Money makes you Happy? Hint: Sex matters more!

I've been ruminating on this for a long long time. What makes one happy? We're all caught in the rat race, fighting with our peers for the best jobs, comparing who's got what and who's with who...

Last night I met about 30 some friends (plus friends of friends) for a chill out session at the Loof. It's a nice cosy place and it was a gathering for peeps in the financial field. Most of them from banks and other financial institutes.

Each one of them seemed to be living the "life". High flying careers, great paying job whats nots. This got me asking myself a question,"Is that the life?" "Is that what really makes one happy, all the moolah and bling in the world?"

My head screams a resounding YES, but my heart says no. No. NO. It's not only about the kaching.

I woke up this afternoon, rolled around on my bed. The events of last night looping through my mind - the drinks, the people, the party. I walked out of my bedroom, my father reading the morning news paper. '

Then it dawned upon me, yea, I'd like that life and all, but is it really important? Yea, I guess to a certain extent, but waking up knowing your family is safe and sound and at home is probably one of the best feelings in the world...

So being the GEEK that I am, I came down had breakfast and googled "What makes on happy?"

**** You decide****

How much money buys happiness? A wide body of research suggests the number is approximately forty thousand dollars a year. Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University, says once you have enough money to meet basic needs – food, shelter, but not necessarily cable —incremental increases have little effect on your happiness.

Aaron Karo, comedian and author of the forthcoming book, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, responds to the number with, “If you want to draw a line in the sand, happiness is having enough money so you don’t have to move back in with your parents.”

To someone who just spent four years in college living off nine-thousand-dollar loan stipends, an increase to forty thousand means a lot – moving from poverty to middle class. But it’s a one-time rush. After you hit the forty-thousand-dollar-range money never gives you that surge in happiness again.

Twentysomethings who are looking for happiness from their careers will benefit from research about their parents’ choices. Richard Easterlin, professor of economics at University of Southern California says previous generations have proven that our desires adjust to our income. “At all levels of income, the typical response is that one needs 20% more to be happy.” Once you have basic needs met, the axiom is true: more money does not make more happiness.

So then one asks, what does matter? The big factors in determining happiness levels are satisfaction with your job and social relationships. And in case you found yourself slipping back to thoughts of salary, according to Easterlin, “How much pleasure people get from their job is independent of how much it pays.”

Unfortunately, people are not good at picking a job that will make them happy. Gilbert found that people are ill equipped to imagine what their life would be like in a given job, and the advice they get from other people is bad, (typified by some version of “You should do what I did.”)

Gilbert recommends going into a career where people are happy. But don’t ask them if their career makes them happy, because most people will say yes; they have a vested interest in convincing themselves they are happy. Instead, try out a few different professions before you settle on one. For college students, Gilbert envisions this happening with part-time jobs and internships at the cost of “giving up a few keggers and a trip to Florida over spring break.” But even if you wait until you enter the workforce, it makes sense to switch from one entry-level job to another; no seniority and scant experience means you have little to lose. So it’s an ideal time to figure out what will make you happy: Use a series of jobs to observe different professions at close range to see if YOU think they make people happy.

It’s simple, proven advice, but few people take it because they think they are unique and their experience in a career will be different. Get over that. You are not unique, you are basically just like everyone else. Gilbert can, in the course of five minutes, rattle off ten reasons why people think they are unique but they are not. For example: We spend our lives finding differences between people to choose teachers, band mates and spouses, so our perception of peoples’ differences is exaggerated… And then Gilbert gets to grapes: “If you spend seven years studying the differences between grapes, no two will look the same to you, but really a grape is a grape.”

So your first step is to stop thinking you’re a special case. Take Gilbert’s advice and choose a career based on your assessment of other people in that career. You next step is to focus on social relationships, because in terms of happiness, job satisfaction is very important but social relationships are most important.

And by social relations, most researchers mean sex – with one, consistent partner. So consider giving your career aspirations a little less weight than you give your aspirations for sex. For those of you who like a tangible goal, David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College says, “Going from sex once a month to sex once a week creates a big jump in happiness. And then the diminishing returns begin to set in.” He adds, to the joy of all who are underemployed, “It’s true that money impacts which person you marry, but money doesn’t impact the amount of sex you have.”

Maybe all this research simply justifies the twenty something tendency to hold a series of entry-level jobs and put off having children. Says Karo: “All we really want is to get paid and get laid.”


Thanks to Penelope Trunk for this article


Cobalt Paladin said...

You'll get happiness when you are contented with what you have.

1. Doing what you like: Be it job or an entrepreneuring venture.

2. It is not about money but you must have enough to sustain your needs. Don't chase after material gains or else you'll never be contented

3. Find your true love: Find a lifelong partner and have a family (this one varies from individual to individual). If you have someone who is your intellectual equal, whom you can share your secrets, your happiness, your sadness, your everything - you'll be happy. :)

Money is not everything. Basically, when you find meaning in your life, you'll be happy.

Anonymous said...

I totally concur with what Cobalt Paladin said.

When I was in my 20s, money was everything I thought would make me happy, but I woke up in my late 20s.

Herry said...

A recent conversation with an old friend, I told him how hard life is for some of my brother's friends in Jakarta, where you spend what you earn each month.

He said curtly, "It doesn't matter if one doesn't much money, so long he has a family, it's all worth it."

Anonymous said...

haha, I thought I was the only one that thought like this about yesterday's party. But yeah, everyone I know have been telling me to go into the finance line, including my seniors at work. But hehe, guess I'm just worst than stubborn.

Anonymous said...

Money is important as well, make no mistake about that.

It's essential for sustaining a certain level of happiness. After all, if you don't make enough, it does mean that you'll spend a lot more time worrying about being able to pay bills and afford the basic necessities in life.

What matters is not whether we should make more money while we can, but whether money is the basis of your happiness.

If you can make more, good for you.

eStee said...

Cobalt Paladin: :) comments on your comment...

1. Doing what you like: Be it job or an entrepreneuring venture.

-- true, Agree that finding job satisfaction is crucial. If you don't like the work you do, everyday will just be another.

2. It is not about money but you must have enough to sustain your needs. Don't chase after material gains or else you'll never be contented

-- I think a certain amount of money to get me what I want is important. It's not about getting everything; guess there really is a thin line between contentment and complacency. Maybe it's just never to compare with someone/thing you will never be or never have. I think about it as "If I'm an "A" person, I want to be the best "A" person i can be. If I'm a "B" person, then I'll be the best "b" there is to be. "B" person can never be "A" but knowing you're fulfilling your "B" potential to the fullest should make you very proud of yourself... Am I making sense?

3. Find your true love: Find a lifelong partner and have a family (this one varies from individual to individual). If you have someone who is your intellectual equal, whom you can share your secrets, your happiness, your sadness, your everything - you'll be happy. :)

-- Now this is the hardest part of the lost. Lifelong partner, if I don't find one, I'll adopt kids! I loooovveee them!

Money is not everything. Basically, when you find meaning in your life, you'll be happy.

-- Meaning in life huh? That's something I'm learning about everyday :)

eStee said...

sicarii: Go on, I would like to know how the story unfolds..

eStee said...

Herry: I totally agree. I love my family. My parents are like totally the best! Plus we're all healthy and happy. And I couldn't wish for more.

Family really is the most important. Something all the $$$ in the world cannot buy...

eStee said...

CJ: thanks for your comment. Yea, you know what social gatherings are like.. when you boil everything down in a crucible, what matters most comes from deep down within...

Anonymous said...

Just to add to all the above. Though money is not the true reason or motivation, for many people, it is a primary motivator. This is because, for many people, to gain a certain amount of money, a lot of effort is needed. When they get it, after going through whatever they go through, they'll be happy. But after getting it, and it repeatedly gets easier to get, the novelty fades. This actually applies to many other things in life.

But here's the thing about money. In some ways it is addictive. Once a person has it, it is very very hard to let it go.

How many "high fliers" would really trade 95% of their income for something else? Not many...

Unknown said...

We all go through these phases in working life and believe me, I have been thinking about this almost every single day. And this from somebody who is already in his 12th year of working life!

While the love of money is the root of all evil, we also need enough to survive and enjoy a certain level of creature comforts. However, it shouldn't be such that one feels weighted down by loans, debts and mortgages such that one is compelled to work just to pay the bills. One must enjoy what one does at work beyond just the paycheck, otherwise life will be miserable.

On a recent trip to Krabi, Thailand, I noticed how many of the folks there are happy and good humoured most of the time. When they banter among themselves in between serving tourists, they often joke, laugh and have a lighter moment or two. Compare this to Singapore where many workers prefer to bitch and complain about anything and everything under the Sun - co-workers, bosses, customers, the air condition, toilets etc.

I believe that if you put your heart and mind to it and work with a passion, you will succeed regardless of the venture or type of career you choose. Don't ever choose a career just because it pays more because if you hate it, leave and start again, the opportunity costs may actually be higher.

Finally, I totally believe in what you have prescribed as a manifesto for life. Family and friends should come first. At the end of the road, you don't remember how quickly you got promoted or how many condominiums you own. Rather, its the relationships, the kisses and hugs, and the warm smiles you get each morning which drive you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for linking to Brazen Careerist. And what an interesting conversation there is here.. .

I thought I'd add one more thing... While everyone knows that money just buys the basics and it doesn't buy happiness, I find that we keep getting lost in the idea of what the basics are.

For exmaple, if you are an investment banker, it feels like part of the basics is an expensive pair of shoes becuase if you wear really cheap shoes you will not look like you belong and you'll have a hard time at work.

So it's good to get in your head what the basics really are -- since the number feels like it's realtive, but it's not. THat's why the $40,000 is a useful number. It's what you need to feed a family and keep a roof over their head. In any city.

All the other stuff are necessities we create based on what we see people around us doing.


eStee said...

Mark, Walter: Thanks for your insights. Sometimes, really the simplest best things are free, truly. Some things money can never buy and yea, I think what you both say is totally true.

One you look deep down inside and find yourself, you discover happiness! :)

eStee said...

Penelope: Thanks for allowing me to link to your blog! I love it!

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