So says a new study, anyway.
The study looked at the amount of money it takes people from various countries to feel secure.
I was somewhat appalled by America’s number. Do we really need $161,00?
I was expecting it to be around $80,000. In fact, three years ago a study found that people’s happiness peak is around $75,000. But apparently we think we need more than double that. Yowza.
Of course, that study differentiated between contentment/happiness and actual financial security. Past $75,000, a person’s general mood didn’t improve significantly. Still, it found that people who made $120,000 a year didn’t feel nearly as financially secure as people who made, you guessed it, $160,000 a year.
But is financial security really that different from general happiness? It certainly doesn’t feel that way to me in the long run. I still always feel stressed about money, unless a certain amount has been set aside specifically for the expense.
Apparently, that makes me pretty different from a European. Germany’s number, for example is nearly half ours: $86,000.
Some of the difference can be attributed to varying costs of living, like medical expenses. In 2010, the average American spent $8,233 on health care. The next three highest countries spent at least $3,000 less.
But I’m not convinced that’s the only issue.
Most Europeans get more time off than we do. Fewer work hours — and more vacations — will usually decrease stress. Less work means more time with family and friends, which can also lower stress… depending on your family, anyway.
Americans, on the other hand, work hundreds more hours a year than Europeans. In fact, more than half of us do some amount of work while on vacation. And only 37% of Americans think it’s unacceptable to work while on vacation compared to Europe’s 57%.
So, if we can’t get free time even in our actual free time, we’re going to be more stressed and, I’d argue, more focused on the money we make from toiling away.
Apparently, we don’t have the time to use the money for experiences. Is it any wonder that we turn to things to find fulfillment? As a nation, we’re frantic for the latest technology, video games, fashions, etc. And then your bauble is quickly out of date, yesterday’s news.
Yes, in the economic turmoil, we have gotten better. At least, it feels that way right up until you see the people waiting in line for hours for the newest iPhone. Then you know just how far we still have to go. (I think at this point you can pre-order the iPhone 20. It’s made from unobtainium. And it cooks for you. And details your car. And watches Game of Thrones with you. Actually, now I kind of want one.)
In other words, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that we (think we) need more money to be happy?
Cruelly, we all know that the that happiness will probably still elude us. As the video points out, things don’t equal fulfillment. In fact, apparently we should save up for every purchase, since that’s when we’ll be happiest with the item.
Of course, all frugality blogs, books and gurus have talked about that for years: the short-lived high of acquisition, the inevitable letdown, and then the search for the next mood boosting purchase. It’s just nice to know that the phenomenon has been officially quantified.
All in all, I guess I had better stop pining for a wireless printer and get going on that vacation fund.
What’s your ideal number for happiness and for financial security? Are they one and the same? Or do you think no amount of money will ever make you feel truly safe?