Turns out that Money Can Buy Happiness, but maybe not how you think

Turns out that Money Can Buy Happiness, but maybe not how you think

Proven research on how money buys happiness, although you may be surprised . . .

We have all heard the counter intuitive saying that money can’t buy you happiness. Well, thanks to scientific research it turns out that is not always the case, which also means that part of the time it is true.

Here are two general rules of thumb:

  • People living below the level of income to meet their primary needs of food, shelter and clothing statistically will become happier as their income increases.
  • Well off or wealthy people whose income increases substantially, will actually become measurably less happy on average. The primary reason for this is that the responsibilities associated with that extra income typically becomes an added stress and the added burden of time typical with this type of increase and its associated trappings detract from other factors that would produce greater happiness.

But here is what may be the surprising way that money can buy increased happiness for almost everyone.

  • Voluntarily spend money on others and not ourselves. For even greater impact, spend money on others in a manner that it is significant and appreciated by them.

Turns out that this strategy works for the vast majority of people at every level of income (there are some exceptions, but a small percentage). If our basic needs are met, the incremental happiness of spending money on ourselves diminishes and even turns negative as we accumulate more wealth. Conversely, if we choose to spend money on others instead, the combination of the choice and the knowledge that it is helping someone else will produce a positive increase in happiness. On average we will experience increased happiness regardless of the benefit to the receiving party, but we can receive even greater increases when those on the receiving end are grateful for our efforts and they have a significant impact, such as a life saving organ donation. Anonymous donations also produce  positive benefits, but statistically, no greater benefit.

Additionally, the benefits of giving are not limited to money, but we will dive deeper into that topic in another article.

Happiness Call to Action

Simple: This can be an fun exercise in creativity. Simply identify some money you have on hand, in savings or that you planned to spend on yourself and instead spend it on someone else. Paying a toll for someone behind you, putting money in parking meters, these are easy and potentially rewarding ideas, but the possibilities are literally endless (well at least in variety, but not in volume).

Simple: For those of you not familiar with TED talks, this could open a whole new world to you. For those that are familiar, this is one of the better ones.  In his TED talk entitles How to Buy Happiness, Michael Norton provides some compelling research on how this principle works, how to put it into practice and even includes a recommendation for one of his favorite causes. This is 11 minutes guaranteed to open a path to increased happiness.

Moderate: In his book, simply entitled Giving, former president of the United States, Bill Clinton describes endless ways we can all give, regardless of our circumstances. His stated goal is for each of us to make a positive difference in the world. Fantastic and specific ideas and please, set aside the partisan politics to enjoy a truly informative and enlightening compilation on the topic. Also, see our full review of the book in our resources section.