“Money buys happiness right up to about $10,000 per capita income, and after that point the correlation disappears.” – Bill McKibben Deep Economy
There is a reason why we think money buys happiness. Turns out that it actually does. Recently I spent a week camping in south Texas, living mostly off of trail mix and power bars. After a week of that stuff, my brother and I stopped at a Mexican restaurant. It was the best Mexican food I had ever had. And it made me very happy.
If you are living in poverty, having a new something-or-other really does bring you joy, real joy. For those who are poor, material possessions do make a difference, they do bring happiness. We cannot just say, categorically, that possessions do not matter. That’s a naive view of those of us in the affluent West.
There is a threshold, however. In Deep Economy, Bill McKibben points out that after your income exceeds about $10,000 a year, more money isn’t going to make much of a difference in terms of making you happy. Most of us know that, but we still get caught in the cycle of thinking that a bigger/nicer house will make us a bit more satisfied. Or that a better entertainment center or new car or new wardrobe, etc. will add significantly to our happiness. Yet if we stop to think about it, to answer direct questions about the kinds of things that make us happy, statistics show that most people talk about non-material things.
$10,000 probably seems low for most of us. It certainly seems low to me. But maybe that’s just because we are so conditioned by advertising to think otherwise.
Money buys happiness, but not for those of us in the West. In fact, for most of us, we have so many things, so much stuff, that it takes a good deal of energy just to keep up with it all. So, one might say that not only does more stuff not make us happy, but at a certain point, I would suggest it actually makes us less happy.