All our lives, we have heard the time honored phrase “money can’t buy happiness”. However, has anyone really looked into this? Or have we as a society just been taking this as a known truth without really examining the evidence behind it. It has to be true that, to some extent, money does buy happiness. Someone who is starving or dying of thirst can’t be as happy as someone living with shelter and enough money to keep themselves comfortable, can they? In a study done by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson school, it was found that money can, in fact buy happiness, to an extent. The results of the study found that people’s levels of happiness directly increase with their income, up to the point of $75,000 a year. After this point, however, the study claims that they found no further increase in happiness due to increase in annual income. It is at this income level that the stresses of poverty are diminished, and people start to gain additional happiness from other sources. This study, however, by no means proves that money can buy happiness. We need to examine additional studies to determine just how strong the correlation these results provide really is.
Next, these results are corroborated by the results found in a poll conducted by CNN. The poll, conducted on a group of just over 1,000 participants found that 51% of participants stated they would feel happy with a salary under $100,000 a year, with 25% of participants stating they would be happy with a salary range of $50,000-$75,000. Taking a closer look at the data, the median value that people stated they would need to be happy rests at $80,000 a year. This $80,000 is close enough to the value of $75,000 found in the previous Princeton study to further strengthen the idea that after a certain point of comfort, money in itself is not enough to create happiness.
So, if strict financial health can only increase happiness to a point, what is it that further increases our life-satisfaction? Professor Ryan Howell of the University of San Fransisco argues that it is experiences, rather than material items, that increase our levels of satisfaction. He argues that people believe material goods are a better investment, as experiences are not physically lasting. However, after conduction a study of satisfaction at the time of purchase, two weeks after, and four weeks after, Howell found that the satisfaction of consumer decreases with material purchases, while increasing substantially with experience based purchases. Ultimately, by the four week mark, the study reports that consumers consider the experiences to have far surpassed material goods in terms of generating satisfaction. It is due to this that Howell argues that experiences, as well as the connections and memories they give us with others, are much more important to our feeling of happiness than mere material goods.
In addition, as part of the CNN poll, 6% of people stated that money can in no way buy happiness. People that have these beliefs cite family, health, religion, and many other aspects as the sole sources of happiness in their lives. These people could, in fact be correct. Happiness could come solely from these facets, or they could in some significance contribute to happiness and act as confounding variables in the other, monetary studies.
Overall, it is nearly impossible to say for certain whether money can truly buy happiness. There seems to be a strong correlation between having enough money to be comfortable and happiness, but after that it is uncertain whether more money will make you more happy, or whether it is purely left up to experiences, personal connections, and a score of other facets to influence your happiness. Ultimately, with so many confounding variables and such a tough depended variable to measure, happiness, this is a difficult conclusion to pin down. However, with the correlations seen in multiple studies it would be smart to continue research in this field and continue to map out the ever elusive science of the pursuit of happiness.