The Exact Salary You Need to Be Happy

Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses 2
Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses 2

The Exact Salary
You Need to Be Happy

Science has figured out the optimal paycheck for life satisfaction

Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman are three very unhappy employees in Horrible Bosses 2.

How much money would you need to be truly happy? And can your personal contentment actually be measured by the size of your paycheck? It turns out, scientists have determined there is, in fact, an optimal salary to make someone happy. Several studies have examined this issue over the last decade, but the most recent and compelling data comes from research conducted out of Purdue University and the University of Virginia.

The goal of the study, which published its findings in Nature Human Behaviour, was to figure out at which salary range adults were best able to happily manage a fulfilling work/life balance. Determining an exact number on the concept wasn't easy, but the researchers combed and crunched data from the Gallup World Poll—a representative survey sample of more than 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries—and the estimates were averaged based on purchasing power and questions relating to life satisfaction and well-being. In the end, the scientists settled on a salary that's likely less than you imagine, but possibly more than you're currently making: $95,000 in the United States.

"That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds," said Andrew T. Jebb, the lead author and doctoral student in Purdue's Department of Psychological Sciences. "It's been debated at what point does money no longer change your level of well-being. We found that the ideal income point is $95,000."

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This is a figure based on a broad satisfaction with one's life. For simpler, day-to-day happiness, the researches observed that $60,000 to $75,000 would likely be sufficient. Still somewhat concerning, given that the median household income in America in late 2018 was $61,372. Which means many people are a long way from hitting their peak happiness salary. But that doesn't mean that a raise or two won't help.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that increases in happiness are relative to your current financial situation. Tebb gives the example of a $20,000 increase. When added to a $35,000 salary, it's usually a life-changing improvement. But it brings much less change and excitement when tacked onto a $150,000 salary.

They also observed life satisfaction actually tends to decline if you start making more than the optimal amount. "After the optimal point of needs being met, people may be driven by desires such as pursuing more material gains and engaging in social comparisons, which could, ironically, lower well-being," says Tebb. "The small decline puts one's level of well-being closer to individuals who make slightly lower incomes, perhaps due to the costs that come with the highest incomes."

The findings prove that money isn't everything when it comes to happiness. Your finances are only a part of what makes a person truly happy, fulfilled and satisfied with their life. Is money an important part? Yes. But does it clearly have its limits? For sure. Which is why a man should take stock of his life every now and then and make sure that he's finding significance in the things he chooses to do, both personally and professionally.

How to Ask for a Raise

Want a bigger salary?
You have to ask.

If you're ready to approach your boss to discuss a boost in salary, here's a proven four-point plan for getting a raise.

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