Apparently happiness has a price tag: $75,000.
According to a 2010 Princeton study, a person needs to make $75,000 to maximize happiness. Here is the argument. If you make less than that amount you are not happy because life is too hard. Bills that are due become a source of anxiety. You find yourself wishing for a little extra to buy something for your family. When you can’t afford it you become discouraged. As an aside, I wonder what the majority world would say about the “hard life” of Americans. On the other hand, if you make more than this amount, life is too easy. You can buy whatever you want, whenever you want. The result: you do not appreciate the value of saving up for something. In other words, life is taken for granted which impacts happiness. The magic figure is $75,000. It allows you to enjoy relative comfort by having the ability to buy some nice things and you are thankful because you had to work for them.
The natural tendency when you read such a study is to immediately think about your own income. Where is my happiness on this scale? Do I need to make just a little bit more so that I can truly be happy? Or should I go to my boss and say “I want to be happy I need you to give me a pay cut.” I will admit it would be fun to see the reaction.
Ok, I understand the principle. It makes logical sense to me. In fact, there is some biblical support for it. Proverbs 30:8-9 states, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” We are human. If we are struggling it impacts our emotional outlook. Life becomes stressful. If we are too comfortable we feel entitled. I get it.
Yet, I think the answer lies deeper than a monetary figure. I mean I have met a lot of people who make very little and are extremely happy. The same is true for those who have been blessed. Part of the answer lies in trusting the principle. If we don’t believe that $75,000 will make us happy we will keep chasing happiness by purchasing things only to find happiness never arrives. We keep thinking “just a little bit more” then I will be happy. Sadly it never comes because our happiness is dependent on stuff and stuff breaks. Yet, if we believe the principle, we can at least begin to say “I have enough” which moves us towards contentment.
Deeper yet, I think the answer is not in some magical income level (that is pretty superficial) but in our approach to what God has given to us. It is about our priorities in life. Am I making money for status or to provide for my family? Is money functional (e.g. to buy some nice things and take my family on a nice vacation) or is it for my ego (e.g. look at how successful I am). I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he stated in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Yes! Happiness is not found in an income level but in God who never breaks down or rusts. It is found in trusting in God for my daily needs regardless of my income level. It is found in remembering my identity is in Christ rather than stuff.