Does a Big Paycheck Make a Person Happy?

What are we looking for: job satisfaction or a big paycheck?  This is a topic that college students consider when choosing a major and employees think about when considering a promotion. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the magic number is $75, 000 – earning this amount over regular household expenses. Any more does not result in happiness or reduced stress, says one of the authors of this study, Daniel Kahneman, a professor emeritus at Princeton University.

Professor Kahneman, who is also a Nobel Laureate in economics, believes that wealthy people are able to buy more pleasures but recent studies show that they are less able to appreciate the smaller things in life. Desiring financial security is not a bad thing, but wanting it – and not getting it – can result in problems, says Profession Kahneman.

A report in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2007 stated that college freshmen who said that they wanted to make a lot of money generally achieved that goal 20 years later. This article said that people with strong monetary goals are confident, ambitious and conservative.

Rather than focusing on money, ideally people should do what they love to do. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that beyond a household income of $75,000 a year, money does nothing for happiness. However, the lack of money can cause misery. More income buys one more pleasures, but studies show that wealthier people are less able to appreciate the small things in life.

Wanting money and reaching a goal is good, but not getting what you want can result in unhappiness. Most researchers have found that a balance between working in a field that interest you and provides enjoyment, and also making enough money to meet your needs, is the ideal situation.

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” –  Maya Angelou

For more information on this topic, check out the New York Times article called “Job Satisfaction vs. a Big Paycheck” by Phyllis Korkki:


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