Money Buys You Happiness Until Work Gets in the Way
Make no mistake: money can buy you happiness. The problem is that many high-salaried Americans overwork themselves to the point where no amount of cash could improve your mood.
There's an interesting piece in the New York Times today about whether America's wealthiest citizens are really its happiest. The article's author, J. Peder Zane, evokes classic characters from America's storytelling oeuvre -- Jay Gatsby, Charles Foster Kane, Tony Soprano -- in describing the rigidly American belief that "the golden road is paved with misery." But is it true that people become less happy with the more they make?
The answer is simultaneously yes and no. Here's how Zane explains:
"Make no mistake, it is better to be rich than poor — psychologically as well as materially. Levels of depression, anxiety and stress diminish as incomes rise. What has puzzled researchers is that the psychological benefits of wealth seem to stop accruing once people reach an income of about $75,000 a year."
So money helps to a certain point. In investigating why that is, Zane queried several researchers in the fields of sociology and business. The "main culprit," according to his sources, is the demand for extra work:
"Twenty-five percent of all salaried workers said they worked at least 60 hours per week, according to a Gallup poll from August. Fifty percent said they worked at least 50 hours a week, compared with 26 percent of hourly workers. These numbers may be lower than reality as the rise of technology, especially cellphones, email and social media, means many people are never really off the clock."
It's important to remember that up until about the mid-20th century, a considerable chunk of the world's wealth was inherited. Thus, the leisurely attitudes we associate with great wealth (think Downton Abbey) were reserved for folks who didn't work. These people had the time to lead leisurely lives.
It wasn't until the 1960s that a more rigid meritocracy took shape and the pathway to wealth was rebuilt upon education and advancement. And in order to constantly pursue "advancement," the wealthy tend to always be working, or, as Zane writes, they fill their leisure time with obligations. Thus, stress and anxiety result.
Zane's article (linked again below) features tips for those who wish to maintain wealth without slipping into an unending work routine. He also interviews experts who explain that pursuing status is a Sisyphean endeavor that rarely leads to satisfaction. So in conclusion, money can buy you happiness as long as you remember not to purposefully keep yourself unhappy.
Whether money can buy you love, we'll just let the Fab Four answer that.
Read more at the New York Times
Image credit: Dooder / Shutterstock
In the following clip, the Pew Research Center's Andrew Kohut tells you not to believe the hype -- rich people are indeed happier:
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.
- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.