A recurring theme in my writing is the notion that money and happiness are inextricably linked, and that the majority of people would benefit considerably by increasing the importance they place on money rather than attempting to find meaning in other, more flowery things (like rock climbing or yoga).
This is directly contrary to the popular notion that money doesn’t lead to happiness, and I’ve received a fair amount of vitriol for it. However:
In the United States, happiness is directly correlated with annual income up until about $70,000 USD.
That seems pretty clear to me.
On the other hand, the median individual income in America is but a hairs breadth above $35,000 USD. Since median means mid-point, this statistic suggests that 50% of Americans make less than $35,000 USD/year.
You can take from this statistic that approximately half of America has a direct, clear route to improving their happiness in the form of making more money.
In fact, I would go even further: statistically, per unit of effort expended, most Americans would probably receive a higher hypothetical return-on-happiness-investment by single mindedly focusing on improving their career, even if it led to the other areas of their life suffering considerably.
That last one is my own opinion, but I suspect it’s true. Making more money is such a low hanging fruit for most people that even minor improvements in income can completely change their self worth.
Since many income earners below $35,000/year will be reading these words, I want to underline the following: whether or not you do it at the detriment of other aspects of your life, it is essential that you improve your economic situation as quickly as possible. In addition to the obvious — better amenities, less financial stress, a nicer, warmer home — there are also myriad things that are less widely recognized but that make an incredible difference to your happiness:
- You’ll have more intelligent children.
- You’ll have better sex.
- You’ll live significantly longer.
- You’ll be more emotionally stable and less prone to outbursts.
- You’ll experience more vacations.
- You’ll be able to afford a larger, nicer home.
- You’ll be able to afford better, healthier food.
- You’ll be able to buy faster, more enjoyable cars.
Naturally, in order to achieve many of these things, one needs to spend a non-insignificant amount of time expending moderate effort. Hard work to many people is antithetical to happiness, so I will likely at some point get complaints like ‘but how can you enjoy anything if you’re working all day?!’
It’s true — you generally do need to work harder to make more money. But for $70,000 USD, nobody is asking you to sell your soul. A year or two of dedicated knowledge specialization is more than enough to achieve starting salaries close to that number.
Your lifespan is probably ninety to one hundred. What’s a single extra percentage point of work if it means you get to enjoy the other ninety nine an order of magnitude more?
In addition, I urge you to try and think about hard work not necessarily as a dectractor of a good life, but as a necessary part of your happiness. One can’t appreciate the true value of pleasure, for example, unless they’ve experienced pain. The same is true of relaxation and your career.