You’ve no doubt heard the old saying “money can’t buy happiness” at least a few times over the years, but new research suggests that it’s simply not true. As it turns out, money can indeed make a person happy, but exactly how much is needed to maximize the average person’s mood varies significantly from country to country. The research, which was led by Andrew Jebb of Purdue University and published in Nature Human Behavior, lands at a dollar figure that is quite a bit lower than you might be expecting.
Using a collection of survey responses from over 1.7 million people spanning 164 countries, the research focuses on the amount of income needed for both emotional well-being and “life evaluation,” which is essentially overall satisfaction with life. Surprisingly, it’s not even close to the million dollar figure you’re dreaming of.
“That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” Jebb explains. “It’s been debated at what point does money no longer change your level of well-being. We found that the ideal income point is $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being. Again, this amount is for individuals and would likely be higher for families.”
To break that down, individuals making between $60,000 and $75,000 on a yearly basis are likely to be happy on a day-to-day basis and content with their situation, while those topping $95,000 are generally pleased with their life as a whole. The numbers shift based on country due to the fact that cost of living comfortably can shift greatly depending on where the person lives.
What’s particularly surprising about the data is that as income moves beyond the levels associated with happiness, overall life satisfaction actually decreases. The reason for this is difficult to nail down, but the researchers suggest that it may be because an excess of wealth is often associated with overspending on material possessions and a constant pressure to continue amassing wealth.
So, there you have it. Money can buy happiness, but only if you don’t make too much.