How much money buys your happiness?

20 thoughts on “How much money buys your happiness?”

  1. Your description of a $50k salary as “pretty damn low” knocked the wind out of me. I make less than that and have never considered myself anything other than an average earner. I guess it’s all subjective, but… ouch!

    1. Hi Sara,

      I apologize if it came across that way, but what I was saying is while it may SEEM like $50k is damn low, it actually provides people with the resources they need to live a happy and productive life. I was not stating a position that I actually believe $50k is “pretty damn low”.

      Thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. I don’t know what my exact number would be, but I guess I would go with “more than I am making now.” Over the past 2 years, some people might consider what I have done to be “job hopping” but I have more than doubled my salary in doing so.

    I guess the motivation is to earn as much as possible while still never being satisfied. Ultimately, I am still trading my time for money for someone else – while I don’t like it, I might as well maximize the numbers while I still have to do it.

    1. Completely agree. If you’re gonna work, you might as well pull in as much as you possibly can, save lots, then retire early and enjoy the remainder of your life without a job. I’ve done something very similar to you over the past two years – increasing my salary by about 40%. Looks like you’ve beaten me at that game. Well done, sir.

  3. This makes sense.

    My happiness number is probably around $75K. We will earn about $180K this year so that leaves $105K left for savings, investment and taxes. We feel extremely privileged and lucky to be in this position.

    A few years ago we adopted a philosophy to keep our spending in line as a fixed % of gross income. This allows us to increase both the amount we spend to enjoy the lifestyle we live and banking the surplus happiness for a rainy day.


  4. I really like your last point–that we should save whatever amount we can in excess of that threshold number. I think that’s easy to understand and actionable.

    Some of my happiest days were in college, when I had $0 in come. Perhaps $0 is my happiness number!

  5. I think I’ve gained some happiness every raise I’ve gotten, and I think I’ll continue to gain happiness for every raise I receive going forward. That’s because each raise gets me that much closer to my goal of financial independence. But in all honesty I don’t need that much money to be happy. Currently I spend about $3k a month (give or take) and am very happy. A salary itself does not buy me happiness, but the independence it will later give me sure does!

    1. Oh yes, that sweet, sweet day where financial independence is truly reached will be one damn, damn happy day. I tend to agree that with every raise, and every extra cent that I devote into our savings, I get happier and happier. One of these days I’m gonna be so damn happy that I’ll literally pop open and all these little happiness nuggets will some spilling out.

      Don’t eat the happiness nuggets. They are bitter. 😉

  6. We spend probably too much time trying to find our happiness number. I think it is around $45k – of you don’t include daycare, mortgage, and health insurance. We are running an experiment this year where we are tracking all of our expenditures. We aren’t trying to live as frugal as possible, but instead, be mindful about our money and find out where we are comfortable.

    But, honestly, right now – the more money we make, the happier I am because it gets us closer to our goals 🙂

    1. Sounds like a good experiment to run. We have been doing that for just shy of a year now and you will probably be surprised at what you’re spending money on and don’t even know it. Of course, the easiest way to maximize your savings is to reveal your spending. 🙂

      And you’re doing just that. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hello Steve

    “while it may SEEM like $50k is damn low, it actually provides people with the resources they need to live a happy and productive life” Totally agree I would say that money is not the issue to be happy, (and here we start talking philosophy :D) the point is that if you make 50 you will want 100, then 200 then more and more. So do I agree make your own happiness and get enough money to live a decent life.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. I’m not sure what my happiness number is, but your article got my brain moving. We want to make enough money to ultimately retire early, yet the more money we make the less happy we become. Seems like a paradox to me.

    I can think back to the raises I’ve gotten, and when I was making peanuts, each raise was a big “hell yeah” as I increased my spending. Now that I know more about money, each raise is a little different. I immediately start to think about how much additional money I can save, but I constantly debate whether or not the money is worth it.

    You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re at a job you hate or that stresses you out, it makes no sense. My wife and I always wonder what it would be like to just work at Starbucks or be a bartender. Assuming you can still live below your means, that life has to come with a lot less stress and a lot more happiness (depending on the job of course).

    Very interesting article, and I appreciate the links and statistics to reinforce your message. Well done, Steve.

    1. Yeah, I completely agree – especially of those raises are $5k or less, eventually it gets to the point where you just say, “Eh, that’s cool”. It doesn’t rise to the same emotional reaction that you had back when you thought that was extra money to be spent! 🙂

  9. I know that my happiness number is lower than what I currently make, and I already save the excess for future happiness. I would say my current happiness number is maybe around $35k (after taxes).

    BUT – I would still appreciate a 10k raise over that 50-75k threshold that you were talking about just as much as anything over my 35k number I threw out. Simply because I know that anything more I make now gives me more money to stash away so I can reach financial independence sooner and have more of my time.

    I also know that my happiness number is so low because I have minimized my expenses quite a bit already. If I didn’t own my house and have roommates then my happiness number would increase significantly due to higher rent (instead of my mortgage that is mostly covered by my roommates) or if I just lived alone so I paid the whole mortgage by myself.

    1. Owning your own home and having roommates pay the majority of your mortgage is the absolute best way to design your living situation, especially in a relatively high cost of living area like San Francisco. That would certainly make me happy, too.

      It’s true that the more money you make (and more raises you get), you’re getting closer to financial independence – but, that is also because you are responsible with your money. You don’t simply blow it on stuff in the hopes of it bringing you even more happiness than you actually need.

      Save that cash, retire early and enjoy life…jobless and free.

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