Happiness is perhaps one of the most studied forms of emotion in history. It’s our holy grail that is so difficult to find and achieve some end up feeling defeated, thinking it is only an illusion.
However, science has also taught us something: money and happiness are linked.
In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a person’s happiness and ultimately self-actualization can never be achieved if the basic needs including food, shelter, and education are not met. These things, to be acquired, need money.
In a more contemporary study, earning an income of $75,000 in the United States is equal to happiness. Simply put, as your income increases, your happiness level goes up a notch.
But how do you make sure you can maximize your income and earn more money?
1. Be wise when it comes to managing your debt.
One of the greatest enemies of any happiness pursuer is debt since it causes an abnormal level of anxiety. Thus, if you have it, make sure you can get out of it as soon as possible or learn to manage it effectively by:
- Paying your debt on time to avoid incurring penalties such as late charges
- Negotiating your debt to take advantage of a lower interest rate and longer payment terms
- Avoiding getting into debt unless you have no other choice
- Avoiding paying your debt with another debt
- Keeping track of all your debts and repayments (small mistakes can actually cause debt catastrophe)
2. Learn how to use your credit cards properly.
Credit cards, in general, are not the bad guys. It’s how you use them that can make these plastics detrimental in your life, decreasing your wealth and income, ultimately preventing you from becoming happier.
You can practice smartness by:
- Choosing a credit card you can afford
- Matching your credit card with your lifestyle
- Not overspending your credit limit
- Paying your overall monthly dues, not just the minimum amount, on time
3. Choose experiences over stuff.
Rather than buying the most advanced gadget you’ll ever find, consider spending more on experiences like traveling or even gourmet dining.
Many researches including the Princeton study have suggested that with money, we can be happy only to a certain extent. For example, once the income has breached the $75,000 threshold, any extra wealth doesn’t increase your happiness level.
There are many possible explanations for this phenomenon. One, it’s believed that as your money grows, your want also increases. Second, people adapt and get used to having more money. The lack of contentment and satisfaction can be exhausting, not to mention depressing.
Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn illustrated this second point further when they wrote Happy Money. Both, who have spent considerable time analyzing several researches on happiness, consider buying experiences as one of the foundations for happiness. The idea is pretty simple: material purchases will become less satisfying over time.
According to Cornell University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich, unlike material things, experiences form part of our selves, and life is the sum total of the experiences we have. Although we can also relate ourselves to things we possess, they will always remain and feel separate than experiences.
However, you don’t have to choose experiences over money. Rather, they can go hand in hand. For example, you can earn rewards while shopping with credit cards. These types of credit cards will allow you to experience gourmet dining, traveling, and shopping for your friends and loved ones. Yet you also become money smart in the process.
It’s wrong to say that money doesn’t make one happy. It does. You probably experience that yourself. But they’re right in saying it isn’t everything. It’s experiences and the relationships you build around them that tend to provide a more long-lasting satisfaction and happiness.