AmEx and the :) – a tale of $$ and happiness

Sartre's cigarette (Paris, FR) © Natalia Martinez

This oldie (2008) but goodie article from the Harvard Gazette is pretty much a must-read, especially for those of us trying to climb the professional, political, or social ladders – or proverbial hamster wheels, to be honest – of our generation. The question at hand: can money buy happiness?

I’ll let the article speak for itself and not through my gargled paraphrasing. Some quotes:

Things most of us already knew or had partly figured out: “Studies suggest that more money can lead to a significant bump in positive outlook when it brings people out of poverty, but when simply taking a person up a pay grade, there’s often only a minor change in attitude. And while the purchase of material possessions can offer a temporary lift, the effects of a new watch, care, or dress, studies show, are short-lived.” Dear Online Retail Therapy, my wallet never liked you, but now you’re of no use to me either. The last couple of years have been challenging for us, and now I think it’s time for you to leave.  Yea, for good. Leave all those things we bought together though….

Surprise!! Despite this, there is a kind of spending that has correlated with happiness on various studies. Results from a national survey found that those who reported spending more on others (referred to as pro-social spending) also reported being happier. “How much they spent on themselves had no impact on happiness.”

Another study tracked employees who got bonuses (of varying sizes) at their jobs. It turned out that, “The dollar amount of the bonus had no impact on happiness over time […] people were just as happy whether they received $3,000 or $8,000. All that mattered was the percent spent on other people.

Well there you go! However, if being selfless makes you happier, then isn’t’ that very idea a little selfish? Regardless, it’s a good lesson that we can’t shop our way to happiness and that our joy is predicated on how we treat others, not how we treat ourselves. Interesting that a lot of conflicts, decisions, patterns in life boil down to the Golden Rule in some way or another…


2 responses to “AmEx and the :) – a tale of $$ and happiness

  1. Nat,

    I thought the article, although a couple of years old, is extremely relevant to the current economic downturn the US, and other ally nations, experienced. WSJ published a Bloomberg survey that studied salaries and their respective ‘happiness effect’. The results showed that on average individuals showed a positive correlation between an increase in pay/salary and their overall outlook on life until the cap of $75,000, interesting. I also thought you might enjoy a ‘Best of Youtube’ Podcast I came across, Episode 526, 6/25/2010, titled, “The surprising truth about what motivates us.” Let me know what you think about the clip.

    Much love!
    Davie G.

  2. Pingback: $$ and Happiness, cont. | Musings of a Soul Afloat

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