Wealth makes you happy, even over 60,000 euros

Wealth makes you happy, even over 60,000 euros

Dhe thought was so comforting: if the rich have more money, they are not happier. Somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000 euros annual income is a limit, so the wisdom went: After that, more money does not make you happier. As a result, the research results were spread around the world quite often: in Sunday speeches, in motivational workshops, at degrowth demonstrations. But it’s wrong. The central scientist has corrected himself and now says: You can buy happiness after all.

Patrick Bernau

Responsible editor for economy and “value” of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

But one after anonther. They were none other than the two Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Sir Angus Deaton, who surveyed Americans on their happiness in 2008 and 2009: Did you smile a lot yesterday? Did you have fun? Were you sad?

The result seemed pretty clear. When income increases by 10 percent, happiness increases, always at the same rate – up to somewhere between $60,000 and $90,000, after which it’s over. Because a euro and a dollar are usually worth roughly the same amount, the sentence was adopted directly in Europe. But then came Matthew Killingsworth from the University of Pennsylvania.

there is no end

He had 33,000 Americans record their happiness three times a day with their cell phones. He came to the conclusion: There is no end. That went to well over $200,000 a year. Then he gradually ran out of test subjects – but until the end, more money always brought happier.

Now the scientists did something that scientists should do more often: Kahneman and Killingsworth joined forces, what they called a “collaboration of adversaries,” and searched for a common position. The result is published in March in the specialist journal “PNAS”.. The two have found: Kahneman’s questions were simply not clear enough. At a certain level of luck, his questions simply couldn’t discern any differences, so he couldn’t find any.

Killingsworth’s formulation, on the other hand, was so open that he was still able to determine the differences in happiness among the very wealthy. Now they both agree: the much-vaunted limit of happiness does not exist.

Even more drastically, for the happiest people, their exhilaration grows even faster above $100,000 than it does for those on lower incomes.

Even money cannot counter some fates

Conversely, for the unluckiest of people, there actually seems to be a limit in the $100,000 region. The saddest seventh of people, more money really doesn’t help them anymore. It is the hard fate of life, as both researchers suspect: heartbreak, grief and depression – these are the fates that even great wealth cannot compete with. Physical pain also affects happiness, as science has known for a long time.

In any case, the two researchers conclude: that money can alleviate misfortune, this ability is exhausted at some point – then nothing works anymore. That money can increase happiness, however, this ability knows no end.

And how much happier does money make you? It’s not that easy to say. Feelings of happiness are fairly constant in every human being, external circumstances change them very little. Everyone feels good on Friday night, not so much on Sunday night. Even severe blows of fate are dealt with relatively quickly by most people, and after a few months they are as happy as before – in this respect, some of the very unfortunate rich should be able to get out of their misfortune quite quickly and enjoy their money again. After all, it matters that much: when income doubles, happiness increases as much as in a marriage. If your income even quadruples, you feel as happy as if every day was the weekend.

The valuation of life increases with wealth

However, happiness is not everything in life. People give very different answers when asked how they rate their lives overall. Very different things come into play here. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved? Does life seem like it has a purpose? Is it interesting? And many things more.

15 years ago, the Americans Betsey Stevenson, who later worked in Barack Obama’s team, and her husband Justin Wolfers evaluated the answers of around 60,000 people worldwide – with a very clear result: In the question of whether life is good or not , there is no saturation anyway. The richer the country, the greater the individual income – the valuation of life increases with prosperity. At least now. In this survey, people were asked to rate their lives on a number from zero to ten. Here, too, one day the following will apply: If prosperity keeps growing, then at some point the scale will come to an end. But more money can still make people feel better about their lives — and make them happier.

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