Money buys UNhappiness when you are obsessed with it

“There is a correlation between a person’s wealth and decreased ability to savor pleasant experiences”

374 adults in varying ranges of jobs, were split into two groups.

The first group was shown a stack of money and the second group, a blurred money of money.

Then they were tested psychologically to measure “savouring ability”, “happiness” and “desire for wealth”.

The first group, who had seen the money beforehand, scored significantly lower in their ability to savour pleasant experiences.

Just the thought of money had diminished their ability to appreciate and savor pleasant experiences.

A simple reminder of wealth can significantly diminish the pleasant experience.

Via Psychology Today

Beyond a certain salary, money doesn’t buy happiness

I think I read somewhere that if you earn $60,000, that is the maximum threshold for being happy with money.

That’s well above the average salary of an American — which I do believe lies around the $30,000 range, and for Canadians, around $33,000.

It also means that you are able (hypothetically) to cover your basic needs, and then some.

(Granted, if you live in New York City or Los Angeles, that may not be the case because $60,000 will barely cover your cost of living unless you live with 5 roommates + a rat, but this is a generalization.)

Any salary beyond that range, did not result in MORE happiness through money, in fact, they were maxed out of happiness at around the $100,000 range, and any amount earned beyond that, was negligible in terms of being happy.

Why? My reasoning is as follows:

  • to earn that kind of money, you have to work long hours, and deal with a lot more stress
  • that kind of money, brings a lot of social pressures to upgrade your lifestyle to fit in
  • you can buy (almost) whatever you want, so your previous ‘little luxuries’ become boring & normal


My family is a great example of this, myself included (example to follow).

My brother seemed happier making $50,000 a year, struggling with his wife in school, than he is now, earning 6-8 times that,with 2 kids, a big house, 2 cars and a full-time manny.

(He lives in a moderate-to-high cost city, by the way, but nothing on the scale of NYC)

All the previous little pleasures of taking small trips overseas and backpacking it to save money, have been replaced by first-class tickets, staying in 5-star hotels and being bored, cynical tourists.

They used to treat themselves to ONE cup of takeout coffee a day, and now it’s 3 times a day, a small pleasure that has been turned into a daily routine.

She used to go get manicures and pedicures with a spa massage, every 3 months as a treat, and now it’s every week.

And like addicts they want the next level of intensity, and they need a new high.

Now they’re talking about buying a second home (a little “cottage”) up north so they can vacation there in the summer.

They’re not living in the moment right now & their pleasure centers are shot

Money has taken over his life and he is now obsessed.

All he eats, thinks, dreams, sleeps and talks about.. is money — making it, saving it, spending it, investing it and losing it. He doesn’t enjoy the memories it buys, he’s always thinking about the next buck, and the next, and the next…

He seriously looks like this 99% of the time —–> $_$

Case in point:

When my contract was cut short, he greeted me with the saddest, most sympathetic facial expression I had ever seen on him in his life, including when close-to-me family members died! It was as though it was the end of the world.

My reaction must have puzzled him, because I looked at him with slight amusement & alarm said: “It’s…. cool. Really. I’m all right with it, it’s the nature of the business. I was mad, but now I’m over it.

He still continued to offer apologies, as if I had lost a limb or something. It’s just money!!

…and I do know how that feels!

I’m no saint because I’ve been there and done that.

It’s a lot like the living from paycheque to paycheque mentality, but just with different reasons.

People who live paycheque to paycheque, never feel like they have enough, they envy what others have, and they are resentful of what they don’t have.

This attitude holds true, even for those of us who live that way by choice, like when we scrimp and save to clear our debts as fast as possible.

See, when I was in debt, money was all I could think about, and all  my money bought me, was unhappiness.

I would buy myself a treat at Starbucks every month or so, and while it was still a treat, it was soured with the thoughts of: “Gee that could have gone to my debt…. and come to think of it, I earn a good salary. Why CAN’T I treat myself to a Starbucks everyday like Melissa? STUPID DEBT!! ARG!!

It builds up.

All I could think about was exactly the same as above: not feeling like I had enough, envying what my debt-free friends had (savings & pretty things), and feeling resentful of my school debt.

It wasn’t as though I lived like a monk to clear my debt, because I still spent money on entertainment & shopping.. but every time I did, it was tainted with the thoughts of money. It ruled my life.

Since blogging about my journey out of debt, I’ve learned the big difference between talking about money & being obsessed by it.

It may not be obvious on this blog, because all PF’ers tend to be money-crazed to some extent, but while I ADORE talking about money (saving, earning, spending !!), it isn’t the only topic on my brain (any more).

That kind of obsession eats away at you, and it’s why I don’t want anyone who IS in debt, to get into that kind of poisonous head spin.

Have you ever been (or are you now currently) obsessed about money?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.