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Subject: Money does actually buy happiness rss

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Shawn Fox
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So I've always thought it was mostly sour grapes that so many people try to claim money doesn't buy happiness (either those who don't have money or those who have money but are unhappy). Statistical evidence has always suggested that money does buy happiness at least up to a point. I know that at least in my personal experience things are much better for me now that I'm in the top 5% of income earners than they were during my days as a poor college student or during my early career as I worked my way up the corporate ladder. Anyway, here is the question the survey asks.

"Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?"

The results clearly show that people with higher incomes feel much closer to the top of the ladder than people with low incomes. This question seems much more concrete than surveys which just ask people on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are they now (that is basically how the question has been asked in past surveys).

Survey results here: http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2013/income-w...

[edited for spelling]
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Junior McSpiffy
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Money doesn't buy happiness. Money buys opportunity and freedom. How one uses those can provide happiness. Ergo, those with greater opportunity and freedom have a greater chance to achieve higher levels of happiness, but happiness is not guaranteed.
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William Boykin
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Money buys time. And time is necessary in order to make one's life more stable when the unpredictable occurs.

If the economy takes a downturn, having a lot of money means that one has banked the 'time' needed to continue making payments on the various necessities of life- house payment, food, etc. When one is poor, they live only one or two months from disaster- losing their home, not being able to pay for insurance, being forced to go bankrupt because of medical expenses.

Its not so much, then, that 'money buys happiness'. Rather, 'money frees one from the anxieties inherent in modern life'.

I know poor people who are far happier in their lot in life than any multi-millionaire I've met. However, the anxiety that what they've built could be washed away by forces that they don't control always haunts them.

Darilian
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Money buys peace of mind. If you have it you don't have to worry about what happens if you car breaks down or your kid needs braces.
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William Boykin
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jarredscott78 wrote:
Money buys peace of mind. If you have it you don't have to worry about what happens if you car breaks down or your kid needs braces.


But..but...Jarred!!

We have empirical evidence that rich people aren't just happier than poor folk, they're better!

Ah yes.

Darilian
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Darilian wrote:

We have empirical evidence that rich people aren't just happier than poor folk, they're better!

That'll be true as soon as I'm rich.
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The authors claimed different methodologies were used to define happiness, but I'd be curious to hear more detail about how this compares to the study a few years ago that found that income was essentially irrelevant to happiness in the US above $75,000.
 
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Hmmmmm such an interpretation of this data sounds a bit simplistic to me.

1.
What if the reason that low income are rating themselves down is due to crime rates where they live or limited access to healthcare. My point is that crime and access to health care, need not be directly linked to income, in many societies they are but that doesn't mean they should be. What if it is the bonuses and positive bias that comes from having money that makes it have capital in the happiness stakes.

2.
Likewise what if it is status and sigma that are key to happiness. Again, in our shared cultures these are strongly linked, be not directly, to income. Thus, it is high status that makes people happy not directly income.

3.
I also feel that the question is bias towards materialism - eg 'best possible life' is not the same as happiest life, IMO. With best possible life I'm thinking about swimming pools and fast cars whereas with happiness I'm thinking about family and human relationships - one points to the external the other the internal.

Even if we accept the premise of the question and a direct correlation between best possible life and happiness:
I'd also argue that such a question is likely to replicate what people think is true not what is actually true.

Finally, what if people with high income are more likely to positively and confidently report their success/position while people with low incomes are not?
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Shawn Fox
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fizzmore wrote:
The authors claimed different methodologies were used to define happiness, but I'd be curious to hear more detail about how this compares to the study a few years ago that found that income was essentially irrelevant to happiness in the US above $75,000.


The prior surveys in this area did not ask an aspirational question (how happy are you compared to how happy you think you could be), they just asked how happy people were. As far as which survey you think is gives a better result, that is up to you to decide.

What I've always found interesting about 'happiness' is that it does seem to be something that is measured in context. Many prior surveys have found that one of the easiest ways to increase your level of happiness is to live around people who make less money than you do. Human psychology tends to fall into the trap of comparing your success to the success of others instead of judging it on an independent scale. By any logical measure everyone in an industrialized country should be far happier today than anyone who lived 100 years ago. Even the poorest (in most respects) have more than the richest did 100 years ago.
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fizzmore wrote:
The authors claimed different methodologies were used to define happiness, but I'd be curious to hear more detail about how this compares to the study a few years ago that found that income was essentially irrelevant to happiness in the US above $75,000.


That's true, if only because $75K per year is what it costs to have reasonable cable television variety.
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Money = happiness was probably much closer to reality in the 12th Century, or earlier. hell, even later, the 19th Century somewhat as well. But it's highly misleading in the modern Western society. The easiest, and I think most accurate, method to get a personal idea of what makes you happy is just to list what you know, for a fact, will add unhappiness to your life if they are reduced or removed and see how many of those things are only in your life because of personal affluence.

Happiness is subjective and the material things that used to allow "time" to enjoy things that please are accessible to virtually every citizen in our modern society.

So the list, for me:

1. My children

2. My father

3. My extended family - those few I actually communicate with

4. My seven or eight good friends, almost every one a friend for the last 25-40 years

5. Being with the above 4 groups frequently

6. Physical security & health for myself and my loved ones

After these it becomes a bit less subjective because all I'm doing then is listing material things I can buy. Still, virtually every material thing I do purchase (or would with wealth) is directly related to the people who add joy to my life. During the periods in my life where I earned 6 figures I was no more happier and the reason, because I didn't inherit or "luck" into the money, is that earning that amount took time away from the people who actually make me happy.

Would a lottery win make me happier? Maybe, but since I'm 90% there all the time anyway, driving a new car or living in a million dollar house would only incrementally add value. I don't want to travel unless it's with loved ones or good friends. So beyond giving money to those I love (a questionable act) money just adds gilt and luxury to what I already have.

On the other hand, I know a number of people who are only happy when they have money. Everything, even their ability to be a good friend or family member, is affected by whether they feel financially secure. And they define financially secure a lot different than I do. I absolutely think it's wrong to look down on those people - that's the way they work, it's in their DNA and when I've been associated with any of them I benefited financially from the association.

Once the basic survival needs are secure (and they are for all of us) unhappiness at all is due to choices, decisions, mistakes and confusions about emotions and relationships. Money won't fix that.
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Jeff Brown
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sfox wrote:
So I've always thought it was mostly sour grapes that so many people try to claim money doesn't buy happiness (either those who don't have money or those who have money but are unhappy). Statistical evidence has always suggested that money does buy happiness at least up to a point. I know that at least in my personal experience things are much better for me now that I'm in the top 5% of income earners than they were during my days as a poor college student or during my early career as I worked my way up the corporate ladder. Anyway, here is the question the survey asks.

"Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?"

The results clearly show that people with higher incomes feel much closer to the top of the ladder than people with low incomes. This question seems much more concrete than surveys which just ask people on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are they now (that is basically how the question has been asked in past surveys).

Survey results here: http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2013/income-w...

[edited for spelling]


Sorry I don't see how this survey is a better method for determining happiness. There have been dozens and dozens of studies on money and happiness and for the most part they agree that at the lower end of the spectrum money has a strong positive correlation with happiness. As you get higher there are diminishing returns until there is almost no correlation at all between money and happiness from the mid ranges to the high ranges.

In other words. The difference between 0 and 50,000 a year in happiness levels is rather large but the difference between 50,000 and 50,000,000 is negligible.
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Jeff Brown
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sfox wrote:
fizzmore wrote:
The authors claimed different methodologies were used to define happiness, but I'd be curious to hear more detail about how this compares to the study a few years ago that found that income was essentially irrelevant to happiness in the US above $75,000.


The prior surveys in this area did not ask an aspirational question (how happy are you compared to how happy you think you could be), they just asked how happy people were. As far as which survey you think is gives a better result, that is up to you to decide.

What I've always found interesting about 'happiness' is that it does seem to be something that is measured in context. Many prior surveys have found that one of the easiest ways to increase your level of happiness is to live around people who make less money than you do. Human psychology tends to fall into the trap of comparing your success to the success of others instead of judging it on an independent scale. By any logical measure everyone in an industrialized country should be far happier today than anyone who lived 100 years ago. Even the poorest (in most respects) have more than the richest did 100 years ago.


I don't think that an aspirational question is a good measure of happiness given that you are then comparing yourself to imaginary self that doesn't exist instead of just looking at your internal feelings of satisfaction.

Some of the better methods in measuring happiness are asking people at different random times during the day over a period of many days what their feelings are and how peaceful and how satisfied they are. Interestingly enough they have found that lived happiness is different from remembered happiness and it is definitely different from predicted happiness.
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Shawn Fox
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jeff brown wrote:
sfox wrote:
fizzmore wrote:
The authors claimed different methodologies were used to define happiness, but I'd be curious to hear more detail about how this compares to the study a few years ago that found that income was essentially irrelevant to happiness in the US above $75,000.


The prior surveys in this area did not ask an aspirational question (how happy are you compared to how happy you think you could be), they just asked how happy people were. As far as which survey you think is gives a better result, that is up to you to decide.

What I've always found interesting about 'happiness' is that it does seem to be something that is measured in context. Many prior surveys have found that one of the easiest ways to increase your level of happiness is to live around people who make less money than you do. Human psychology tends to fall into the trap of comparing your success to the success of others instead of judging it on an independent scale. By any logical measure everyone in an industrialized country should be far happier today than anyone who lived 100 years ago. Even the poorest (in most respects) have more than the richest did 100 years ago.


I don't think that an aspirational question is a good measure of happiness given that you are then comparing yourself to imaginary self that doesn't exist instead of just looking at your internal feelings of satisfaction.

Some of the better methods in measuring happiness are asking people at different random times during the day over a period of many days what their feelings are and how peaceful and how satisfied they are. Interestingly enough they have found that lived happiness is different form remembered happiness and it is definitely different from predicted happiness.


Turns out my summary wasn't correct anyway, the results were based on many questions beyond the 'ladder of life' question. The authors of this study claim that past results have been misused and misinterpreted. You are welcome to review the study yourself if you disagree with their claim that there is no 'leveling off' of happiness after a certain level of income.

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2013/...
 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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Case study: Poor Africans vs. Poor Americans (who are orders of magnitude more wealthy than poor Africans)
 
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http://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/poor-but-happy

 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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she2 wrote:


All it takes is a look at their laughable "trend" graph to see that they're really workin' it hard to get the results that they're after.
 
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ejmowrer wrote:
she2 wrote:


All it takes is a look at their laughable "trend" graph to see that they're really workin' it hard to get the results that they're after.


Sure. I'm sure starvation, AIDS, and genocide is a recipe for widespread happiness.

I'm ignoring their conclusions at the end, which I agree are ridiculous.
 
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it's a chance i'm willing to take


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Altair IV wrote:
it's a chance i'm willing to take




This reminds me of my favorite quote from Fiddler on the Roof.

Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!
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PomInNZ wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
Case study: Poor Africans vs. Poor Americans (who are orders of magnitude more wealthy than poor Africans)


What makes you happy or unhappy is how well you are doing compared to your expectations and those you see around you.

An American family living in conditions that would be comfortable in a village in Niger will be miserable, and rightly so as all around them will be people like them living in far more comfort.
[...]

Expectations are important, but I think money-centric surveys miss something else too:
Comparing rich countries with poor countries misses things which matter (and have a significant economic value): total space per person for example, opportunities for fulfilling activities, closeness of the community, opportunities for privacy ...

Living rough but secure isn't less pleasant than living securely in a modest apartment in a typical "first world" city.
What if you then add in some first-world insecurity ("economic crisis - will I keep my job, will I be able to pay my mortgage and healthcare?").

As several posters have mentioned already, there can be immediate problems (e.g. lack of access to potable water, food, physical security, practical energy sources, basic healthcare ...) which would make anyone less happy with their situation. Take them away (in US terms this is the 50K + households) and IMO comparisons of "everything else" leave plenty of space for happiness in places where the cash value of the environment is quite small.
 
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I was much happier when I was poor.

Many things go into what makes a life happy.

I busted my ass to get financially ahead and while it did bring some added peace of mind and luxuries but there was also a great cost personally. I put my career ahead of family and personal needs most of the time. 20 years later... that cost has come home with interest.

I am not sure I wouldn't have been happier if I had made different life choices that brought me less money but more satisfaction personally. There are too many variables to factor in to make any sure conclusions. But I can see several paths that might have turned out better for me which meant less money but greater personal happiness in the end.
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I feel like the "ladder of life" question was almost specifically designed to generate this result.

Obviously if you ask a poor person in America if they live the "best possible life" they will look at their TV, compare their lives to the lives of the rich reality stars there and say "I'm probably a 2 or a 3 out of 10" even if on any average day, they're happy about 80% of the time and some crazy person on The Real Housewives of a Place Crazy People Live is happy about 20% of the time.

In contrast, a very, very rich person who is personally miserable constantly and goes from unhappy relationship to unhappy relationship but is in the top 1% in terms of income, in the USA would likely still say "hey, I have lots of money, things wouldn't be better if I had less money, I guess I'm a 9 or a 10 out of 10."

I think this poll is meaningless to prove anything other than that Americans and other westerners internalize our class system, and that in fact we internalize our class system cross-culturally, in that our poor know that they're "better" than the poor of other nations. I don't think that this proves who's happier.
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Money does not buy happiness, but it makes it a lot easier to get things that make life less awful.
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slatersteven wrote:
Money does not buy happiness, but it makes it a lot easier to get things that make life less awful.


One of the few times I have agreed with slater.

Happiness is a choice for the most part (barring some truly difficult circumstances).
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