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The Beatles were wrong: Money can buy you happiness

It’s official, earning more money can buy you happiness.
It’s official, earning more money can buy you happiness.

Bite-Size Read:

  • The Beatles once famously sang that you couldn’t buy love.
  • However, a new study says that money can buy you happiness and more of the things you love.
  • We love the honesty of this study and how it acknowledges that while money isn’t everything, it can definitely help make you happier.

“I don’t care too much for money for money can’t buy me love”

The lyrics from the Beatles song, ‘Can’t buy me love’ are a 1960s classic. It’s all about how diamonds and money aren’t important compared to the happiness of finding love.

However, the Beatles were wrong. 

A brand new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that money DOES buy happiness. What’s more, is that there’s no income limit to money being able to make you happy.

Here’s what you need to know about how researchers found that money does buy happiness: 

1. We all want to know if money equals wellbeing

“It’s one of the most studied questions in my field,” said the research paper’s author Matthew Killingsworth. “I’m very curious about it”. And who could blame us? We all want more money in the bank but also want a balance between work and life to avoid burnout. The question of how much money it takes to be happy is one we all want the answer to.

Money please
This may not work if you’re taking money from your parents

2. The study’s result was a surprise to its author

The researcher behind the new paper was expecting a different result. They’d originally asked a similar question in 2010. Their 2010 research found that people thought money made them happy up until they earned US$75,000, or around AUD$98,000. They were trying to validate or retest that result and were surprised by the result.

Surpise
This was a good surprise

3. People continue to experience happiness as their income rises

There’s no set income limit at which people stop being happy. Instead, the study found that happiness continued to increase as you earn more. This includes earning above the $75,000 cap on income equalling happiness that the previous 2010 study found.

Finding money in a box
A box full of money? Yes please

4. Snapshots from during the day show that money makes us happy

Rather than asking people to measure their happiness once, the study took snapshots throughout the day. Participants would rate their happiness on an app during the day, which was then compared against their income. This experience sampling is likely more reflective of how we feel than a survey capturing one point in time.

Feeling good
All the good feels

5. The more happiness you want, the more money you’ll need to earn

Because there is no limit on income making us happy, if you earn more money, you’ll likely be happier. You can therefore in theory increase your happiness by increasing your income over time. Part of that is being able to afford options and fund the goals you have for yourself.

I like those odds
More income = more happy

6. Money is not the only thing that can make you happy

“People probably overemphasise money when they think about how their life is going,” said Killingworth. In other words, money is one driver of happiness. However, it’s not the only driver. If you value time with your family, you’ll want to consider how much time you want to spend working. If you value time spent in the gym or getting fit outdoors, you’ll want to ensure that you have time available to exercise rather than being stuck at your desk all day. Money facilitates these life choices. Make sure you balance your working life with building a life that makes you happy.

Friends hug
Money isn’t everything

“I may not have a lot to give but what I’ve got I’ll give to you”

As the Beatles sang, it is possible to be happy without a huge amount of money in your bank account. However, earning money can make a huge difference to how happy you feel. Money gives you the freedom to make choices in your life and knowing you have that security is likely to bring a smile to your face.

Kate Crowhurst

Written by Kate Crowhurst

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