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dude

      Your logic fails. All of those things bring fleeting pleasure but NOT happiness. I have travelled the world and I will tell you that I have seen familiies that would be considered poor by American standards and be genuinely happy. Why? Because happiness does not result in amassing wealth. Its about spirituality. Family. Contentment. Self-respect. These are things that most Americans do NOT have.

      September 7, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • steve

      I concur with the rich dude, hey other dude try living off less than 35k a year in a city like baltimore. You can do it if you dont mind ducking stray bullets and making sure you dont step on hypodermics. If that leads you to a happy lifestyle sure, furthermore I cant really afford to eat which makes me often consider strong arm robbery (im not f-king happy get it)

      September 7, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Wyatt

      Money might not be able to buy happiness, but it does go a long way to pay off unhappiness. It can take away the stresses of not having money – and allow the things that make you happy (which may well require money, amongst other things) to take control over those that make you unhappy.

      September 7, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  2. Michelle

    The more money I've made, the more money I've seemed to need. This has really pointed out to me that I need to change my attitude and how I spend what I do make. Instead of wasting it on things I don't need, spend more time with the people in my life to make me happy, less (or none) with the people who make me miserable, and put the money away for leaner times.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KC

      "The more money I've made, the more money I've seemed to need." Some of it is Keeping Up With The Joneses, and some of it is the idea that you're now making $X and you can afford to buy that $5 latte. My spending habits changed very little between the time I was making $3 an hour and the time I was making more than 10x that. My last couple years of working, when the house was paid off, I was stashing half my paycheck in the bank, more if I worked overtime. Someone gave me a Starbucks gift card about 2 years ago; I still haven't used it because I was never in the habit of buying coffee. Fast food, maybe once a month, both when I was working and after I retired. A/C kicks on only when it hits 100 degrees; below that, the ceiling fans work fine.

      September 6, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
  3. Jack Nasty Boy Clauss

    Money is important and does buy Comfort!

    September 6, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peter klika

      Is being comfortable your supreme goal in life??

      September 7, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse |
  4. Moss Honnickman Sr.

    We view our Wealth as an Extension of our people.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gabriel Berk Esquire

    I worked my whole life to make a Pot of Gold.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Douglas Cabot Lodge

    Money is very important.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peter klika

      How profound!

      September 7, 2010 at 02:22 | Report abuse |
    • Oscar

      You need money to live, just don't live for money.

      September 7, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
  7. Brydon Cabot Lodge

    Money which is Salted Away in a Swiss Bank is Grand

    September 6, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. George Blakely

    Switzerland is a great place to Park money.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. E. J. Kaiserman

    We love all our money.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. E. J. Cabott

    Money is the Great Demarkassion of the masses.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. David Cabott

    Read the General Theory of Economics.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mac

    More money would mean that my wife and I would be able to have root canals instead of having our teeth pulled out. NOW tell me that money can't make you happier.

    September 6, 2010 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. taotaotasi

    "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are." Lao Tze...I'm in the worst financial situation I've ever been in my entire life and as a school teacher don't make squat, but I'm always happy. Why...money doesn't buy happiness...happiness is an internal emotion.

    September 6, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anne

      Following Bible principles such as 'keeping a simple eye' and remembering that 'life does not result in the things one possesses' has kept our family grounded. We always knew how to be happy with a little and with alot. Its made our kids balanced and they are not steeped in depression and drinking themselves to death like many are in this recession. They are stronger than most adults I work with.

      September 7, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
  14. A. Nony

    Up to a point, money buys a great deal of freedom, IF used wisely. Of course money, like anything else, can be used stupidly. (The stupid can make a mess out of anything.) Spend more and more money on more and more things and you just tie yourself down to the endless maintenance of a pile of stuff, much of which you don't use. And, beyond some point (which is a HELL of a lot more than $75K/year), being known to have a lot of money means people who want some of it - the beggars, the asskissers, the criminals (and the in-laws) - will sink their claws in to you and not let go. NOT happiness! But, those who don't think money can buy happiness, ask yourself the following: would you rather take your next plane trip scrunched into an economy class seat in front of a screaming baby or in a private jet? So, in my opinion, up to some point, money does buy happiness and beyond a certain point, it becomes a pain and provides happiness only by giving it away to causes you feels passionate about.

    September 6, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KC

      "beyond some point (which is a HELL of a lot more than $75K/year), being known to have a lot of money means people who want some of it ... will sink their claws in to you and not let go." Doesn't even take that much; I was making about $15,000 a year when a golddigger latched onto me. I didn't have much, but I had more than he had. My apartment was sunny and airy, his was cramped and dark, so he couldn't wait to move in. I had basic cable, he had three snowy channels off rabbit ears, he couldn't wait to move in. I could afford hamburger, he could only afford spaghetti, he couldn't wait to move in. All the while, I'm convincing myself that he wasn't a golddigger because I had no gold to be dug. Except, comparatively, I did.

      September 6, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse |
  15. Lei

    I dont care what anyone says, money may not buy happiness, but it sure decreases your sadness.

    September 6, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. KC

    Money may not buy happiness, but it kept my ex shut up - the more I earned, the more he could spend on retail therapy. It made him feel important to have clerks fawning over him and calling him Sir. And on the days he'd been to the mall and been treated like a VIP, he was much more pleasant for me to come home to, because he wasn't sullen about being ignored all day while I went to work to pay his bills.

    September 6, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peter klika

      Seems you chose a very superficial man to share your life with. Make a better choice next time. Shop for quality. Aloha.

      September 7, 2010 at 02:21 | Report abuse |
  17. peter klika

    Are we realyy this superficial? The study is fatally flawed because it didn't define happiness. Americans are conditioned to beleive if they have lots of toys they must have lots of happiness. They don't. Sociologists have consistently founds that Americans are less satisfied with their lives than Europeans. What is lacking for most Americans is a sense of community. Why talk to your neighbor when you can tune him out with your ipod or cell phone. Americans are less and less connected with their communities and families as they accumulate more toys to distract them. And our society is the worse for it. Peter Klika. Kapaau, Hawaii (far from Waikiki).

    September 7, 2010 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Mike M

    Money may or may not buy happiness - that depends more on the person doing the spending than the money. What money buys, without a doubt, is options and choices. With money, more things are open to you, whether it's education, recreation, or health care. You have the freedome to do what you want. How you choose to exercise that freedom determines whether it makes you 'happier' or not.

    September 7, 2010 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Joe

    Lack of money causes a great deal of stress. My household makes over 75K per year, but we still need to watch every penny we spend. I'm generally happy with my life and lifestyle, but I'd be happier and less stressed with more money.

    September 7, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ali Shaikh

      More money is always inaccessible though...... lolz

      September 13, 2010 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
  20. Jill

    I think a lot of important factors are left out of this study. Do these people making 75k+ have debt? Or non mortgage debt? 75k sounds like a lot of money, until you consider that many of these people probably have significant student loans to pay, may have debt from other reasons, etc.

    My husband and I make just under 75k and while I'd say we are very fortunate to have the ability to pay our bills, enjoy some travel and entertainment, and live in a nice home – we still do have stress that comes from paying student loans and financing our home and vehicles. Maybe it is because we are young and just starting out in our careers so we needed to purchase cars to get to work and my student loans have only been in repayment for a short time. Perhaps as time goes on, 75k will seem like more because our obligations will be paid off. But for a couple with no children, modest cars, and a modest home – I think 75k really isn't enough to make me happy. If we made more money, we'd be less stressed about spending our money "right" and would be able to travel more, enjoy going out with friends and family more, and would have more ability to give to charity. I don't think we need more "stuff", but I do think we need more security and more flexibility to enjoy life.

    September 7, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Queen Lattice

    the more money you have; the more money you spend. that's just common sense. I can't speak for anyone else; I only know that I am happier when I have more money to spend. it's very nice to not have to worry about paying the electric bill, or whether or not gas went up 10 cents a gallon, or how many minutes I'm talking on the phone. it's very nice to be able to buy the kind of car I want, the kind of house I want in the area I want, to go on vacations, to enjoy nice meals, to not worry where my next meal is coming from. are people who have money happier than people who don't have money? that's a loaded question, but suffice it to say, *I* am happier with more money.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Lori

    Money cannot make you happy if you are not a happy person. It temporary makes you happy. Some people nothing can make them happy even money.

    September 7, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rachel

      People confuse PLEASURE with HAPPINESS. My husband and I have a happy marriage despite disappointments in life, in health, and financially. We are happy with our marriage because we work at it. We have fun just sitting up and talking, laughing. We enjoy simple things like going to the zoo and learning about animals. Our pets give us joy. People are brainwashed by the media into buying their crap. They buy it and then what? They know own crap and they are still unhappy.
      Work on your personal strengths. Love your husband/wife. Love your children. Love your neighbor and smile each day.

      September 7, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
  23. Brian

    People just think money can make them happy and when they get more it really does not make tehm happy. You have to be a happy person on your own. People need to stop focusing so much on money and just enjoy your life.

    September 7, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Doo Drop kenny Musskorwitz

    I live on LUVE!

    September 7, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. silencedogood

    Money isn't the answer, knowing what truly makes you happy is. Sometimes you need money for that, but usually not. Family and friends are the easiest route to happiness, but if travel is your bag you need money, but there are ways to do it on the cheap. You just have to have your priorities sorted so that you know more travel may mean less confort. Same principle for other things.

    But all things equal I agree with rich dude that more money, especially "F@*# you money", is prefferable to less.

    September 7, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. mom-of2

    I don't know about money buying happiness but i would take a lot of stress away i wouldn't have to juggle bills so much with only one working and me home with kids we get by and we're happy but when the kids don't need special attention and i go back to work we'll have two thing an little more money but most likely more bills so win loose but right now we sure don't make 75k

    September 7, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. A. Nony

    When I was young, I was, like most young people, poor. Not living in poverty, but a student, then a grad student, then a post-doc, and I never spent anything without calculating what it would cost in other expenditures I would have to forego or postpone. And, I spent time and energy and endured hassle to save money. I was happy, because I was young, all my friends were in the same boat, I was immortal (I thought) and confident of the future. Now I am old and whenever taxes are discussed by politicians, I am among "the rich". I now take being well-off for granted (I should be more grateful!), and my consciousness of happiness now is more connected with my continuing physical vigor than anything else. But, if I had to live now the way I happily lived when I was in school, I definitely would not be happy. I now spend money to save time and energy and hassle. ( I'd HATE to spend time and energy cleaning my own house, for example, although I cheerfully did it until I was over 60. One day I looked at the vacuum cleaner and said "WHY AM I DOING THIS?!" ) It's OK to be poor when you are young, but it is definitely NOT OK to be poor when you are old. So, live well within your income, forego a lot of useless junk, save and invest so you have money when you really need it.

    September 7, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. MC

    Money equates to value of a persons labor. If we had a free market system in this country, then the more value a persons labor produces would in turn generate more money. That obviously isn't the case, look at Wall Street and the financial services industry. They make a ton of money and produce nothing.

    This is an incredible statement of what money is and isn't.

    http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/economics/money/1826-Franciscos-Money-Speech.html

    September 7, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Baby Jack (Nasty Boy) Clauss

    Money is the Root of all Good!!

    September 8, 2010 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Baby Jack (Nasty Boy) Clauss

    Spme people say i am a Teenage Idol, they do not know me,

    September 8, 2010 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Baby Jack (Nasty Boy) Clauss

    Dad Thomas R. Clauss is my Kookie Clunkie Brother.

    September 8, 2010 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. David Band Esquire/Sarasota Florida

    Money purifies our existence,

    I am the King of Siesta Key!

    September 8, 2010 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Douglas Cabot Lodge

    We all need money.

    Rock on Michael Douglas

    September 8, 2010 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Demarco Dontino

    I love Baby Jack Nasty Boy Clauss

    September 8, 2010 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Michael Caliazzo (Queenie)

    Greed and Meaness are Good.

    September 8, 2010 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Tom Gola

    Chucklehead Clauss is wonderful!

    September 8, 2010 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. scroo yoo

    Money may not buy happiness,but not having money can sure prevent happiness,being unable to afford basic health care,or enough food to eat,spending the majority of your life doing jobs that ultimately are unproductive and dont matter to the world,for enough scratch to pay the bills and take crappy care of yourself,just to see jerks have twice the measly amount you have just handed to them.

    Maybe making more than 75,000 a year wont make you any happpier,but making less than 20,000 a year sure doesnt help either-and 20,000 is being generous-its more like 15,000-before taxes.

    September 8, 2010 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Donald Pulver

    Thomas R. Clauss, was the 28th best Sewer Contractor in the city of Philadelphia in 1952. Tom was a Hustler
    and became a Land developer and Half Baked Home Builder, today at 90, tom still chases the buck.
    Possibly if Tom had a Life with real friends he would have done better.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Donald Pulver

    Jack Nasty Boy Clauss was a Fool who worked for his family business.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Harry Felix Coxxe

    Donald Pulver of Oliver Tyrone Pulver is too tough on Nast Boy Clauss.

    September 11, 2010 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Harry Felix Coxxe

    Donald Pulver of Oliver Tyrone Pulver has not yet been convicted in the scandal and possible heist of a parking
    lot in center cityArdmore.

    September 11, 2010 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ithan Vivian Mezvinsky

    We need a Moral Compass!

    September 18, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Daddy Thomas R. Clauss,Contractor

    thank You don Pulver for the kind words and best wishes.

    September 18, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Dad Thomas R. Clauss (Chowderhead Clauss)

    thank you agian Don Pulver.

    September 18, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. David Band Esquire -Sarasota Florida

    We are thrilled and delighted that Neil Patrick harris is a DAD.

    September 19, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. David Band Esquire -Sarasota Florida

    Neil Patrick Harrris had an affair with Vincent Contino on the show!

    September 19, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Stanley Band Esquire -Sarasota Florida

    Neil Patrick Harris was a beautiful bride when he wed William Taylor in Belair.

    September 19, 2010 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Shelby Band Esquire -Sarasota Florida

    We feel the inclusion of the new Partridge family, of Gay, Neil Patrick Harris is a forward step in the Watering down of
    Morals in our society.

    September 19, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Rabbi Huckleman

    Homosexulaity is wrong and goes aginst the BIBLE.

    September 19, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Alden Pulver

    Donald Pulver was never convicted in dfrauding the parking authority.

    HE IS MISUNDERSTOOD!

    September 19, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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