mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Does money really buy happiness?

A recent study supposedly shows that increased money doesn't buy happiness, although not having enough money does cause unhappiness.

But I take issue with some of the stuff in the article:

They discovered that women who make over $100,000 a year spend 19.6 percent of their time on passive leisure (i.e., fun), compared to women who make less than $20,000, who spend 33.5 percent of their time kicking back or socializing. The findings suggest a "focusing illusion" that leads people to work for more money even when happier pursuits would ultimately do them more good.

But to go from that to saying that people who make more are less happy doesn't mean much. First of all, it assumes that time spent on passive leisure is fun. Just because you aren't doing anything else doesn't mean you are enjoying it. And it's possible - in fact, likely - that at least some of the people who have money enjoy work - either they really like their jobs or they are small-business owners who love their business or what they do. I think people also make a rational decision when they choose jobs - if they like money and working, they go into a career where they work hard and often, while if they like "passive leisure" they work less and relax more.

Personally, I don't mind my job, or doing other things like eBay to make additional money. But more importantly, I feel like I'm wasting time when I'm engaging in "passive leisure" - there are more important things I should be doing with my time, like homework for my MBA classes or finding and listing stuff on eBay or doing stuff around the house. (I feel the same way about sleeping late - I hate myself when I wake up late, because I've wasted time sleeping). So my leisure time is usually spent feeling guilty that I'm not doing something better with my time, or feeling sorry for myself because I'm sitting watching TV instead of doing something cool like going out. So in some ways, I'd rather be working, or at least doing something else.

I'm sure there is a decreasing marginal utility on money - when you get a certain amount, a little more always helps, while if you have a lot, a little more doesn't make much of a difference. Then again, it seems like expenses and spending always increase to as much or more than income. And while someone may not think they are buying a lot of happyness with that additional income, they would probably miss it if it was gone.


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