Is $75,000 the magic number? Study finds no exta happiness above $75k, with one exception.

After achieving an annual household income of $75,000, more income does not correlate to greater happiness, reports a study featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The "Proceedings", known as the PNAS, is the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences. PNAS and is an important scientific journal that printed its first issue in 1915 and continues to publish highly cited research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, feature articles, profiles, letters to the editor, and actions of the Academy.

Beyond household income of $75,000 a year, money "deos nothing for hapiness, enjoyment, sadness or stress," the study concluded, as reported by Phyllis Korkki in the New York Times, on September 12, 2010.

The National Academy of Sciences was founded in 1863. The NAS is a private institution, but is recognized and prestigiously chartered by the U.S. Congress, with the goal to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art." By 1914, the Academy was well established, and the content therein is generally regarded as well vetted.

The study, as explained by one of its authors Princeton professor (emeritus) of psychology Daniel Kahneman, relates that it’s not so much that money buys you hapiness, but that if you are miserable and earn less than $75,000 household income per year, a little money will decrease your misery…until you reach the household income annual income level of $75,000. After achieving $75,000 annual household income, adding more money will not make you any less miserable, it seems, according to the study. Says professorKahneman "the lack of money no longer hurts you after $75,000".

Professor Kahneman (a nobel laureate in economics) relates that "Many people want to make a lot of money, but the benfits of having a high income are ambiguous. Wealthy people can buy more pleasures, but studies suggest that wealthier people "seem to be less able to savor the small things in life." reports journalist P. Korkki in the Sunday, September 12, 2010, NY Times.

There may be one exception to the $75,000 rule. A 2007 article found in The Journal of Happiness Studies indicates that those people who have "strong financial aspirations" are unhappy without higher income. A study of 18-19 year old college freshmen found that those expressing a desire for a high salary generally achieved those goals 20 years later: "individuals with strong financial aspirations are socially inclined, confident, ambitious, politically conservative, traditional, conventional and relatively less able academically, but not psychologically distressed" which means that they do tend to achieve their higher financial goals and are thus made emotionally happy. It seems that some people are "hard-wired" to want more money, even from a young age, and failing to achieve that, they fail to achieve a reasonable degree of satisfaction.

Professor Kahneman seems to agree with the 2007 study, that a young person "wanting money is not a recipe for disaster, but [that same young person] wanting money and [eventually] not getting it – that’s a recipe for disaster." as quoted 9/12/2010 in the NY Times.

IDEAS FOR ACTION: NY Times Journalist P. Korkki says that the recession is causing more people to place the financial rewards of a career first; job/career satisfaction choices now often take a back seat to financial gain. Ms. Korkki notes that career counselor Nicholas Lore (founder of the Rockport Institute, a career coaching firm) warns that emphasizing higher income over satisfaction when making a career choice or job change can lead to (a) dissatisfaction and quite ironically can lead to, (b) failure to achieve the hoped for higher income. Counselor Lore relates that if you don’t like accounting but choose to become an accountant, "Chances are you’re not going to be very good at accounting," and that eventually your salary will reflect that. "Generally, people flourish when they’re doing something they like and what they’re good at."

Special thanks to NY Times journalis Phyllis Korkki for the content of this post.

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