How Much Money Is Enough to Make You Happy? Most Americans Say $284,000, Others Say $1.2 Million

This story was originally published at BiggerPockets.com

In the ongoing quest for happiness, a recent Empower poll disclosed that around 60% of Americans believe money can indeed buy happiness

However, the dynamics of money’s role vary from person to person. For 67% of respondents, happiness hinges on the ability to pay bills on time, while more than half prioritize living debt-free and enjoying luxury without financial worry. Another 45% see homeownership as integral to their path to happiness.

Current Financial Realities

Even with a median household income of approximately $74,000 annually, Empower’s findings suggest Americans feel the need for an income of around $284,000 per year to achieve happiness. Respondents believed they required $1.2 million in the bank to feel content ($1.7 million for millennials), surpassing the median net worth of U.S. households, currently standing at $192,900, per the Federal Reserve’s 2022 data.

Moreover, these revelations come at a time when economic stress is on the rise in America. With inflation persisting for over a year, 81% of poll participants feel burdened by rising costs, and 66% attribute their diminished sense of financial well-being to elevated interest rates.

The reality is that the financial landscape is evolving, sparking intriguing questions about the intersection of finance and happiness and reigniting the age-old debate about whether monetary wealth is a genuine gateway to contentment.

Or is there another way to change our relationship with money and its connection to our happiness while we are on our wealth-building journey?

Living Happy Now (and in the Future): The Happiness Formula

Changing your money mindset is a crucial first step to transforming your relationship with money and perceived happiness. The Happiness Formula is based on Vishen’s work, a pragmatic approach to identifying and pursuing true happiness. This exercise transcends wishful thinking, grounded in actionable steps designed to align personal aspirations with a fulfilling life. 

Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Name what doesn’t make you happy

Humans are way better at stating what we don’t want than naming what we do want—it’s our brain’s way of protecting us. So why not use this natural instinct to your advantage and create space—mentally or literally?  

On a sheet of paper, jot down all the commitments, people, belongings, and even investments that are weighing on your mind and aspects of your life that bring discomfort. Once you have this list crafted, you don’t actually have to act on anything—yet. By just acknowledging the things in your life that are weighing on you, your brain will start to find ways to help you out—setting the stage for the next crucial step in the pursuit of happiness.

Step 2: Identifying your happiness formula

In this step, grab another piece of paper and answer these questions to craft your unique Happiness Formula based on the experiences, growth, and contribution you want in your life. If you have a partner, spouse, or kids, consider doing this exercise with them after you have taken your initial pass.

  • What do you want to experience? Think of all the experiences—new and old—that you want to bring into your life or that bring joy. Consider all the local, national, and international experiences that you dream of doing. This might range from exploring the vibrant local culture of your community and attending music or cultural events with loved ones to embarking on international adventures that broaden your horizons.
  • How do you want to grow? What makes most people happy isn’t hitting a goal but the change and progress they make along the way to hitting the goal. For this question, reflect on the personal and professional growth you dream of making. Identify the skills, mindset, and knowledge needed to propel yourself forward. Recognize that growth extends beyond the workplace, encompassing personal aspirations that enhance overall life quality.
  • How do you want to give back? When most people consider how they give back, they think they have to donate a sizeable chunk of money or time to a specific cause or charity. However, I challenge you to think of all the ways you can give back—whether through time, money, or yourself.

I’ll also give you a big hint—giving back doesn’t have to be some grandiose gesture. Sure, for most busy people, regularly donating (ideally monthly) to a cause important to you is probably the simplest place to start. However, also think of the impact you can create by sharing your time and expertise with your community—be it writing a blog, attending a meetup, creating a podcast, or if you are a parent, investing more time with your kids. Most importantly, ensure how you contribute aligns with your life vision.

Putting the Happiness Formula Into Action

Now that you have the gist of the Happiness Formula, schedule time on your calendar to regularly check off items, cross off items that no longer align, and add new ones. If you have a partner, spouse, or kids, have each individual complete their own Happiness Formula exercise and come together as a group to see how you can support each other.

Final Thoughts

The Empower poll sheds light on how people think happiness comes with a price, making everyone take a closer look at what really matters to them—thus wrestling with the delicate dance between pursuing financial freedom and living a fulfilling life. 

In the constantly shifting money scene, the Happiness Formula is a down-to-earth approach to steer through personal dreams and cook up some real contentment. In the end, happiness might have a price tag, but figuring out your own special formula could be the secret sauce to unlocking a truly satisfying and happy life.

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Taxes, insurance, interest, fees, bills…how can you acquire wealth, let alone pass it down, when there are major pitfalls at every turn? In Money for Tomorrow, Whitney will help you build an ironclad wealth plan so you can safeguard your hard-earned wealth and pass it on for generations to come.  

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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