Experts Agree You Can’t Buy Happiness—but It’s Attainable

July 9, 2018


Many Americans believe they’ll be happy once they…earn that promotion; buy a new house; finally finish their graduate degree, etc. The truth is, money cannot buy happiness, however it can be attained with goal-setting and an attitude adjustment. Here are four reasons why.

1. Social comparisons skew happiness levels. Experts concur that it’s challenging to pinpoint exactly what it takes to be happy because it depends on many factors. For example, relative income levels, or how much you earn compared to your peers, matters as much as absolute levels. If you’re constantly comparing your job/kids/home/vehicle to your friends’, attaining happiness becomes an elusive goal. Instead, set your own goals—regardless of your social circles, and stick to them.

2. At a certain threshold, income and happiness are indirectly correlated. According to a recent Fast Company article, researchers concluded that happiness can increase with wealth, but the correlation peaks at earning $75,000 per year. “Increases in happiness tend to diminish as you make more money,” Andrew Tebb, lead author of the paper, stated.

3. Feelings trump finances. Consider the third richest man on earth, Warren Buffet, who is also a Dale Carnegie graduate. Buffet lives in the same house he purchased in 1958. Although his net worth is $78.4 billion, he contended on PBS Newshour that, “I’m already happy. I would be happy with, you know — certainly with $100,000 a year, I could be very happy…And if I could spend $100 million on a house that would make me a lot happier, I would do it. But, for me, that’s the happiest house in the world. And it’s because it’s got memories, and people come back, and all that sort of thing.”

Buffet’s perspective underscores what Dale Carnegie said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” Maintaining a positive attitude and working towards goals enables us to feel happy regardless of how much we earn.

4. Measure of security counts more than salary. Using income as a factor of success is tricky because it’s relative based on our own personal experience. A person earning $50,000 may feel elated because she can afford what she needs and wants, while someone else might balk at that salary. Rachel Sherman, a professor of sociology at the New School and author of Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence stated, “I think what my research shows is people can have exactly the same amount of money and feel totally different about whether it’s enough for what they want to buy and enough to feel secure.”

 True happiness can be attained once we believe we have just enough of what we need, whether at home or work. Dale Carnegie summarized this perfectly when he said, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”

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