Wealth Factors in Happiness

Sydney Cheng (Aparicio) – Afternoon Summer, Honorbound.

Can happiness be defined by the amount of money in one’s bank account?  The saying “money buys happiness” is not only a cliché but a common misconception.  It is easy for one to be drawn in by the idea of what money can buy, but studies are showing that there is a more important factor that leads to one’s happiness – relationships. Millennials are prioritizing their relationships, and they are measuring their happiness in their experiences and not solely by wealth.

People have always questioned the best method of determining a nation’s well-being.  We currently use the gross domestic product (GDP) to measure the growth of a nation, but it is “an imperfect measure of how well off we really consider ourselves to be.”1 We do not have an efficient way of measuring genuine happiness.  In Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan argues that a nation’s GDP cannot completely and accurately represent the well-being of its people.  Economics has distorted the view of happiness, saying, “the things we do must make us happy; otherwise we would not do them.”  Because we do what makes us happy, he claims that becoming richer fulfills our happiness because it allows us to buy more of what we want, but studies prove that “richer may not be happier.”2

From 1970 to 1999, statistics show that as incomes rose, the percent of those who identified as “happy people” decreased.3  As economist research and observe people’s happiness, they have found that “‘intimate relations’ is at the top of the list in terms of positive experiences.”4 Good relationships establish the foundation for a happy life.  In CBS’s broadcast on June 18th, Simon Isaacs, a millennial father, says he finds happiness in spending more time at home with his children.  Before this generation of Millennials, most fathers were stereotyped to be the family’s breadwinners while their wives took on household responsibilities and the primary role of tending to the kids.  Today, almost two-thirds of households with children have two working parents. It is even said that fathers are seeking jobs that allow them to have more time outside the office, and therefore, a balance between work and family time.  Fathers are not the only people to benefit from this.  Research has shown that children who receive more “time and attention from their fathers do better in school, on the job, and in their own relationships.”5   “In general, the economic arbiters of taste recommend ‘experiences’ over commodities, pastimes over knick-knacks, doing over having.”6

An oft-cited study has shown that money can only buy happiness to a certain extent.  It proves that after making $75,000 a year, increasing one’s income even further will not increase one’s joy.According to CNN’s “World Happiness Report,” Norway is ranked the happiest country in the world according to its real GDP per capita, freedom from corruption, generosity, freedom to make life choices, and healthy life expectancy.”  The World Happiness Report continues to draw global attention around the need to create sound policy for what matters most to people – their well-being.”  The report “gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations.”8


1 Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), 197.

2 Ibid., 198.

3 Ibid., 198-99.

4 Ibid, 199.

5 CBS News, “Daddy’s Home: Millennial Fathers Amp Up Parenting,” CBS News, June 18, 2017, accessed June 18, 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/daddys-home-millennial-fathers-amp-up-parenting/.

6 Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics, 199.

7 Nicholas Carlson, “Rich People Talk About How Happy Money Makes Them – What They Say Will Both Offend And Reassure You,” Business Insider, December 18, 2013, accessed June 18, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/does-being-rich-make-you-happy-2013-12.

8 Katia Hetter, “Where are the World’s Happiest Countries?,” CNN, March 21, 2017, accessed June 18, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-happiest-countries-united-nations-2017/index.html.



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