Money does indeed buy you happiness — but only up to a point, according to a new study. Around the world, researchers from Purdue University found a strong relationship between an individual’s income and their personal satisfaction.
Globally, the average income needed to attain ideal levels of life satisfaction was $95,000 and $60,000-$75,000 for emotional well-being.
Study: There’s a happiness tipping point
Looking at Gallup surveys of 1.7 million people from 164 countries, researchers found there was a happiness tipping point regarding income levels. The threshold differed around the world: $35,000 could be enough to help you achieve personal satisfaction in Latin America and the Caribbean, while that number jumped up to $125,000 in Australia.
For adults in the United States, making over $105,000 led to more problems, including reduced life satisfaction and lower well-being. The researchers theorize that the decline could be due to new social comparison problems that arise after your basic needs are met.
“At this point, they are asking themselves, ‘Overall, how am I doing?’ and ‘How do I compare to other people?’ ” the study’s lead author, Andrew T. Jebb, said about the decline in satisfaction and well-being. “The small decline puts one’s level of well-being closer to individuals who make slightly lower incomes, perhaps due to the costs that come with the highest incomes. These findings speak to a broader issue of money and happiness across cultures. Money is only a part of what really makes us happy, and we’re learning more about the limits of money.”
How to earn more money and enjoy it
The study’s findings, which were published in Nature, could help professionals relax about breaking past a $100,000 ceiling. “Individuals often feel strong pressures to achieve high incomes, and establishing points of satiation might advise their chosen aspirations and values,” the study concluded.
But for employees earning above a happiness threshold number, there are still ways to enjoy your wealth without turning miserable. It starts with reframing your values. Instead of worrying about what you don’t have, take your blinders off and make time in your life to notice what you do have. Successful business leaders like Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg both say they keep gratitude journals to track the joys of their days.
“You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots,” Winfrey advises.
By documenting your daily wins, you develop an awareness of the opportunities your position affords you. It forces you to stay present and focused, instead of rubbernecking and worrying how you stack up against your peers.