Taylor Schulte

Money & Happiness

Published about 2 months ago • 2 min read

Hi Reader,

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article detailing a survey based on this question:

"Exactly how much more income do you think you need to be happy?"

What do you think?

How much more income do you think you'd need to be happy?

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Money & Happiness

Here's what the WSJ survey showed:

People across every income level felt they needed about 50% more income to be happy.

I repeat.

Almost everyone said they needed more.

Across every income level.

More specifically, people making a median salary of $75,000 felt they needed $100,000 to be happy...

...while those already making $100,000 felt they needed $150,000.

See the irony?

Even people making $250,000 felt they'd need $350,000 to be happy.

While $250,000 marks the top end of this study, I suspect the same trend would persist at higher incomes as well.

Everyone feels like they need just a little more.

This phenomenon is not just limited to income; it's the same with wealth.

Another study that focused exclusively on millionaires showed a similar failed belief that "more wealth = more happiness."

In this study, across 2,000 millionaires, the consensus belief was that it would require at least 2x as much wealth to be happy.

This means someone with $2 million felt they would need at least $4 million to be happy...

...and someone with $4 million felt they'd need more than $8 million.

Same problem.

Regardless of where you stand on the income and wealth spectrum, most of us have probably thought:

"If I can get to $X million, I'll be happy."

But, if there's anything we can learn from these studies, it's that happiness, with regard to our money, is elusive, if it exists at all.

It's as if the happiness we seek from our money resides somewhere just over the horizon.

The problem is that we can walk as far and as fast as we want, but the horizon remains frustratingly fixed in the distance.

If we think we'll be the outlier who might actually find happiness at some arbitrary level of wealth, consider the irony that is our personal experience:

Most of us have more wealth than we've ever had—in some cases, more than we ever thought we'd have—and yet, I'm guessing perpetual happiness, comfort, and security with our wealth still eludes most of us.

This isn't a personal failing; it's human nature.

Even when the wealthiest American to ever live, John D. Rockefeller, was asked how much was enough, he responded:

"Just a little bit more."

In full disclosure, this isn't my way of discouraging you from making more money or accumulating more wealth.

Not at all!

I'm simply trying to bring awareness to the fact that we should probably stop assuming that happiness, comfort, or peace of mind will arrive once our portfolios hit some magical number in the future.

They won't.

At best, money offers the potential for those feelings to exist, but it does not cause them directly.

You already know this, but what encourages feelings of happiness, comfort, and peace of mind is the pursuit of our purpose, deep relationships (and time) with people we love, and good health, to name a few.

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Stay wealthy,

Taylor Schulte, CFP®

Taylor Schulte

Retirement and tax planning plain English.

I'm the host of the Stay Wealthy Retirement Show and founder of Define Financial, an award-winning retirement and tax planning firm. When I’m not helping people lower their tax bill, you can find me traveling with my wife and kids, searching for the next best carne asada burrito, or trying to master Adam Scott’s golf swing.

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