Buying happiness

Perhaps you make the unconscious assumption that if you only had that little bit (or a lot) more money, you would automatically be happier? 

 Lots of people believe it, but in general it isn’t true. Up to a certain level (in the UK, it’s probably around £50,000 p/a household income, but it depends on where you are in the country and on you as an individual and your circumstances), happiness seems to increase pretty steadily with increasing money. 

Once you get beyond that it might be helpful, at least temporarily, but it doesn’t always help and the differences aren’t great.  Taking an invented example, if your household income goes up £20,000 annually from, say £80,000 to £100,000 it won’t make much difference, certainly nothing like as much in terms of happiness as it going up only £10,000, from £40,000 to £50,000 although the proportionate increase is the same and the difference in money is actually bigger.  There seem to be two main reasons for this.

  1. If you can’t get the basics, like food, shelter etc. in modern society even a bit more money is helpful and takes some of the stress away – the stress that comes from not knowing if the children will eat tonight or whether your stuff is going to be reclaimed by the bailiffs.  Once you get to the point where more money means a five star instead of a four star hotel, a new car every three years instead of five or a Sky subscription that gets you 70 more channels with nothing worth watching, it doesn’t do so much for you.  It might feel pretty good for a while, but it doesn’t really remove much stress because you’re not really stressed.  Of course, you might make an unconscious decision to put yourself under stress to chase more!
  2. As you get more money, you tend to compare yourself with wealthier people.  So for years, you’ve craved another £10,000 a year. Finally you get the promotion and a £20,000 raise.  You are delighted for a month or so.  Then you move to a wealthier neighbourhood, join the golf club and suddenly you need an even better house and car, and you decide that you need another £20,000 (or more). 

So what do you think – is more money always the answer?  And if not, what is it you want, what values do you have?

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