Monday, September 13, 2010

Guess what CAN buy happiness!

up to a point. 

In a program session last year I took one of my typical forays off the path of our intended agenda as the discussion became about understanding the importance of using money wisely; understanding the concepts of budgeting, equity, etc., etc.

After what I thought was a good eye-opening conversation, one of the adults in the room dismissed the whole thing and lectured us all that “money doesn’t buy happiness”, and warned the youth not to focus so much on money as we had for the past 20 minutes. While I agree (and the research does too) that focusing exclusively on money and material things makes us more solitary and selfish, I have also seen the pain and struggles that our youth go through because of the lack of financial resources in their homes and communities. I have also seen poor money management cause extreme financial hardship and jeopardize entire families’ abilities to stay in their homes. There is a definite correlation between homelessness and lack of happiness. Be careful of simple bromides.

So, I was interested to read about a new study by two Princeton economists (Kahneman and Deaton) who claim to have discovered the threshold where money and happiness part ways.  They claim that the number is an annual income of $75,000. They aren't saying that you need to make that amount of money to be happy.  You can be happy at any level.  However, happiness seems to increase as income increases until you hit that number.  Once income increases above 75k there is no concurrent increase in reported levels of happiness. 

My suggestion then is, if you are making more than 75k per year, the excess doesn’t buy you any more happiness so why not donate it to Youth Mentoring Connection ;-). Of course, I’m kidding. This is more complex than that. There are differences in cost of living from one locality to another and one needs to plan for a secure future when income may drop and many other factors.  And I certainly know many very happy people who are making far less than $75,000. The important thing is to understand that once our basic needs are met we should be conscious of factors in play that cause us to overemphasize acquisition and material things and understand that life fulfillment will come from our participation in our shared humanity. You see, other studies indicate that forgoing the bigger house, fancy watch and status car in lieu of spending one’s money on things that bring ineffable rewards tend to lead to more positive feelings. True harbingers of happiness are more tied to being a part of something good, feeling respected, being in control of your life and having the love and support of friends and family.



Tony LoRe
CEO/Founder, Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis
Founder, Boarding House Mentors

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