Money buys happiness
Having money increases chance of you being happy.
But judging by a recent survey, the link between money and happiness is not a simple one.
Asked to gauge their life satisfaction (I call that happiness) by Statistics New Zealand, 69 in 100 people in households with incomes of $100,001 or more rated their satisfaction eight, nine or 10 on a scale of zero to 10.
That’s high considering some folk in rich homes will be in unhappy or violent relationships, some will be frustrated at work, some will feel their existence is essentially pointless and some will support the Auckland Blues.
But then look at those in households at the bottom end of the earnings scale. About 55 per cent of people in households with incomes of $30,000 or below rated their happiness at eight, nine or 10 too.
I would have expected greater happiness at the top, and a greater lack of it at the bottom. For those in households with incomes of $70,001-$100,000, it was 63 per cent. For those in households with income $30,001-$70,000 it was 66 per cent. So what’s going on? I suspect humans learn to live with bad stuff and train themselves to see value in other things when their money lives are not going great.
If that’s so, it provides a shield against lack-of-money misery, though it might explain why there isn’t much of a push-back from low-income folk against the rather wicked characterisations of them that abound in our free-ish market economy.
It may also help explain why more than 40 per cent of the unemployed claimed to have a life satisfaction of eight, nine or 10, which seems mystifyingly high.
A proportion of the lower earners claiming high levels of happiness will be older folk living on NZ super.
Older folk are often happier than the young, despite their increasingly creaky joints.
But lower income folk are much more likely to be unhappy.
In fact 27 per cent of low-income householders rated their happiness at zero to six, compared to just 12 in the top bracket.
That’s not surprising. Money brings status and humans love status. It confirms they are doing better than their average countryman and woman.
It also brings comfort and nicer stuff to put into your mouth.
Lower income also equals worse homes for many and a far greater likelihood to feel the money just isn’t enough to make ends meet.
New Zealand may have lost a great many of the links between the rich and the poor, but leaky buildings has kept one in place: The shared experience of living in damp homes.
Six per cent of low income households have a major problem with damp.
Four per cent of income-rich house-holds do too. But more homeowners scored themselves between eight and 10 on the happiness scale.
What can be learnt from
all this? I see some money rules of life at play here.
Rule one: Higher incomes increase your chance at being among the happy.
Rule two: Owning your home increases your chance of being among the happy.
Rule three: Money on its own does not guarantee happiness. Funnily enough, more people earning personal incomes of $30,001-$70,000 rated themselves perfect 10 happy than people earning more.
What else counts? I’d guess job satisfaction and leisure time, which can be sacrificed when people move up the corporate ladder, or work all hours on their business. Parents, get the foundations of education, emotional maturity and work ethic right for your kids and their chance of happiness increases.
Get them wrong and the chance of their being unhappy increases.
But remember, these things are merely a snapshot of now, a New Zealand with a (half-)decent welfare state, universal super and (modestly) rationed healthcare.
Things change and money in the bank provides some insulation against change for the worse.