Happiness and Money
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” Albert Einstein
I found peace from learning that lots of money doesn’t increase happiness after reading a 2010 Princeton study that found that happiness plateaus at a household 2010 income of $75,000 a year ($97,500 in 2023) on average in America with some states higher like California ($90,000 now $117,000) and some lower according to a follow up study by the Huffington Post.
As of October 18, 2022, approximately 33.6% of U.S. households earn $100,000 or more. With that, around one in three households are bringing in a six-figure income. A household can include more than one earner.
“We work very hard to reach a goal, anticipating the happiness it will bring. Unfortunately, after a brief fix we quickly slide back to our baseline, ordinary way-of-being and start chasing the next thing we believe will almost certainly—and finally—make us happy.” Frank T. McAndre
The last words of Steve Jobs –
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you; will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world’s most expensive bed? The hospital bed. You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you. Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbors.”
Is it possible to get 50% of Americans to that magic $97,500 level and if so, how?
We would probably need to recreate the structure that existed 40 years ago. In the late 70’s and early 80’s incomes started growing more slowly for most workers and inequality surged. After World War II and for the next 30 years, American businesses distributed their profits widely. Business proudly boasted about how much they paid workers and Uncle Sam. Suppliers were getting a fair price for their goods.
Then all of a sudden a game of follow the leader raised its head. Jack Welch and GE began to layoff huge numbers of workers and closed factories. This resulted in less money going to workers and more to investors. If someone owned stock they were happy and protective of such businesses. If someone were a worker, they would take financial hits. This was coupled with businesses trying to pay as little taxes as possible.
One person, Jack Welsh, started this trend and it snowballed its way through corporate America. Welsh transformed GE from a large employer with a loyal employee into a corporation that made much of its money from its finance division and a non-familial business relationship with workers. GE became highly successful for a time but that model under-invested in research and development and grew from the outside in by buying other companies. Not to belabor this but GE wound up breaking up. As was said earlier, the GE model became a model that was copied over and over due to its initial success.
I am saying there were more than 33.6% of Americans that were happier between the late 40’s and early 70’s because they were treated more as family by their employers and were not stepchild’s to investors. All right that’s said because I wanted to say it.
Repeating again, for the last 40 years shareholder primacy has existed. The gap between productivity and wages has grown in this period. Is this about to change? PayPal is now handing out stock to everyday employees. One company, GE, started the trend of shareholder over worker so maybe one company (PayPal) can start the trend of worker over shareholder. Might PayPal or another company step up and stop the race to the bottom with corporate taxes?
If there is to be change that allows more American families to reach that $97,500 then it will happen if American companies can be competitive and profitable while also taking care of their workers like they did between the mid 40’s and mid 70’s.