A cool $161,000 makes us happy

A new global survey finds that people do need quite a bit of cash to feel content.

By Kim Peterson Dec 4, 2012 6:24PM
Image: Man holding cash - Rubberball, Getty ImagesWhat does it take to make Earthlings happy? An average salary of $161,000 is a good place to start.

A new study by Skandia International asked people in 13 countries about what level of income they would need to feel "really happy." The responses varied by country, but averaged out at about 15 times the global individual income average of $10,700. Yeah, I'd say $161,000 would be enough to put a smile on most faces.

Skandia skipped the U.S. in its survey, so we don't know what level of money brings happiness here. But of the countries surveyed, those hard-working, stoic Germans had the most modest needs, saying that only $85,781 would be necessary. Everyone else zipped up past the $100,000 mark, with France coming in at $114,344 and the United Kingdom at $133,010.

Residents of Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai had the highest totals, with Dubai coming in first with an average of $276,150 for pure happiness.

And money does in fact equate to happiness for most respondents. About 80% said that money would make them happy, the researchers said. That percentage rose to 93% percent in Brazil, while Europeans didn't see as much correlation between money and happiness. In Germany, only 68% of people equated money with happiness.

The survey also asked about debt levels, and -- perhaps not coincidentally -- the countries that required the most money for happiness also had some of the highest average debts. Residents of Dubai said they would need about $19,000 to pay off all their debts, excluding mortgages. Germans only needed about $5,800 to pay their debts -- the lowest of all countries surveyed.

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Dec 5, 2012 5:55PM
Right now, after being out of work for so long, I'd need a heck of a lot more than that per year. At 58 and climbing, retirement age approaching, and a 15 year old highly gifted son looking at MIT, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, CalTech, Worcester Poly Tech, or RPI; there are some HUGE expenses coming up soon. We still have income from the wife's salary, bonus and stock around $185K yearly, and live fairly meagerly with money in the bank. But, college will suck those savings down quickly, without leaving much for retirement. My wife is 11 year my junior, but VP jobs are incredible to find at this age. I would be more than happy to work into my 70's given the opportunity. So, you really need to look at the big picture to ascertain whether that $161K figure is good for YOUR particular needs, or not.
Dec 5, 2012 5:07PM
Happiness is fleeting.  Yes, you win that lottery and you are happy and then you have taxes to pay, long lost relatives show up and more.  There went the happiness.   Yes, you finally make that 250 per year and then you find out you have terminal lung cancer.    You find out your darling sweet wife is doing the mailman.   Money is for paying your bills and to give you opportunities.  That is it.   You want that big boat?   Rent one for 3 days and you had the experience.   The same with the Jetski.   Instead of that private jet, fly first class and let someone else take care of the maintenance.    A mountain cabin that you feel you must go to every weekend to fix the roof, get rid of the packrats, check to make sure nobody robbed anything and you must go to every weekend?  Forget it.  Rent a place for a few days.   Again, money only pays the bills and provides you with a chance for some experiences.   What would you do with a Ferrari?  Top speed is 200 mph and outside one highway in Texas you cannot drive anywhere more than 85 mph.  
Dec 5, 2012 11:36AM
Back in the day my wife and I made slightly less than 100k per year. We managed and were pretty happy. The house we bought (on a VA loan) was 150k for a nice 1650 sqft house in a nice suburban development. Things were fine, but it wasn't our dream house.
6 years later our household income was around 260k /r and we bought a 3500 sqft house in a better area for around 300k. I don't think we were any happier, but we did have more room. We saved, ...didn't live like monks and now 14 years later on an income that has been reduced to less than 200k, things are actually better as we have more time to enjoy things

don't think restricting our income to 161 k would be that painful, though we might have to give less to charity and we might spend more on casual entertainment. I don't think we'd be any less or more happy though 
Dec 5, 2012 9:39AM
$161,000 a year - I could do well.
With $250,000 a year, I would do even better.

They say money can't buy happiness, but it can buy security and peace of mind.
How many middle class people would love to get rid of the debt cloud over their head and be able to pay for everything they need outright rather than on credit? Count me in.

Dec 5, 2012 8:42AM
U get what u pay 4.  He brought the Co. to its knees and gets paid 4 it.  Holy cow!
Dec 5, 2012 1:00AM
The study sites that in Brazil there is a much higher tendency to equate money to happiness. It would also stand to reason that the greater the gap between the rich and poor the higher the crime rates and thus the misconception. When people are placed in a position of destitute, in close proximity to people living in excess, you will find resentment and violence. 
I would be curious to see a study that gave better demographics.  Say for instance, the values of a farmer may not match the values of a malnourished individual in the city. 
If the measure of intelligence is the ability to adapt and evolve, we are demonstrating a very low capacity to grasp the magnitude of our situation. Change the value system to represent what is truly important, wellbeing and responsibility.
Dec 5, 2012 12:46AM

Whoever said money can't buy you happiness just didn't have enough.

I am happier than everyone I know personally and also have way way more money.

Now is that a coincidence?

Dec 5, 2012 12:44AM
Something said in the movie "Tombstone" comes to mind. Wyatt said something along the lines of "I already got the guilty conscience, might as well have the money too". First of all, the saying "money can't buy happiness" is mostly unproven by broke people. If I'm broke and unhappy, I would at least want to test the theory. Worst that can happen is I have more money, yet remain unhappy. One out of two ain't that bad. So to re-phrase Wyatt, "I'm already unhappy, might as well have the money too".
Dec 5, 2012 12:42AM

This must be the average pesion for government workers.


Dec 5, 2012 12:38AM

Let's see; a good fishing pole:   $ 280.00, bait: $ 5.00.

                  a great surfboard:       $ 800-900 (tri fin)

 full set of quality diving gear:     $ 1000.00


So that totals at $ 2185.00. Oh-wait: 60 foot Donzi with extended cabin: $375,000.00 base price.

So............... just goes to show you that people tend to go cheep when they don't have the slightest idea on happiness.

So just start with the fishing pole and work from there !

Dec 5, 2012 12:34AM
I would live a content life with that kind of money. Family and friends could provide the happiness and love needed to fullfill my life. Government leaders along with the corporate world consistantly destroys both with their incompetance, and greed.
Dec 5, 2012 12:25AM
I would be happy with 60k.
I'm doing ok at 40k but 60 would be nice.

Dec 5, 2012 12:22AM

If that is what it took to make me happy ---- I'd be pretty miserable with what I have.

Good health, Good times, Good friends and family.  THAT is what makes me happy.

Dec 5, 2012 12:21AM

We just had a man run for president who has tens of millions in foreign banks. He looks totally insecure and unhappy to me. If we were sane enough to control the population we have the means for a secure and reasonable material life for all. Work weeks could be shorter and education ongoing. We have the means but not the will for a great life. When a man has 100 million and exploits  people for more he is borderline insane.


When the CEO of Disney made 600 million in salary and God knows what in bonuses he had children in Haiti working for 12 cents an hour. This is cold bloodied evil and it will destroy America if the people don't stand against it.

Dec 5, 2012 12:12AM
They all suck big time. Good seafood is expensive plain and simple. It costs money to send a boat 200+ miles out to sea, and its getting harder and harder to find, and most likely contains high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. The worlds population is over 7 billion and the oceans are not getting any bigger. Ive pretty much cut seafood out of my diet completely because of cost and health concerns. I do buy farmed fish and shrimp.
Dec 5, 2012 12:09AM
Didnt do a thing for me. All i need is a women and ship to sail her by.
Dec 4, 2012 11:59PM
BUY AMERICAN and STOP the outsourcing madness.....We all must stand together and put the USA back to work....STOP funding the enemy,,,STOP buying imports.....STOP selling out your country.. WE must STOP the Comi Red Chinese ripping off are wealth creation (manufacturing)   BUY AMERICAN.
Dec 4, 2012 11:58PM
I don't have a problem with the prices, I have a problem with always being told there is a wait for a table, no matter how slow they are. Do they think that makes the food taste better? C'mon, people aren't that stupid. I just turn around and leave. Their food is not good enough to wait in line for.
Dec 4, 2012 11:54PM
If the money is a condition for my happiness, my happiness will be short lived.
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