The common mantra regarding money is that the more you have, the happier you’ll be. Psychologists, sociologists, and economists have spent decades researching the simple question–Does having more money make a person happier? The answer? It does and it doesn’t.
Money can definitely increase happiness: To the large percentage of the world population living in developing countries, an extra $100 a month could mean consistently eating a meal a day, having a warm place to sleep, and wearing shoes without holes. In this case, more money would definitely mean more happiness.
But for those of us living in wealthier countries, the correlation isn’t as strong: For the average American, the additional $100 or even $1,000 a month does not necessarily increase our happiness. Consider this: On a national level, the cumulative wealth of our country has significantly increased since World War II, yet the average happiness of Americans has not grown.1
Jean Chatzky, financial journalist, author and speaker, researched the correlation between Americans’ annual income and their level of happiness. She surveyed 1,500 Americans representative of the general population of the United States. Interestingly enough, she found that those who earn $50,000 a year are just as happy as those who earn $100,000 a year. Since the median household income hovers around $42,000 a year, many of us fall into that bracket.2
The fact that more money does not equate to more happiness became very clear to me recently while talking to one of my clients. As his financial advisor, I was helping him organize his various investments. When I presented his statement of net-worth, it totaled more than $85 million dollars. My client scratched his head, looked up at me sadly and said, “I don’t think it’s enough.”
All this to say, being financially wealthy–even very wealthy–does not guarantee you’ll be happy. But there are ways we can increase our overall happiness and level of contentment, regardless of how much money we have.
Are you wondering how to boost your overall happiness, even as your net worth remains the same? Here are three simple ways to start:
1. Determine your values.
Our values are what we consider to be most important to us. Is your spending reflecting what you value? Do you value traveling? Family and friendship? Giving to good causes? Education? Work-Life balance? Money can bring us a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness when we use it to fund our real priorities. When our financial decisions are aligned with our values instead of dictated by our emotions like greed and fear, we will find ourselves living a more meaningful life.
2. Become conscious of your consumption.
Are you aware of how much you’re spending? Unconscious spending plays a huge role in sabotaging your financial goals. It robs you of using that money for saving, investing, paying debt and ultimately fueling your dreams and personal values. Planning your spending puts you in control of your finances. Jean Chatzky, in her book “The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness” says, “The control you exercise over your money has just as much (or more) to do with your financial happiness and contentment as how much money you have. And the more control you have, the less money you need to live and be content.”
3. Get organized.
When it comes to your money, how organized are you? When I was in elementary school, to promote a healthier balanced diet, the USDA took all the various foods and organized them into 7 food groups: Vegetables, Meat & Poultry, Bread..well, you get the idea. In the same way, it is important to break down your money into different categories, like cash, tax, and giving, to get a better picture of how you’re using your money. By organizing your finances, you will be able to see where you’re overspending or unorganized. Just as the food groups can help us become more aware of our diet and push us towards developing healthier habits, an organized financial life can also lead to a well-balanced, happier life.
1 “The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness: Feel Richer with What You’ve Got” by Jean Chatzky