There’s been a lot of discussion on the few blogs I still read regarding how much money one has to make to be happy. Financial Samurai had a post saying that $200,000 per year is the magical number, earning anything above that is useless toward being happy. Meanwhile, a study from Princeton recently put that number at $75,000, updating previous studies which put the number closer to $55,000. Apparently happiness isn’t immune to inflation.
Let me be crystal clear: trying to establish an earnings number that will automatically make someone happy is pure hogwash. The amount someone needs to earn to be happy is based on so many factors that putting a arbitrary number on it cheapens the exercise. Everything from the income levels of your peers to your cost of living to your long term goals affects how much money you’ll have to make to be happy. That number would be different for me than it would be you, so the best researchers can do is take an average of the numbers.
Happiness isn’t a purely financial exercise. While I loathe the phrase “money can’t buy happiness”, the fact remains that someone can make millions of dollars a year but still be miserable due to factors like not finding love or losing a loved one. While happiness and money do have a relationship, they’re not directly correlated. One can very easily be happy without large amounts of money, as well as being unhappy with a fortune.
The main reason why I hate those types of posts is because of the expectation it creates. Imagine you’re a lonely internet surfer who happens to stumble upon one of those articles explaining to you just how much you need to make to be happy. You’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, maybe looking for something to change in your life. You read the post and suddenly you feel reinforced. Of course you’re not happy, you don’t make nearly enough money! If only you had more money!
These types of posts just encourage people to put a monetary value on happiness. I’m here to stop the madness. Lots of money will not automatically make anyone happy! Making enough money to ensure your family a comfortable existence is a worthy goal. Making a certain amount of money to ensure happiness is the recipe to a shallow and petty life.
Nobody should be the judge of what makes you happy. Happiness is not an external feeling. It cannot be spread, captured or replicated at will. No one can give you happiness, nor can you spread it to others. It comes from within. Stop trying to look to external stimuli to determine what makes you happy.
For me personally, I’ve gone one extra step. I’ve officially stopped trying to be happy. While I’ll still work towards things I want to work towards, I now spend zero time trying to determine what will make me happy. If I want something, I’ll work towards it. If I want a job, the salary will be the last determining factor to whether I take the job. I refuse to give in to society’s demands on what’s supposed to make me happy. I hope you’ll do the same.