75,000 a Year to Be Happy? People say money doesn’t buy happiness. The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. 75,000 people make, they how To Be Happy With Less Money’t report any greater degree of happiness. 75,000, the study points out that there are actually two types of happiness.
There’s your changeable, day-to-day mood: whether you’re stressed or blue or feeling emotionally sound. Tony Robbins tries to teach you. The study, by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who has won a Nobel Prize for Economics, analyzed the responses of 450,000 Americans polled by Gallup and Healthways in 2008 and 2009. Participants were asked how they had felt the previous day and whether they were living the best possible life for them. They were also asked about their income.
Most people were also satisfied with the way their life was going. See TIME’s special issue on the science of happiness. Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had. 3,000 a month reported similar feelings. For people who earn that much or more, individual temperament and life circumstances have much more sway over their lightness of heart than money. 75,000 is the benchmark, but “it does seem to me a plausible number at which people would think money is not an issue,” says Deaton. At that level, people probably have enough expendable cash to do things that make them feel good, like going out with friends.
But in the bigger view of their lives, people’s evaluations were much more tied to their income. The more they made, the more they felt their life was going well. The survey asked respondents to place themselves on a life-satisfaction ladder, with the first rung meaning their lives were not going well and the 10th rung meaning it was as good as it could be. The higher their income, the higher the rung people chose. It’s no surprise, then, that when the same polls are done in different countries, Americans come out as a bit of a mixed lot: they’re fifth in terms of happiness, 33rd in terms of smiling and 10th in terms of enjoyment. At the same time, they’re the 89th biggest worriers, the 69th saddest and fifth most stressed people out of the 151 nations studied. Now that Princeton researchers have untangled that life mystery, maybe someone at MIT can look into the optimal amount of money required to buy us love.
MY sisters and I have often marveled that the stories we tell over and over about our childhood tend to focus on what went wrong. We talk about the time my older sister got her finger crushed by a train door on a trip in Scandinavia. Since, fortunately, we’ve had many more pleasant experiences than unhappy ones, I assumed that we were unusual in zeroing in on our negative experiences. But it turns out we’re typical. Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University. Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail. There are physiological as well as psychological reasons for this.
Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones. So Professor Baumeister and his colleagues note, losing money, being abandoned by friends and receiving criticism will have a greater impact than winning money, making friends or receiving praise.
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In an experiment in which participants gained or lost the same amount of money, for instance, the distress participants expressed over losing the money was greater than the joy that accompanied the gain. In addition, bad events wear off more slowly than good ones. As with many other quirks of the human psyche, there may be an evolutionary basis for this. Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes but less urgent with regard to good ones. And Professor Nass offered another interesting point: we tend to see people who say negative things as smarter than those who are positive. Thus, we are more likely to give greater weight to critical reviews. Fans will always remember the error Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox made in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series against New York Mets.