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Survey Says: Money CAN buy happiness

One of the benefits of living in the first world (….aside from getting to complain and then use the hashtag #firstworldproblems) is that instead of simply surviving, our thoughts can be turned to thriving: how we can live at max happiness and be that best version of ourselves. As it turns out, as the overall wealth of Americans increases, our money CAN be used to buy happiness… (but only up to a point).


The Stats: In a study of individuals in different countries, evidence showed a strong correlation between rising happiness and a rising level of income per household. Still, research found that Americans, as members of the richest nation, weren’t as happy as their counterparts in other less-wealthy countries.


Research showed happiness spikes when purchasing both experiences and material goods, but the happiness and level of satisfaction with material goods decreased over time, while happiness with an experience remained constant.

Why? Because increased use of physical good leads to mental adaptation; people get “used to” have a certain item or technology over time, and it’s no longer special.


Why It Matters: We’re all for an occasional “quick win,” like the way a new lipstick or impulse latte can brighten a gray day, but overall, it’s important to spend on what truly matters. Since science now backs the notion that material goods and “keeping up with the Joneses’” doesn’t contribute to lasting happiness, it’s now officially-scientifically-empirically a waste of money to spend on…well, crap (like your seventh purse or your kid’s seventh Spidey doll.)

The lesson? To grow both your cash stash and your internal happiness meter, it’s important to flex your “savings muscles” and forgo little indulgences for bigger “experience” purchases and financial goals.

How To: This lesson is important for adults but equally critical for kids, who often get the wrong “materialism = happiness” message when a birthday or the holidays roll around each year. What if kids learned – early – the art of prizing experiences over what’s in their toy chest? Here’s a plan of attack:

  • Talk to your child about a higher dollar “experience” they’ve been wishing for: sleepaway camp, karate lessons, or an outing to see a play.

  • Then set up a Goalsetter account for them to begin saving toward this big goal.

  • When in the store (or the next time a gift-giving scenario comes up) ask your child if they’d rather have a physical item on their wishlist now, or put the money toward what they really want in Goalsetter.

  • Watch as your kids become better at learning the art of delayed gratification, another critical factor in raising successful adults.


P.S. Repeat these action steps for yourself the next time you want to save up for that girl’s trip to wine country, your gym club membership, or money to donate to your favorite cause. When you forgo a physical item, direct that money into your savings account instead and watch how super-califragilistic-expi-aladocious you actually feel.


Help someone find max happiness by gifting a GoalCard to help them nab an amazing experience.