Money can’t buy you love, the Beatles insisted, but can money buy you happiness? Benjamin Franklin thought not: “Money has never made man happy, nor will it,” he sagely proclaimed. “There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.” But a new AARP survey of Americans age 35 and up finds a definite correlation between income and happiness.
The prolonged economic recovery is taking its toll on happiness, the survey of more than 4,000 adults found. Happiness levels are on the decline and at their lowest levels. Most respondents (68 percent) identify themselves as happy, but of these, nearly half (49 percent) reported being “somewhat happy” compared to 19 percent who said they are “very happy.”
For half of respondents, money does not rank among the strongest contributors to happiness. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said that “watching your children, grandchildren or close relative succeed” and “kissing or hugging someone you love” were the strongest contributors to their personal happiness.
Other contributing factors include being considered to be a person who can be trusted (69 percent), enjoying natural beauty such as a sunset (61 percent), participating in a family tradition or celebration (58 percent), and making progress on your personal goals (51 percent).
So where does money figure in to the happiness equation? The percentage of respondents who said they are “not too happy” decreases dramatically with income. For example, 43 percent of those who earn less than $25,000 identify themselves as such compared to only 19 percent of those who make $125,000 and up, while only 14 percent of the $25,000 and under households say they are “very happy,” compared to 30 percent of the $125,000 and up households.
If money can buy happiness, how much would an extra $100 get you? Respondents to the survey said they would use the $100 on a wide array of expenditures, from the practical (bills, gas, groceries, holiday gifts) to more altruistic pursuits (church and charities) and family members.
When asked how they would spend an extra $10,000, respondents made paying off bills a higher priority, followed by pie-in-the-sky expenditures such as vacations, cars and homes.
“Money is only a resource,” the survey found, “that went applied to meaningful areas of wone’s life can provide experiences that can increase happiness.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.