Happiness Costs $75,000

It’s settled, money can buy happiness, and it tops out at $75,000. That’s the result of a new Princeton study which found that the way people evaluated their lives got steadily better as their annual income increased. A lower income makes things like divorce, bad health and being alone more emotionally painful. However, the way respondents rated the quality of their everyday experiences and feelings did not increase after passing the $75,000 mark.

“Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure,” postulated the study’s authors.

High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being [PNAS]


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  1. MaliBoo Radley says:

    My husband has just switched jobs. He’s going from 73k to 90k. We’re fucking over the moon about it. Casa Radley just had a huge uptick in happiness, fo sho.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      But do you bring down the average household income? It’s 75k per person, not combined income.

    • Brink006 says:

      Sick brag, bro.

      • MaliBoo Radley says:

        Shit, I’m telling everything with ears. Corn knows about this increase.

        • jonroknrol says:

          “Corn knows about this increase.”

          That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day! Good work, Citizen!

        • stormbird says:

          Hee! And congratulations!

        • JixiLou says:

          I totally know how you feel right now. Same thing is happening in my house, a $30k increase is coming down the pipe. Except I can’t shout it from the rooftops and do dances too much, ’cause I have so many unemployed friends.

          We can afford nice toilet paper again! We can afford to go on a vacation!

          So congratulations, I know how excited you are. :-)

          • MaliBoo Radley says:

            For us, this job comes with a move to Malibu. This is the best thing that has ever happened to us. But, as you say, it’s hard to share with everyone. I have buddies that have been out of work for nearly a year. It’s rough.

    • AnthonyC says:

      “Just” is an important point here. Changes in income- at any level- produce an increase or decrease in happiness, but in general the effect is temporary. People tend to return to their same state of long-term happiness or discontent, as they become used to their new circumstances.

      Also, the data is based on a distribution; 75k isn’t a magic number. Maybe for some people it tops out at 50k, maybe others would still get happier at 150k.

      • MaliBoo Radley says:

        I’ll take what I can get. It’s a good feeling and I’m going to enjoy it.

      • Geekybiker says:

        I’m sure its highly variable based on where you live to. 75k in the middle of nowhere southern US means you live like a king. 75k in New York means you’re squeaking by.

        • hansolo247 says:

          Yea, where I am, 75K is double the median HOUSEHOLD income, and over twice the median wage.

          As a single person at that level, it is a ton of dough, especially when I like my job.

  2. CookiePuss says:

    That guy looks pretty happy with just those snazzy Elton John glasses. Or maybe he’s just praying for a job making 75k+. Hard to tell.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      Everyone knows the money prayer requires a headband with dollar bills paperclipped to it.

      Because it takes money to make money.

  3. Coupon says:

    Thank you Princeton, I needed you to point out the obvious for me. I only went to public schools. Oh, that $75k limit is wrong though.

  4. human_shield says:

    I think $75k is around the point where you have the ability to buy the essentials – quality health insurance, a nice house, a car that doesn’t always break down, and a modest savings. So I don’t think it’s that people making above $75k are more happy, just that people making less than that are especially unhappy.

    • Saltpork says:

      Gotta agree with this one.
      At 75k you can have a decent house, good insurance, pay off all your debts, have a useful 401k, newer car, etc.

      Just having the ability to not have to worry about money has to bring some level of happiness.

      I’m just speculating on this as even with a 40k a year job I still struggle sometimes.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        It depends on where you live, also. $40K would be pretty nice here, but if I moved back to the California coast it wouldn’t be that great.

    • stevejust says:

      I have a small-ish two bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. The rent is $2,900 a month, or $34,800 a year. It is pretty nice, but it’s not a mansion or on the beach. It’s not in… say… Malibu.

      On top of that, I owe about $700 a month in student loans, or $8,400 a year.

      I paid for my car with cash, but add another $1200 a month for insurance on the car.

      If I were making $75k a year, I’m guessing take home after federal and state taxes would be in the neighborhood of $55,000 a year net.

      That would leave me with $10,600 to buy food, pay for cable/internet, etc.,. That’s not a lot of discretionary income, and that’s not a lot of happiness.

      People really don’t have any clue what it’s like to live somewhere where living costs a lot.

      • Conformist138 says:

        I would first suggest you stop paying $14,400/year for car insurance.

        I assume this must be a typo. It does, however, show the difference in housing from one area to another, since my second suggestion is to stop paying $2900/mo for a 2-bedroom apartment. In Portland, paying that much for an apartment would get you laughed out of even the fanciest gated communities.

  5. sonneillon says:

    I thought the last study had the number pegged at 60k.

  6. freelunch says:

    so… the survey is for ‘u.s. residents’… rather broad and undefined. I think the place you live, and your family/support situation has a large impact on what salary figure makes you cease to worry about money.

    I know that in Dallas, TX, you don’t have to worry much about money if you are making $75k and single. Though if you are living in NYC, and are supporting a family then your happiness will continue improving well over $75k…
    This is a lame overly generalized study.

    • Brink006 says:

      Actually, it’s completely malleable to the adjustments you’d like to make. Use the national average as a base, and then increase/decrease as per the region you’d like it to represent.

    • aloria says:

      I’m in the NYC area and make > $75k and am still not happy with where I am financially. I have enough to cover expenses and pay down my loans and all, but I don’t think I’ll reach the “happiness” point until I’m around $90k. It’s just really expensive to live here unless you enjoy commuting several hours each day.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Agreed. More money doesn’t solve all of your problems, or make you permanently happy, but it goes a long way to keeping you from stressing as much about how much money you don’t have.

    • SpendorTheCheap says:

      So, I can go with “lame overly generalized study” by some doofus on the internet or actually read the abstract, and see what they’re getting at.

      They have two factors they consider: “emotional well-being” and “life evaluation”. You might have to actually click the link and be able to read to get the distinction.

      Low income is associated with low values for both. High income is associated with high values for both, but the relationship tends to level off for “emotional well being” when people finally hit $75,000.

      This was based on 450,000 responses. Too “lame” and “overly generalized” for you, I guess.

      The gist: emotional well-being (defined as the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience—the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant.) just doesn’t go up once you start making a comfortable living.

  7. shepd says:

    ♫♪ If money can’t buy happiness, I guess I’ll have to rent it… ♪♫

  8. ElleAnn says:

    Our household income is around 75k, and I agree. We can afford car repairs that used to get delayed. Health insurance co-pays and out of pocket prescription costs are no big deal. We can go away for a weekend without worrying about affording the hotel or gas. We can splurge on better food at the grocery store, and we’re saving up for the downpayment on a house. It’s a lot less stressful thank when I was just out of college and making almost nothing. We’re still frugal, but if there’s something we really want (within reason) we can buy it.

    • The Twilight Clone says:

      Since you’re apparently renting, that $75k you make right now may not make you so happy once you own a home. Unless, that is, you enjoy spending gobs of money on annoying things, like our family does.

  9. JollyJumjuck says:

    Lack of money is the root of all evil.

  10. JollyJumjuck says:

    Life is like a sh*t sandwich. The more bread you’ve got, the less sh*t you have to eat.

  11. Arcaeris says:

    Here in San Diego, $75k per household isn’t anything to be happy about. My girlfriend and I make way more than that and we still have student loan debt, can’t afford to own a home (we could probably afford the payments if we had 20% down) and have decent cars. I think you’d have to be at $150k here to even come close to having your needs met: debt free/low debt, some savings, a home, and not-old-ass cars.

  12. denros says:

    Ugh. I’d be happy with half that. Stupid college degree and 5+ years of experience in a down economy…

  13. dreamfish says:

    $75000+ ? I thought that went without saying. After all, aren’t all Americans fantastically rich with yachts and swimming pools? That’s the impression I get from US TV shows.

  14. katarzyna says:

    Makes sense to me. Happiness is mostly determined by your mental health and attitude. If you’re able to stave off things that are actively making you miserable, your own general nature will take over.

  15. RyGuy1152 says:

    LOVE the headline!!

  16. Dragon Tiger says:

    $75,000, per person, in a dual-income household. Otherwise it’s kinda BS.

  17. moralfibers says:

    I make 34k and live in Brooklyn, NY. I have enough money for beer and skateboards, but would be much happier if my job would go away.

  18. lawnmowerdeth says:

    Now the IRS has their benchmark. Just take everything after $75k. “That’s enough for you, citizen, you’re happy enough!”

  19. stormbird says:

    I might disagree with the number (where I live, the cost of living is remarkably low compared to SF/NYC) but I can attest to the general principle. When I was born, my dad was in the Air Force and in graduate school. He had to do dishes at the officer’s club so we could still be below the poverty level. After he got his doctorate and out of the Air Force, his pay improved steadily as did happiness until he hit the point where he needed to work more to pay for the things that compensated the family for him working so much (nicer cars, bigger vacations, very generous Christmases). He makes significantly more than that now and the happiness factor is lower but trending upwards for a different reason. For the first time in twenty-five years, he doesn’t have at least one new car but he has grandkids to play with and my Mom won’t go to Europe again because she can’t stay away from the kids so long.

  20. Willnet says:

    I would be happy with a big yard and small house with a garage in an isolated forested area. With a bunch of rowdy mutts playing in the yard. And a grill. And beer.

    So whatever that costs.

  21. Consumeristing says:

    Making $75K single in LA, I feel like I’m making half that. The rent alone is $1,200, which according to online mortgage calculators is the mortgage for a $300K home. A home price that isn’t available unless you want them killing neighborhoods. Being in LA, of course, I have car payments. That and other car-related expenses takes up $900/mo. On the upside, in 5 years I paid off my car. That is, if I still have a job by then. LA Co has a 13.4% unemployment rate.

    • Noah says:

      Wow, what are you driving that costs you $900/month? For 2 cars, including insurance, gas, and budgeting for repairs, we are paying around $300.

    • hansolo247 says:

      $1200 a month is the P+I on a $250K loan, at best, assuming 4% ($1,193.54 to be exact, on a $250K loan). With taxes and insurance, $200K.

      Really, though, it is not worthwhile to own if you have to go the 30 year route, once you count maintenance, taxes, insurance, and interest (which really is throwing away money whereas renting actually gives you shelter). 15 and below and it becomes a smart decision.

  22. Gulliver says:

    I think the point of the study has merit. Those that say money can’t buy happiness are WRONG. A single mother pulling in 24k per year is not happy abut raising kids, unable to afford their own bedrooms, healthier foods, better clothes, maybe their own car, or a tutor. The guy who makes $1,000,000 a year and goes to $2,000,000 is not going to get any happier, but you take a $50,000 a year person to $75,000 a year and I can promise you a happier.

    I live by the old saying. “If money can’t buy happiness, you aren’t shopping in the right place”

  23. Wolfbird says:

    You know, I’ve only ever heard poor people say that money doesn’t buy happiness.

  24. slimeburg says:

    So…somthing totally subjective and can’t be quantified can be obtained for an amount of income that ranges from a great income in low cost of living places to the bare minimum you need to get by in a high cost of living place… This is pretty dumb. My wife and I do pretty well income wise, and we don’t hate every day – but the happiest guy I know is is also the poorest, he is on disability and other govt assistance – I don’t know – but his “take home” is probably between $1,500 and $2,000 / mo. He has all day to do what he wants, his income is about as secure as it gets and he gets food and housing for almost free from the county and medical care totally free from the state. As far as being disabled is concerned he DID get pretty sick – about 8 years ago – today he is as healthy as I am. True, he will probably never have a BMW and I wouldn’t go for a walk in his neigborhood at night, BUT HE HAS EVERY DAY TO DO EXACTLY AND ONLY WHAT HE WANTS. He spends time with his family, drinks beers, goes to movies and out to eat, and just watches TV or listens to music when his money runs out. I make more than $75k and granted I can do things he can’t afford to do – but only when im not either working or worn out from working…

  25. Qolotlh says:

    So it’s news that if you make enough money to pay all of your bills and not worry over money you will be less stressed and happier? Also the sky is blue and Greenland is icy.

  26. Max5695 says:

    In my college Psychology courses we studied all about wealth and happiness. People are all different. Some might be happy with a certain amount, but other people won’t ever be satisfied. There are some people who spend their entire lives consumed by greed, while other people are happy just where they are.

    In Psychology, we learn that you can be happy anywhere in life. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

    There have been so-called cases of “the curse of the lottery.” This where people win huge amounts of money and their lives are torn apart by it. There is greed and fighting within their families. Or there could be distant relatives who want a part of the money. In some cases the lottery winners eventually went bankrupt due to reckless spending. It is all one big mess.

    Money won’t buy happiness for everyone. It might help out if you are not doing financially well in life, but it won’t fix everything. In the end, there are things that money can’t do.

  27. Jesse in Japan says:

    As a drunken stranger in a bar once told me, “Money doesn’t make you happy, it just eliminates things that make you unhappy.”