Million dollars = Happiness?

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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: Million dollars = Happiness?
By Simba (Simba) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

Looking for happiness through financial success? Wondering what is the magic number that equals satisfaction? It's $40,000 a year.

Really. Oprah's magazine says so. And so does Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, who studies such things.

So technically, most of you should be happy. And if you're working for the next big raise, forget it. You're better off working on teaching yourself how to look at your money with a different eye.

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 11:40 am: Edit

Tell Danny Gilbert to take over my mortgage payments and send my kid to a good school. I'll betcha 10 bucks he makes more than 40 grand a year and doesn't donate the difference to charity. Not to mention Oprah's millions upon millions.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

*rocks back and forth muttering obscenities*

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 11:50 am: Edit

While I essentially don't think money makes people happy in general, I do think that handled well it can provide things that certainly induce pleasure. And while I haven't doubted studies that show there is not a great difference in happiness between the comfortable and the wealthy, I have a hard time with the $40K idea.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

I have to agree with Noodleman and Mom101. $40K means something different to different people in different situations.

I could live fairly comfortably on $40K/year, but there is no way a family of four could unless there were other factors involved (no mortgage, no car payment, no college, etc). Also, $40K goes a lot further in Topeka, KS than it does in San Diego, CA. Then of course there is the consideration of merely surviving or actually living life. It is an unfortunate part of life, but many things cost money. Do you want to travel? Money. Do you want to take a class? Money (not always, but usually). Do you want a particular hobby? Most of them require money in some way.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 03:35 pm: Edit

I think that the $40k number is nuts. Echoing everything that Demingy is saying - 20-somethings could live well on it, while a family of 4 in NYC could not make ends meet on that salary.

The older I get, the more I realize how much necessities cost. Food, apartment, clothes, car payments and insurance if you don't live in the city, taxes, health insurance, co-pays, utilities. $40k a year for someone who is not single would be a stretch. God forbid that something happens to you or your spouse or your kid; you're going to be making a lot of tough decisions which will be made harder by lack of money.

Anyway... considering that a family earning $40k/year would be eligible for a full scholarship at Harvard, that's hard to believe that a family can really make ends meet on that.

By Simba (Simba) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 03:36 pm: Edit

I think the main point the author was trying to make was...

"Happiness is dependent on being able to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. After meeting those needs you need to turn to something other than consumerism because additional money has negligible impact on how happy you are. Your level of happiness is largely dependent on your outlook.

Maybe you're thinking there's another magic threshold beyond $40,000. Like maybe $40 million. But you're wrong. When I ran in circles of venture capitalists, there was a common phrase, "It's not jet money." Which was a way of saying, it was a good deal, but it wouldn't earn enough money to pay for a private jet. No matter what size the pile of money, there's always a way to see it as small.

So for those of you looking for more happiness, realize that a new job or a new home won't be nearly as rewarding as a new outlook. Optimism makes people happy. Raising your standing on the optimism scale will impact your happiness more than raising your worth on the pay scale....."

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Yeah, sure, outlook is good, but heck, sending a kid to a private college costs about $40,000 a year anyway, so I think I'd at least want some buffer money for some food or something. (Except with that income, the kid would probably get fin aid. But still.)

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

There is a big difference between making enough money to live off of and not learning how to be satisfied with that and not making enough money to make ends meet and being depressed because of that.

Sorry, that was a really complex statement. I wholeheartedly agree that when it comes to money and happiness the person's attitude can make a big difference. But you can't expect someone who is living in a slum (or on the streets) and living off of dry bread when they can find it in the bakery dumpster to be happy.

Granted this is an exaggeration, but even the author stated: "Happiness is dependent on being able to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing." Then this statement is followed with a Catch 22--essentially telling people that if they aren't making ends meet (for these basic needs) for their family on $40K a year that it is their attitude that is a problem. The problem is that the author decided to assign the number of $40K a year.

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