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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Can Money Make You Happy?

0206_happynomics-moneyCan money make you happy? If not, maybe you’re doing something wrong? Happynomics is about the economics of happiness.

Here and Now’s Robin Young sat down with three leaders in the field of Happynomics at Boston Museum of Science event, and they explored the topic.

Below are some of their big ideas on the interesection of money and happiness.

What do you think? Let us know in our comments section.

“The idea that money makes you happy, that each dollar buys you a fixed amount of happiness, that everybody gets the same amount from every dollar is obviously wrong. But the idea that money is unrelated to happiness is also ridiculous. And all you have to do is go stand outside with no coat, no shoes, nowhere to go and hungry and in about five minutes you go ‘wow, money would make me happier’ and you’re right. So money is obviously related to happiness, but it’s relationship is intricate and complex.”

“It’s not so much how big your house is that governs how happy you are, it’s what your house is like in some relevant local economy.” And though Americans are spending more than they used to “the United States as a whole has not grown more happy.”

Norton conducted a study that found giving money away made people happier. When he and his colleagues gave subjects money and compelled them to spend it on someone else, that also made them happier.

“It turns out if you think of your everyday life it’s very hard to be nice and helpful to other people because it’s awkward. But if we make you be nice… people instantly forget it was part of an experiment and they really enjoy the experience.”


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  • http://www.facebook.com/kpallante1 Ken Pallante

    Money allows me to pay bills and to eat food. That makes me happy.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg Johnny Frog

    So…Voluntary $1000 to charity = happiness.  But Involuntary $1000 in taxes on April 15th = misery.

    But as good old Mr. Dicksens wrote:  “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”  In other words…deficits = misery.

    • J__o__h__n

      I’m not thrilled about paying taxes but it doesn’t make me miserable.  If you want to live in a society, you have to pay for it. 

  • Khrysavek

    I think that it’s less the actual act of giving money away that makes you happy, but in having ‘enough’ to give some away is an indication of happiness with your finances. If at the end of the month all my bills are paid and expenses are taken care of, and I have enough left over to do ‘something nice for someone I care about’, that increases my assumed happiness quotent. However, if at the end of the month, I’m out of money and still down $100 on my electric bill (or whatever), then my assumed happiness quotent is taking a beating due to stress over comming up with that $100 before my power is shut off by the company.

    The money/happiness business is more about how unhappy the lack of enough money can make you than how happy the presence of extra money can make you (and how you do or don’t spend it is in no way related to the equation). If someone has enough money and is the type of person to be happy with time with friends/family, and you gave them $100k, the extra time with friends that would allow would make them happier. If someone truly loves their job and is happiest when at work, then giving them $100k extra would have little to no impact on their happiness. They’d still work, at the same job, and still love it. Conversely, if someone’s determined to be unhappy then no amount of money would change that either, they’d just find something else to be unhappy about.

  • http://twitter.com/retirebyforty retirebyforty

    I caught just the last few minutes of this discussion on radio and it’s
    very interesting. I’ll listen to the whole session tonight when I have
    more time. I gave up a big regular paycheck because the job made me very unhappy. Life is much better now, but more money would be nice too. :)

  • guest

    Money makes you happy by giving you the freedom to walk away from an unhappy situation such as a job or a chore.   It alleviates the stress associated with feeling stuck by giving you a choice in the matter.  This financial freedom makes it possible to take risks and explore passions by taking a pay cut.  Or paying someone else to paint your house if you hate doing so.  Buying stuff doesn’t make you happy but peace of mind does.  Spending money wisely is the key.  

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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