Money and Happiness: It Really Is All Relative

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Can money buy happiness? Some people believe it can. Yet more and more research is finding that…it depends.

Researchers are finding that several factors affect how money affects happiness. These factors include important things such as if a person lives in an industrialized or third-world nation. Other factors are what people spend money on, as well as what people do with their time and how people compare their income to others.

Surprisingly (to those who believe that he with the most toys at the ends wins), researchers are finding that, beyond a minimum level, the amount of money we earn doesn’t have too much to do with how happy we are. Studies do show that the richer we are, the happier we are, but people in rich countries aren’t that much happier than people who live in poorer countries.

What the research does show is that happiness is relative — it’s how we compare ourselves to others that raises or lowers our happiness quotient.

Basically, researchers say, it’s hard to grasp the connection between happiness and wealth. In fact, it’s difficult to come up with a definition of what happiness is that covers all cultures.

Wharton researchers, for example, looked at hundreds of thousands of people in 150-plus countries and found that how developed a country is tied in with the happiness of its citizens because the wealthier nations could afford to spend more on technology and science, thus leading to longer and healthier lives for their people.

Researchers also found that how well we believe we stack up to our friends and neighbors also has a an impact on how happy we are. An individual is much less happy if he or she is the only one in his or her circle to lose a job. That same individual isn’t as unhappy if surrounded by many people who also lost positions, researchers said.

In addition, when asked what makes them happy, researchers found that most of us say having good relationships with family and friends and making a contribution to society were given as answers more often than having money.

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It was my distinct pleasure working for RealStreet, aka KJMK, on separate FEMA disaster recovery assignments and long-term recovery planning assignments between October 2004 and May 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, Francis and Wilma. I found working with these professionals enjoyable as well as self-fulfilling and rewarding. After a 9-year stint as Read More…

Steve Spry, CAPZO, Certified Alabama Planning and Zoning Official

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