It’s time to re-write the scripts and get an updated view on what’s the “ideal” income for peak happiness! It’s about time, right? Obviously, cocktail parties will never be the same if we are throwing around old numbers.

Over the last decade that happiness income number has always been quoted at around $70,000 to $75,000. The basis for that was a 2010 study by two Princeton University researchers using research data from 2008 and 2009. Well times are a changing. According to Andrew Jebb, lead author of the 2018 report, “Happiness, income satiation and turning points around the world”, the happiness peak income number has increased. The report states “Globally, we find that satiation occurs at $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being. However, there is substantial variation across world regions, with satiation occurring later in wealthier regions.”

So there’s been some income inflation and the number fluctuates with where you live. Consequently, it takes a little more to find that peak point where we can kick back for greater “life evaluation”. Hopefully, we are evaluating in a comfortable chair on the porch with a cool beverage in hand!

More Money, More Happiness?

The authors prove a common misconception that people have. The belief that the happiness graph increases indefinitely with more and more money. Yes, it’s true that the upper 1% can buy more, go more, and do more, but it doesn’t mean they are happier! That’s good to know and offers hope for the rest of us.

Case in point for that fact is looking at the happiness impacts of winning the lottery. Noteworthy is that multiple studies show that the winners may only have a short term lift to their happiness level. Despite the financial windfall, after a short period of time the “thrill” factor wears off. When the thrill is gone they return to their prior level of happiness.

Last fall the the Mega Millions lottery jackpot reached $1.6 billion. That should make anyone happy, right? However, one article written at the time concludes “….just winning the lottery isn’t enough to boost your long-term happiness set point. Unless you do things to change your set point like practicing gratitude or cultivating strong relationships, your happiness will return to its original set point. You will not be any happier than before you won.”

Does the “Ideal” Income for Peak Happiness Really Matter?

Money may feel like the enabler of happiness, but it’s certainly not the leading predictor of happiness. In fact, money is just one small element in the big mix of happiness factors. More important is to take charge around what you can control for your own happiness. So what are the important factors to happiness and a “good life” well lived?

There is no shortage of quality articles out there with their list of factors. Here are a sampling:

There are key themes interwoven among these various articles. The frequency of the themes across articles certainly adds to their credibility and offers a place to focus our individual efforts. Some of the items showing up on multiple lists include in no particular order:

  1. Meaningful relationships
  2. Gratitude/Appreciation
  3. Being you
  4. Directing your self talk to the positive
  5. Making others happy
  6. Openness and growth
  7. Living Fully
  8. Surround yourself with happy people
  9. Mindfulness
  10. Forgiving yourself and others

What was interesting is that out of the 68 list items only two had anything to do with money. One was “spend money wisely” and the other was “your relationship with money”. (I write about Money and Couples: Four Steps to a Healthier Relationship here.) In fact, there were no list items to fill your life with stuff, buy big houses, become a workaholic, drive fancy cars, or travel like royalty.

Ready, Set, Grow!

So the list of items is very accessible to anybody independent of their income level. Great news! The doors are open for anybody who wants to put intention and focus to the how and why of their lives around happiness. With some learning and growth anyone can raise their happiness set point to new levels regardless of $95,000 income or not.

Community Conversation Questions:

Please share some of your thoughts, stories, and perspectives around your views of happiness and income.

  • What are some of the key factors to your life happiness?
  • How do you make those factors a part of your every day life?
  • How does income play a role in your level of happiness?
  • Does $95,000 sound about right, higher than expected, or much lower than expected?

I help people like you who are living real lives with real financial challenges to breakthrough to new possibilities for their financial health.

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Doug Drenckpohl