Does money equal happiness? It does, but only until you earn this much

Don’t envy Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg for their wealth: They may not be much happier than the manager of your nearest In-N-Out Burger.

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That’s the conclusion of a recent study that found $105,000 to be the ideal income for life satisfaction in Northern America. Earnings past that point tended to coincide with a lower levels of happiness and well-being, researchers found.


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The study from Purdue University, published in Nature Human Behavior, draws from the Gallup World Poll of over 1.7 million people that asked individuals to rate their lives from “worst possible” to “best possible” on a scale of 0-10.

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Those ratings were then analyzed alongside reported household incomes to determine an ideal earnings point for every region of the world, what the study calls a “satiation point.”

That point for life satisfaction varies around the world, researchers found, from $35,000 in the Caribbean to $125,000 in New Zealand. Past that, lead author Andrew T. Jebb said, “there’s a certain point where money seems to bring no more benefits to well-being in terms of both feelings and your evaluation.”

In-N-Out managers, then, who the company recently revealed earn about $160,000 per year, make enough to be happy anywhere, the data seems to suggest.

Once enough money is earned to cover basic needs, everyday purchases and loans, people may be driven to increase earnings by comparison to others or a desire for material gains. And that, Jebb said, could prove a tipping point where more money results in a lower well-being.

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“The small decline puts one’s level of well-being closer to individuals who make slightly lower incomes, perhaps due to the costs that come with the highest incomes,” Jebb said.

Those costs include increased workloads and less free time, the study notes, which “might also limit opportunities for positive experiences.”

The income points in the study apply to single-person households, the authors note, but can be determined for families by multiplying the figure by the square root of a household size. (A family of four in Northern America would have a satiation point of $210,000, for example.)

And exact satiation points would vary depending on just where a person resides within a Northern America, the authors said.

The research follows a much-discussed 2010 study from Princeton University that found emotional well-being only rises with income to a point of about $75,000 for Americans (or $86,000 in today’s dollars).

But the Purdue study goes further, its authors said, using more precise income figures from around the world and accounting for household size.

More: In-N-Out managers make $160,000 per year

Contributing: Tim Evans, The Indianapolis Star


This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Does money equal happiness? It does, but only until you earn this much

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