Money buys hap­pi­ness

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

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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.

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