Hyperinflation Hits the Price of Being Happy

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Happy Piggy (Getty Images)

There is a lot of debate about whether prices are rising or not. And over whether we have too much inflation or not enough. But there is the price of one thing that surely seems to be hit with hyperinflation recently: The price of being happy.

Last September, a study came out that said the amount of income we needed to make to be happy was 75,000.

People say money doesn’t buy happiness. Except, according to a new study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, it sort of does — up to about $75,000 a year. The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.

OK. That seemed manageable. Not everyone’s there. The national average now is just over $40,000. But nonetheless, $75,000 seems in the ballpark for most college educated adults, and even many who are not. That made me happy. But since then, the price of happiness has been going up and up.

Shortly after that story a number of people wrote that actually you needed to adjust that price for where you live. So if you lived in New York City, say, where I do, you might have to earn considerable more. Well, OK, I could move.

Then came news two weeks ago from Gallup and the New York Times that if you really wanted to be happy in America you had to make at least $120,000 a year (and be an Asian, Jewish man in Hawaii, but that’s another story).

INCOME: Income tracks very neatly with well-being. People earning under $12,000 annually lead the least happy lives, and the more money they make, generally speaking, the better off they are emotionally and physically. This probably makes sense when you consider what goes into the index, things like good health and access to basic needs like food and shelter. You can’t afford to lead “the good life” if you can’t afford much at all.

Now today comes another study, by way of sister Time.com blog Newsfeed, that says once you get rich, you are going to need at least $7.5 million to be happy about it.

Don’t have $7.5 million? Most American millionaires wouldn’t define you as rich.

Of the 1000 respondents in a survey by Fidelity Investments, all with at least $1 million in investable assets, 42% said they do not feel rich. In 2009, when the economy was worse, 46% reported not feeling rich. At least today’s millionaires are more optimistic.

How much income would you need to have to retire with $7.5 million? You need to save and deposit into an investment account about $100,000 a year for 30 years to get to $7.5 million. To save that much you might have to earn about triple that or $300,000 a year before taxes. Of course, by the time you accumulate $7.5 million, don’t worry you won’t be happy. By that time, the price of that will have gone way up.