How Much Does Happiness Cost? Too Much for Most of Us

Journey back to 2010. The country was still reeling from the Great Recession, but splinters of hope predicting recovery on the horizon began emerging. 

In this landscape, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton released their oft-cited work claiming the happiness threshold is a mere $75,000 per year

Money Does Buy Happiness

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The research suggested that money does buy happiness, but only in so much as it buys the basic necessities we need to live, with a few extra luxuries. The paper suggested that more money doesn’t equal happiness after that threshhold. 

The Happiness Threshold

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The paper cited $75,000 as the happiness threshold, and that number lingered in our collective conciousness for over a decade. Many used it to prove money isn’t everything, while others said the threshold should increase with inflation. 

It’s Way Off

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Those making close to the magic number often side-eyed the research, especially if they live in high-cost-of-living areas. 

As it turns out, $75,000 was off the mark by a long shot!

A More Recent Study Puts the Number Closer to $200,000

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A more recent study completed in 2021 showed that $75,000 falls significantly short, even after accounting for inflation. 

Economist Matthew Killingsworth found a linear relationship between income and happiness that extended well beyond a $200,000 per year salary. 

Resolving the Disparity

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Kahneman and Killingsworth teamed up in a process called adversarial collaboration to uncover the truth. They recruited colleague Barbara Meller to serve as a facilitator while they conducted a new study designed to settle the debate once and for all. 

How Much Money Does It Take To Be Happy?

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The latest study shows that $500,000 is the magic number for happiness. The happines grapgh flatlines at this income level (on average), meaning that most people continued to get happier until their incomes reached about $500,000. Happiness no longer improved with increased income once salaries exceeded $500,000. 

Of course, like everything, the number doesn’t tell the whole story. A small percentage of people found happiness at income levels around $100,000, while another percentage reported increased happiness even as their income grew beyond $500,000.

Money Isn’t the Only Ingredient for Happiness

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The researchers pointed out that although income does correlate to happiness, the relationship is weak. 

The paper explained that salary is only a small portion of happiness. Emotional wellbeing, positive relationships, and enjoying your life also play vital roles. 

Happiness vs. Misery

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The researchers freely admitted the potential flaws in their work. The study measured happiness, not misery. It’s possible that misery would be much higher at the lowest income levels.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can’t Be Happy Without It

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The research went through a lot of effort to highlight what we already know. Money doesn’t buy happiness – but it’s hard to live a happy life if you’re struggling to make ends meet. 

However, happiness comes from a vareity of sources, and money is just a small piece. 

What Makes People Happy?

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Happiness comes from connections, relationships, fulfillment, and the ability to do everything that makes life worth living. It comes from living life to the fullest, exploring your passions, and engaging with the people you love. 

Money can’t buy those things, but it can give us the stability and security we need to pursue them ourselves. It opens doors of opportunity, gives us leisure time to spend with family, and funding to pursue our dreams. 

$75,000 Not Enough

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In this day and age, $75,000 doesn’t cut it. That barely pays living expenses. Incomes of $500,000 would cover childcare, luxury vacations, help around the house, financial security in retirement, healthcare, and everything else we need to pursue happiness in our free time.  

Money isn’t everything. But it sure helps.

How To Be Happy: 50+ Tips for Living a Happier, Healthier Life

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Unlock all the keys to happiness. Explore over fifty different ways to be happier in your life. 

Discover more here: How To Be Happy