The Situation of Money and Happiness
Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 13, 2009
Fiona Anderson of the Financial Post has an interesting take on a question that has been much discussed for many years: can money buy happiness? We excerpt the piece below.
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But if the best things in life are free, why is it that we always seem to be after more money? Because we think it can buy happiness.
And for those at the lower end of the income scale, it probably can, according to Michael Schmitt, a social psychologist at Simon Fraser University. “Because having some money is definitely better than having no money at all,” he says.
But Mr. Schmitt words the question differently: Are people with more money generally happier than those with less?
The answer is yes, when we are talking about having enough money to cover food and shelter. But the answer is a definite maybe when you get to middle-class earners and above. “It’s going to be more important if you need money to get access to those things that meet our basic needs,” Mr. Schmitt says. “Beyond that, the effect of having more money seems to be weaker.
“And it seems when people do increase their income and have access to more material wealth, you don’t see corresponding increases in happiness.”
Happiness surveys have been carried out for years. And while income has been going up steadily for the past three or four decades, our level of happiness hasn’t changed much, Mr. Schmitt says.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there were a lot of things that were problematic, he says. “So it’s not like things were perfect and idyllic then. But our increases in material well-being don’t seem to have translated into increases in happiness overall.”
One reason may be evolving aspirations. As people achieve goals they create new ones. While that seems common for financial targets, not all goals have moving goal posts.
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To read the rest of the piece, click here. For a related post, see Adam Benforado’s Somthing to Smile About. To review a collection of Situationist posts exploring the causes and consequences of happiness, click here.