Can Money Buy Happiness? The $75,000 Question…

We’ve all wondered about the question “Can Money Buy Happiness.”  Today, my brother Gene has a guest post that answers this question.  So read below and chime in with your own thoughts…

We live in a world where money matters.  Money gets you what you want and most people desire it.   Some even lust after it.  Yet if you take a random sampling of people and ask them if money can give them happiness most will say that it cannot.

There is anecdotal truth in this.  Look at child stars.  Too much money too quickly seems to give them deep emotional scarring.

You do not often hear about many well adjusted child actors and actresses.

There are also stories about the “very rich” being able to find no joy in the common things in life.

All anecdotal of course, there is not a bit of scientific evidence in these stories, yet I would venture to say these are commonly held beliefs.

Just think about a few of the really common quotes pertaining to money and happiness

It’s like the more money we come across the more problems we see- Biggie Smalls

The love of money is the root of all evil – 1 Timothy 6:10

Money often costs too much- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t care too much for money, for money can’t buy me love – The Beatles

Forget everything you think you know.

Think money doesn’t buy happiness; think again.  According to a Princeton University study it absolutely does buy happiness, at least up to $75,000.   So does that mean that many people were wrong?  All of the knowledge that money is transitory and deeper meaning and understanding of life was essential; is it wrong?  Is happiness really based not on stable emotions but on something as simple as money?

Was Bo Derek right when she said, “Whoever said money can’t buy you happiness simply didn’t know where go shopping.” Even worse, is “Greed Good”? (Gordon Gecko) Or at least good for your own happiness?

A deeper analysis of money versus happiness.

First the 75,000 mark is an important one.  Beneath it for every 10,000 dollars of income above poverty level ($22,050) there was a corresponding 10% rise in reported happiness levels; a very substantial statistical finding.

There is no reason to pillory Tony Robbins and others who say that true happiness comes from within quite yet.  What the researchers found was that below$ 75K the money itself did not cause sadness, it was simply the problems caused by lack of money.

Stress for paying the bills.  All of the constant worry over making ends meet.  All of the stress and panic over how to pay the bills for unforeseen circumstances.

It really makes sense.  Having lived life on the margins and surviving on ramen noodles and stretching a dollar bill farther than anyone could think possible, I can tell you being broke is no fun at all.

At the 75,000 benchmark some of these things disappear.  At this point many money stressors disappear and ONLY a person’s natural feeling of happiness or sadness came through.  At this point enough really is enough.  The people who are happy have enough that they will be happy.  They people that have a void inside them will continue to do so.

What does it all mean and what does this mean to you?

Mainly it means that if you have a household income of less than $75,000, get your butt in gear.  If you regularly read this site it’s highly possible that you desire to have some sort of an online business.  Keep working at it.  Try techniques to make your online business more profitable.  Try Affiliate Marketing.  Find a profitable niche to make money in.

Do not let me mislead you.  None of these are ways to get instant success or riches.  None of these will be easy and effort free.   To spite some claims to the contrary that you may find in your email box there is no universal internet ATM key that will let you spit out wads of cash for minimal effort.

You will almost assuredly have to put in long hours with little return at first.  Eventually, though, you can get a small supplement to your income, which can turn into a sizable supplement which will hopefully eventually lead you to true freedom and enjoyment.  It is not easy, but it is worth the effort.

What do YOU think?  Is the study wrong?  Is it right?  Does money = happiness or have nothing to do with the equation at all?

Comment below and let me know you what you think…

Take Action. Get Results.

27 thoughts on “Can Money Buy Happiness? The $75,000 Question…”

  1. Hi Gene and Steve,

    Money doesn’t buy happiness but it can sure make you a lot happier. More importantly, it can prevent suffering.

    Some people argue that money isn’t that important. Tell that to the people at your company, the bank who holds your mortgage or the store owner where you purchase food. Not having enough money creates pain, suffering and heartache. I have been there.

    I feel that acquiring substantial money doing something that makes you happy – at least most of the time- brings happiness since money is freedom in green pants. It allows you to do more, have more and be more.

    Thanks for sharing your take.

    Ryan Biddulph

    • I think the study is telling. Doing what you enjoy can make you a lot happier. But if what you enjoy is sitting around watching cartoons and eating bon bons, then you will end up flat broke, destitute and ultimately homeless and miserable.

      The best world is one where you are able to meet your money needs AND still do what you want. Having “enough” is all I really strive for. I have no need of a Bentley and a mansion, enough money for bills and after that it is all about how ‘I” feel and happiness for my family

  2. Hey Gene, good to see you doing another post 🙂

    Money is a tricky subject because everyone has their conflicting morals on the matter.

    A. You make a lot of money, you’re evil.
    B. You make a lot of money then use that money to help underprivileged people

    A. You don’t have money you’re not successful
    B. Money is often a milestone in your success

    etc, etc, etc

    As I can only really speak personally, it’s sort of a draw. On one hand I want to earn money because I want it as a sign of success and so I don’t have to worry about eating ramen (I’m there with ya buddy) and being caught in paycheck to paycheck scenarios again. Additionally, I’m a hippie at heart; once I make enough I want to hold my own festivals and go to others.

    On the flip side, because I am hippie at heart, I’ve seen how much damage it can do to people. I find art to be one of the greatest things you can strive for. The feeling of success after you’ve created something yourself is remarkable.

    So it’s really a balance between the two but I think what it really comes down to is to go after what you feel will make your life successful and if the money follows, don’t think negatively about it.

    • Thanks Murray I am glad to be back again.

      My brother keeps me chained in the basement slaving away. It is nice to slip the chains and write a post, occasionally.

      You are right, my feelings on money are mixed too, I feel no need for millions (though I wouldn’t turn it down) but having enough to not struggle is very important. It certainly can’t buy you happiness IMO, but perhaps it can rent it.

  3. Steve,

    I agree with you, your brother and this research. Once I was making great money and I was stressed, overworked, and had no time to enjoy life’s fruits. I thought making money was equal to success, right now I am stay at home mom and zenguy does many free work/help around. We are not millionaire but we are lot happier and content.

    It is an interesting to see this subject here as I thought you as a internet marketer would feel otherwise. I am happy to be wrong.

    • Money should be all about a means to an end, ultimately.

      For internet marketing, I actually enjoy the work. Writing, planning etc. are things that I really actually enjoy. If I didn’t I would do it.

      Like you I tried the 9-5 cubicle thing for a bit and didn’t last long. I simply hated it and was miserable.

      To a point you need money and with a business you need to keep trying to grow it or it will die. That being said, those things are far from being really important and have little to do with true internal happiness.

      You need to work to live but shouldn’t live to work. And if possible to find a job you love, then even the work you do doesn’t seem like work.

  4. Personally what you have sounds perfect. Enough to be content. Once you have that true happiness really comes from within. All the money in the world could not fill the deep hole in your psyche if you really hate yourself within and are truly unhappy with your place in the world

  5. Hi Steve, excellent, well written article and comments! I agree with your benchmark premise entirely and the basic philosophy that our overall well being and sense of freedom is related to matters of finance in part. Thanks for sharing this fine research. Steve D.

  6. I want enough money to be content, and then I agree, there is a good chance too much money corrupts as surely as power. I would tend to agree with the $75K benchmark.

    When financial constraints never rein in your choices, and you have enough money to buy others’ complicity in your actions, you can be your own worst enemy.

    Still, someone once said, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys the kind of misery I could enjoy.”

  7. Steve,

    Great post! I am a big believer that having more money doesn’t really change you, it just amplifies you! If you are a happy person before having money, you will be a happy person after acquiring money. The converse of that is also true, if you were a miserable person, no amount of money is going to change that!

    • Great comment Sean, and very true. Mot having money can amplify sadness because of stress and worries when you are broke, but it doesn’t change any inherent formulas.

      A miserable person stays miserable.

  8. Money can lead to non-stress, but more money doesn’t equal happiness. I feel when you have too much money, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment/depression if you become too attached to money, or your whole identity is centered around being a rich person. Having lots of money by itself is not harmful, just don’t base your entire life around money. See it as a tool that gives you more opportunities to help others, see the world, and experience more.. not as an ego booster that makes you superior to others.

    • True,

      Money has no direct bearing on happiness, but the stress of be flat ass broke surely decreases it. Having it doesn’t make you unhappy but it doesn’t make you happy as some people would imagine that they would be happy if only they were rich.

  9. Hi Gene and Steve,

    Money is absaloutly important and it does make many people happy. Without money, we all would suffer, that is why I think we all should work all the time to improve our income, but at the same time, there are other things that make us happy such as health, family, etc…But for sure money is one of them. Thanks for sharing

    • Dia,

      True but at the same time once you have enough do you think it still increases your happiness more? Take the person who makes 100K a year vs 1 million a year. Both have their ‘needs’ covered but the guy with the million can afford many luxuries the other could not? Given the exact same base happiness levels (no money factored in) would the second person be happier?

  10. Shit Steve! You hit this one out of the park as far as I am concerned.
    First off – awesome SEO work – linking all those older articles in like that is really good practice and will pay off in months to come 😉
    Second – thanks so much for investing so much time into this post and providing so many references to add perspective and depth to an already interesting article.

    A line in the post:
    “below$ 75K the money itself did not cause sadness, it was simply the problems caused by lack of money.”
    Now that I think is the best phrase I have read that sums up what I think about the debate.
    When my wife and I first met we were well off – and we were quite happy.
    Now we are not exactly in that same position and we are just as happy, but a lot more stressed, which creates tension and leads to ‘feeling’ unhappy. The only difference is the feeling. I’m still a happy guy – just a little more stressed.
    That’s my take on it

    • Alex,

      Glad you liked it! 🙂

      My first thought on the study was that it was pretty arbitrary, but then reading further and thinking about it it really made great sense. Money certainly isn’t an enormous DIRECT factor on happiness, but it can sure as shit erase a lot of the things that cause unhappiness through it’s lack!

  11. HI Gene, I’ve read this study before and it totally makes sense. I remember when putting $100 a month in my retirement fund was a huge sacrifice in my lifestyle, and that was no fun at all. I had to work overtime in a very stressful job to afford my apartment.

    I actually want to make a lot of money, but not really to blow it on frivolous things. I’ve done some “rich” people things here and there and it just seemed like more hype and bragging than fun. I already spend a lot less than I can afford. Making a lot of money will just prove I was right about my investment ideas, and not change my lifestyle much at all. Then my husband and I will do the charity/angel investor thing a la Tim Ferris.

  12. Steve and Gene, I have said money will buy me happiness since I was 16 years old. I haven’t changed my mind yet. I have only changed the “how much” money. Money is also NOT to blame for people who are rich but miserable. Money is a tool. Money is an enabler. Just like a gun. It can be used for good or for evil. People are the responsible ones to make the choice – and SMART people can find many great ways to find and secure happiness with money. In fact, there is no amount of money that can cause a smart grounded person to “lose” himself….The stories you hear – lotteries, celebrities – are because those are rich but NOT smart people…..! Money absolutely can buy happiness…..and I intend to have an obscene amount of it someday :)!

    • Your point about money being an enabler is spot on. Money in no way makes the rich miserable, but I also believe that it doesn’t make them significantly happier either. Of course it can make things a heck of a lot more ENJOYABLE whether the person is miserable or happy

  13. Hi Gene,

    Glad to get to know you. I’m mark, and I’ve been enjoying the stuff Steve has been coming up with on this site.

    This post brings up an interesting topic. Just about a week ago I read an article on Business Week that talked about this. It said that after $75,000, money can’t buy day-to-day happiness. Well, I think that number is misleading in so many respects.

    This is a very huge topic, and certainly not something that can be covered in a few articles or a series of comments. But nevertheless, I would like to express my quick thought here. I have this opinion that once a person’s basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met, happiness is more a state of mind that is only inversely limited by the person’s desires. The more the material desires, the more the need for money. And that’s how the whole idea of happiness being related to money comes into being. All in all, it’s a huge illusion!

    What do you think about that?


    • Pleased to meet you Mark,

      Yeah, it was actually the Business week article that got me interested in this, I wrote it that day and just took a bit for it to get up.

      I do think the number makes good sense though. Happiness is pretty inherent. The miserable SOB who is poor will become a miserable SOB when rich. There may be understandable minor degrees of happiness increases if you can afford incredible luxuries but I do not know that they make you inherently “happier” imo.

      • The pleasure is mine, Gene!

        Well, regarding the number, it just seems true because it matches with the living standards of majority of the public. You see, once you get richer than that, the bar rises along with it. And as you rightly said, the miserable person will always remain miserable. I think it holds true irrespective of whether the person is poor or whether he/she is rich.

  14. I just have a quick question:

    75k is how much a household needs to be happy. What if you’re a bachelor though? In other words, does someone who is single also need 75k to be happy? Or, do I divide that number by 2? 37.5k

Comments are closed.