Does Money Make Us Happy? Somewhat…But Studies Find It Isn’t the Most Precious Irreplaceable Thing – especially for Women Over 40
What is it to be happy? What are the defining characteristics of happiness? How does our notion of happiness change when we’re over 40? Are we happier if we make more money? Are we less or more happy because we’ve gained (supposedly) wisdom from having thrived (or survived) more than 40 years? Or are we less happy for sure because all we believed to be true when we were gullible little children (Santa Claus, God, Prince Charming, everlasting passion, etc.) have let us down in some way?
So many people over 40 come to a point where happiness is defined as having a purpose, passion and the sense that they are making progress toward something meaningful. True for you? It is for me!
There has been a surge of interest and research on happiness over the last 15 years, to the point where there is now a field of study called “Happiness quantification.” (Leave it to the quants to attach numbers to an emotion we are genetically programmed to seek relentlessly!) Some of the findings are: you may be happier on a Sunday than any other week, you may be happier at 8 in the evening than at 2 pm, you are happier if you live in Colorado than in Nevada. And contrary to what our parents taught us, there is now some evidence that generally speaking, being richer means you are happier.
Can it be? I thought money didn’t bring happiness. Were my striving immigrant parents wrong? (Were yours?) Now, just to confuse the issue further, although we Americans are nearly three times wealthier as we were in the early 1970s, when surveyed, we do not seem to report any higher levels of happiness than at that time.
And, with regard to income, a study from Princeton University in 2010 that polled 450,000 Americans reported interesting results: a cutoff line of about $75,000 a year. The lower you are on the income scale, the unhappier you are. But no matter how much you make beyond that mark, there is no substantial increase in your level of happiness.[i] Perhaps this is explained by the theory that there are actually two kinds of happiness: your day to day mood and how you feel when you get up in the morning contrasted with your overall level of satisfaction with your life, or how you feel it is turning out. The study concluded that 85% of us (no matter where we fall on the income scale) feel happy each day, and most also feel life is going well, or well enough.
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