Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is $75,000 the Magic Number?

As I was watching Oprah a few weeks ago, she had a man named Dan Buettner on her show discussing how to be happier the "blue zone" way? What the heck is a blue zone? According to Mr. Buettner, blue zones are places in the world where people are exponentially happier and live longer than in other parts of the world - and these places share many commonalities. Residents have high rates of being physically active, of drinking wine (yes please!), eating a primarily veggie-based diet, of belonging to a faith-based group...there are a total of 9 indicators (the "power 9" as he calls them). One point of contention between him and Oprah was on the topic of money. He said research suggested that at a salary of $75,000 per year for a family of four, your happiness plateaus. As you can imagine, Oprah begged to differ.

But I'm wondering if that's really true. Clearly, something to take into account is location. Obviously $75,000 goes a lot further in Cedar Rapids or Cleveland than it does in Seattle or San Francisco. Another thing - happiness is kind of subjective, right? Would you be happy if you didn't own your home? Would you be happy if you couldn't take a vacation? Would you be happy if you didn't have designer clothes? Some things that might be key to your happiness might be more difficult to obtain on $75,000 a year.
Apparently, the $75,000 magic number relates to day-to-day happiness, and that once people make more than that, their day-to-day happiness plateaus. And by people, I mean persons over the age of 15, men and women, and people all over the world. There's also a difference between money and satisfaction (strong correlation) and wealth and positive emotion (more complex). Read more about the story here.

What do you think? Is $75,000 the magic number for universal happiness?


  1. I hate to admit that this is true -- I think as long as you're not "struggling" (aka earing less than some magic # -- maybe it's $75,000 maybe it's $90,000) than each raise will not make you happier. Happiness comes from purpose in life, friends, family, health, and many more things money cannot buy. But if you're struggling than you're unhappy.
    I can safely say I make a lot more than I did in 2007 but I am no happier. I'm very happy now, I was very happy then. But I've always made enough money out of college to not be "struggling"

  2. I live in southern california and so I totally disagree. And of course is 75,000 before or after taxes? I'm guessing after, but still... you'd definitely need more than that to own a home here. and owning a home is high on my happy list :)

    but then again--I consider myself a 9 out of 10 on the happiness scale. so maybe it's true??

  3. Where I live that would actually work for me. Right now our income is cut in half because my husband has gone back to school. Actually when we had 2 teacher's salaries (which together were less than 75K) we were doing fine. We had extra money, we could save, and we didn't feel like we couldn't make it. In fact, when my husband gets out of school and he would make what we were making together I would be happy! It would give me more freedom in whether I work or stay home or whatever. I have always said I am happy having enough money to cover our expenses with extra to save and spend as we please without having to worry. That would make me happy!

  4. This is a really interesting concept- I want to read more about it now! 75K would be tough in a lot of areas, especially if you want to own a home. However, I don't think making a lot of money especially makes you happy. Buying things will not make you happy. It's more about life experiences, relationships/bonds with others, health, feeling relaxed, etc. I do like the part about enjoying a glass of wine--I've got that part down!