Does money buy happiness? No! Ah, but would a little more money make us a little happier? Many of us smirk and nod. There is, we believe, some connection between fiscal fitness and feeling fantastic. Most of us would say that, yes, we would like to be rich. Three in four American collegians now consider it “very important” or “essential” that they become “very well off financially”. Money matters.
Well, are rich people happier? Researchers have found that in poor countries, being relatively well off does make for greater well-being. We need food, rest, shelter and social contact. But a surprising fact of life is that in countries where nearly everyone can afford life’s necessities, increasing affluence matters surprisingly little. The correlation between income and happiness is “surprisingly weak”. Once comfortable, more money provides diminishing returns. The second piece of pie, or the second $100,000, never tastes as good as the first. Even lottery winners and the Forbes’ 100 wealthiest Americans have expressed only slightly greater happiness than the average American. Making it big brings temporary joy. But in the long run, wealth is like health: its utter absence can breed misery, but having it doesn’t guarantee happiness.