How much money do you need? Exactly $60,000/year.
Mymoneyblog.com reports on a recent TED conference featuring Nobel laureate economist Daniel Kahneman remarks on personal happiness. Kahneman traces a great deal of our unhappiness to the difference between how we experience life and how we remember it. Among the infinite ways people have to make themselves unhappy, our human penchant for discovering false perfection in past moments is certainly among them.
But a simpler way to make yourself unhappy is by thinking about money. Because money can be exchanged for so many things, it can become the mother of all needs–replacing romantic neurosis as the number one crazy-maker as you get older and more loving of security. The near universal fungability of money makes it insidious. Though it is true that money can’t buy happiness or love, a nice was of cash can certainly distract from those needs temporarily.
What I found more interesting–and affirming–was Kahneman’s Q&A remarks after his presentation about money. His message is that money’s potential to bring happiness is both limited and fairly easily attainable. I’ll let mr. Kahneman speak for himself:
Below 60,000 dollars a year, people are unhappy, and they get progressively unhappier the poorer they get. Above that, we get an absolutely flat line. I mean I’ve rarely seen lines so flat.
“Clearly, he adds, “money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery.”
As we (or, um, I) make ourselves anxious about money, it’s worth remembering that it’s potential to bring joy and contentment pales in comparison to a good marriage or friends you enjoy spending time with. Of course, this little nugget of old-fashioned wisdom couldn’t be more facile. Does anyone ever come out and say that money trumps everything? Even good old fashioned yuppies are apt to pay lip service to the relative worthlessness of money, usually while driving their Jaguar to the Hamptons.
Nonetheless, it’s good to know there’s an actual number at which money stops buying happiness: $60,000.