Happiness Might Not Max Out At $75K After All

Everyone loves that study that shows that more money makes us happier until we hit the $75,000 mark, at which point we level out and more merely becomes more. $75,000 is a lot and yet it still seems relatively achievable for many of us. How encouraging that we only (okay, “only”) have to make it to $75K!

It’s also an appealing idea because it’s counterintuitive. Wait, you mean Donald Trump isn’t happier than we are, that his billions don’t cushion him, except in the literal way when he uses dollar bills to upholster his office furniture? That’s fantastic.

Turns out it’s not true. More $ = more :), period. Thanks for breaking it to us gently, Vox:

the factoid is wrong. It’s based on a cursory, wrongheaded reading of the study, and it ignores tons of evidence suggesting that there is no such tipping point. Having more money is correlated with having a better, more satisfying life, no matter how high up the income ladder you go. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. …
This idea — that there’s no tipping point beyond which money doesn’t increase life satisfaction — is backed up by other research, as well. Work by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers comparing happiness across countries, across several different surveys, has found that there’s no satiation point. For developing and developed countries alike, being richer is correlated with higher life satisfaction. …
responses to the General Social Survey question, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” improve with income, with no drop-off point.

Where did the $75,000 myth come from? It’s drawn from research about “emotional well-being,” which is apparently different from either overall reported life satisfaction or happiness. Emotional well-being does, indeed, plateau at $75K. Other positive metrics though do continue to rise.

Splitting hairs? A distinction without a difference? Maybe. What the research seems to mean is that there is a certain kind of contentment a person reaches at the $75K level: a level of affluence which translates, on average, to a combination of security, where one’s basic needs are met and one can hopefully save, and pleasure, because one can also afford both to buy some treats. What we used to describe as “middle-class.” $75K means, generally speaking, that you can relax a little bit. That’s not nothing. But it’s not everything, either.