Does great wealth equal great happiness? Not necessarily, a recent survey finds

A stack of billsThink that being super rich will take away all your worries and fears? Think again. The results of a recent survey overturn the myth that great wealth automatically brings great happiness. Mega-millionaires are, in fact, a fearful and worried bunch, often caused by their own fortunes.

The survey, funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke to 160 households, of which 120 had at least $25 million in assets. The findings: despite great wealth, many seem miserable, says Lyneka Little from ABC News.

What do rich people worry about? Plenty. “They worry about losing it [the money], they worry about how it’s invested, they worry about the effect it’s going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger,” says researcher Robert Kenny. And there’s more – from losing the right to complain about things, and fearing being financially secure, to worrying about their friendships, children and careers, to name just a few.

The Daily Mail reports that eventually the rich decide to give some of their money away to charity. This brings them happiness, and teaches them the responsibility of having wealth.

So giving benefits both the needy and the rich – it’s a win-win situation, and how the rich spend their money affects their happiness. I believe helping those in need and what people spend their money on affects people’s happiness regardless of how wealthy they are.

Rich or poor, worries are part of life. Rich people don’t have to worry about some things that the poor worry about, like being able to afford an education for their children, but the wealthy still have worries and fears, which all lower happiness.

Visit ABC News and The Daily Mail for more details about the survey.

How much money do we need to be happy?

Happiness can be harder to gain if we don’t have enough money for the essentials in life – like adequate food, water and shelter – compared to if we have these things. Yet, paradoxically, as we can see, having more than enough money to cover the basics – and even live the high-life – doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness either, and can actually bring its own set of troubles.

Has research found a link between how much we earn and how happy we are? Apparently so. Studies by Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and colleagues, found happiness increases along with income, but only up to a point. They say that happiness rises up to an annual income of $75,000, but there is no further increase beyond that point. Satisfaction with life, however, continues to rise with income.

Does this mean the less we earn below $75,000 the unhappier we are? It doesn’t have to. We each have a lot of control of our own level of happiness, despite how much we earn.

In my blog post Can money buy happiness? I wrote that happiness is an intangible emotion. It’s a state of mind. It’s the absence of sadness and the presence of positive emotions such as joy, excitement, or inner peace.

Money may or may not lead to happiness; what we buy might cause us stress or anxiety, or make us feel angry or sad… instead. There are happy poor people and unhappy poor people, and there are both happy and unhappy rich people.

Whether we have a little or a lot of money, we can think, speak and behave in more positive and constructive ways to boost our happiness. And there are some things that money just can’t buy, such as good friendships, true love, and inner peace.

Violet and Allen’s story of how they gained happiness by giving away their millions

The following is the true story of Violet and Allen Large. It highlights some problems that wealth can bring, the way people spend their money affects their happiness, and how true love is priceless.

Violet and Allen Large are a retired Canadian couple in their 70s. In July 2010 they won about $11 million in the lottery. Before their windfall they were, “…Pretty well set, not millionaires, but comfortable,” said Allen.

After their win, Violet and Allen decided to give away about 98% of the money to family and good causes, keeping only about 2% for themselves for tough times. Why? Allen described the lottery win as “a big headache,” while his wife was concerned about “crooked people” who might try to exploit them. The couple said they were content with their 147-year-old home and everything else they owned. “We haven’t bought one thing. That’s because there is nothing that we need,” said Allen.

Allen and Violet also said giving away the money made them feel good, “And there’s so much good being done with that money.”

During the lottery win, Violet was recovering from cancer. Cherishing that his wife of 36 years was still alive, Allen said, “That money that we won was nothing – we have each other.” And Violet noted, “Money can’t buy you health or happiness.”

Read more about Violet and Allen’s story on The Daily Mail, CBS News, USA Today and The National.

written by Nyomi Graef

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