Happiness Is Earning $60,000 A Year?

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Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman performed a TED Talk this year about how as humans our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. Basically, he says that our memories of experiences differ from what really happened during the experience itself.

But what ended up being the catchy soundbite was in the Q&A session after his talk, where he tells us that while millions of dollars won’t buy you happiness, a job that pays $60,000 a year might help. This is based on a survey of 600,000 Americans:

“Below 60,000 dollars a year, people are unhappy, and they get progressively unhappier the poorer they get. Above that, we get an absolutely flat line. I mean I’ve rarely seen lines so flat.”

“Clearly… money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery,” he said. But the real trick, Kahneman said, is to spend time with people you like.

I found this talk through the GatesVP blog, who offers this analysis:

In most parts of the US you already have access to a very good and healthy life at 60k. You’ve pretty much covered everything commonly deemed as a necessity and you probably have some money left over for “entertainment”. So the jump to 90k really just gives you a little more “entertainment” and maybe some bigger stuff, but that’s it.

And if you’re the type who’s not happy with being in the top 20%, then how much further do you need to go? Top 10%? Top 5%?

Really, 60k for one job is far enough “ahead of the game” to keep happy those that can be kept happy. And that’s probably why this is true.

According to the 2008 US Census, making 60k a year is in the top 20%. I pretty much agree, especially with the idea that humans are creatures of comparison. As long as we’re doing a little bit better than our neighbors, then we tend to be happy. What do you think?

You can view the entire TED Talk below. The Q&A session starts at about 17:15, and a transcript is available on the right sidebar here.

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  1. I make slightly more than 60K. That’s fine for me since I have no kids, but if I was supporting a family of 4 or 5 that might not cut it. Since some people would be happy without a family, and some would not; I think that’s a relevant variable.

    • I have a family of 4. I earn 35k and my wife 30k. We do OK. 2 car payments most of the time. Mortgage and of course kid expenses. We’ve even got one in college. 65k for a family of 4 is doable. Although I think people who make less that are able to get government assistance live better than we do…:-)

      • We make about 45,000 with a full and part time job. We have a family of 4 and receive no government assistance. 60k would be great, but I’m sure there’s a big difference between one income earner and two. My wife stays at home so we don’t have to pay for child care. We have one paid off car and a small mortgage. Hoping 2015 brings more income.

        • My hubby believes that we don’t make enough money. As of late (now that he’s finished with child-support payments from a previous marriage), we have a household income of roughly $55k (that’s after taxes) and no young children at home. I’ve expressed to him that it’s not that we don’t make enough to be pretty much happy…we just need to do better with money management. We splurge a little too often than we should; $$$ that was not originally budgeted for the month. Over all, we’re not paycheck to paycheck but if something major needs repairing (ex: roof) we’d be screwed temporarily .

      • I just to think so too but you know that in order to received government help you have to make 2000 a month for a family of 4 and they will give you 365 for food every month and well health insurance
        seriously I can not live with 2365 a month my bills are about 4500 and I make 65000 a year and I live ok but not like I can buy everything I want. I live in Miami FL my rent itself is around 2000 dollars

  2. As they say, it takes money to make money, and for most there’s a certain level where it’s very difficult to save or make large investments.

  3. We’re around there and I definitely wouldn’t want to make less, maybe a little more so I could save a little faster to make that big down payment on an acreage. Just read a book that said that if you make over 50k per year you are in the top 1% for income in the world. Seems amazing to me to have to be above 99% of all the world when it comes to money to be happy. Sucks to be that other 99% I guess huh?

  4. I also fall into this range, in my mid 20’s and currently single. While I am contempt and am able purchase everything that is “deemed necessary” plus some entertainment, I have always wanted to own a house and I think it is practically impossible given this current salary.

    I did not read the full article, but location has to be play a huge factor as we know that if you lived in say Indiana making 60k a year compared to Boston, New York, etc… you would be able to spend money differently.

  5. So for a couple would that be 120k per year? I wonder. That means if their is a family with only one income, then it would take that much to make them happy.

  6. 60K in the midwest is like… 100K in NYC?

  7. I’m not sure I agree with this article, I know a lot of wealthy people that really are not very happy and know a few that have a hard time making ends meet that are very happy people. I also have found a lot of times the less affluent people are the ones more willing to help others. I personally feel making a healthy salary and keeping debt levels to a minimum makes me feel more secure and in turn creates happiness but basically happiness is a choice one can make whether rich or poor. I agree that once you achieve a certain amount of material items beyond basic needs creates a certain amount of happiness I would bet having life experiences creates more.

    • I agree! I also think that spending too many hours at work depletes family life. I made $58k one year ($2k short can’t make that much of a difference). I worked so much overtime that year that I was miserable and my children barely knew me, so this article is VERY misleading.

      • Absolutely agree on the misleading part. The notion of 60k being the flatline point is based on a totally neglected premise that the 60k is a STEADY VIRTUALLY PERMANENT INCOME. Sure. With no unmanageable amount of debt or dependents, 60k is quite comfortable and covers all needs plus affords some comfort. But if to get that salary you have to work 11 hour days, commute for 3 hours each day, delegate childcare to nannies and babysitters, and are not sure if you’ll be needed past the current major project, I have to strongly disagree that 90k would feel no different. Indeed, it would. Not because Saturday afternoons would be spent at Nordstrom trying the new pairs of boots, but because the extra savings that such salary would provide would work to create an actual safety net in which the person can not fear for their job, be more confident in asking for more favorable terms of work at their current job, and being able to experiment with their career path and starter projects without having to worry where their jext meal will come from.

        So take note, 60k earners and aspiring workers alike: dont let some nobel laureate preach to you that you should be happy with 60k and that beyond that, youd turn into a frivolous shopping mall zombie. Acknowledge the power of extra earnings against the all too probable prospect of losing that job, and the general vulnerability factor of living paycheck to paycheck.

        • @Neda – Also regarding the part about jumping from 60k to 90k: You would receive even more happiness from knowing that your fear for your job, the ability of asking for more favorable terms of work at your office, and being able to experiment with your career path and being able to start projects without having to worry where your next meal will come from, all because you have been in that situation before; and having that feeling that you will never (if all goes well) have to be in that emotional and sometimes physically draining financial hole again, will make you even more happier.

      • I think $50k, if you do not have to work OT to get it is very comfortable. Current;y, I make just over $66k in South Central Florida and after taxes (which is A LOT because I’m single with no kids – $600/ck plus $130 in deductions) I still bring home $1800/bi-weekly. I work M-F,8-5 and can pay all my bills which total up to $1800 with one check. That leaves $1800 to BS with. I really had to set up a savings plan or I’d blow through it. Prior to this, I made $52k and blew that that money ($1400/bi-weekly) but now I take a different approach. I save 30% of my money and use the rest.

        It is scary though because at this salary I’m considered exempt so no OT and I can get fired “at will” by my employer for basically convenience. In any case, I’m happy overall. not because of the money – but because I don’t have to struggle as I have in the past. God is good.

        • Very good point Patrice. I like the breakdown you provided. I’m almost in your category (minus a few bucks) but I’ve got to get my money management skills together.

    • Bill I agree 100%!!! I actually lean more towards having Joy – lol I have been around people who are very wealthy and are miserable. Those who are less affluent do give the most and I assume this by being in the middle you understand the need. The article is misleading true Joy – let me live debt free — Joy joy joy – having material things are comfort but what is it when there is no peace.

  8. I would definitely have to agree that once a person’s basic necessities plus a little entertainment budget are funded, the marginal happiness gained from each additional dollar of income approaches 0 really damn quick.

    Once your personal needs are taken care of, the factor limiting your happiness becomes time, not money. Think that attorney or banker who works 90 hours per week and makes some ungodly amount of money is even remotely happy?

  9. Chris in Boston says

    huh… well my base income level last year was $212,000 and I am miserable.

    I feel like I have golden handcuffs with my current employer. I like my “job” but hate the politics and the overall corporate oppression we deal with day to day at the office.

    There are other incentives to stay, Success plan Bonus, 401K match, stock awards annually, and company shares in its success by providing an annual “discretionary” award to our 401k in the form of company stock equal to a % of base income – Add that all up and the total compensation package is quite large.

    Still… am I satisfied with what I do? No.

    Thankfully I live my life and run my finances at a much lower burn rate, so if I took a lower paying job, I would not be hurting. But I certainly do not agree that money buys happiness whatsoever.

  10. “Once your personal needs are taken care of, the factor limiting your happiness becomes time, not money. Think that attorney or banker who works 90 hours per week and makes some ungodly amount of money is even remotely happy?”

    I know folks in that category who are doing just fine and others that seem miserable. But I don’t think that split is much different for folks earning $60k vs. $100k vs. $1M. Folks earning less than $60k or so do seem to be worried more and fret about their future.

    No money isn’t everything, but it helps.

  11. That is around the income level of myself, and I have to agree with the other comment about location is a key factor. In the overall country you might be in the top 20%, but zoom in to Region, State, county and town and you would have huge variances where 60K provides for you and your families needs, and areas were you could not afford your mortgage, taxes or utilities on 60K/year.

    The article must be pointed towards the ‘American’ family ideal and have both parents workign full-time and both making 60K/year each to pay the mortgage and all other exepenses. Surely if you came to Long Ialand, NY you wouldnt find a single person making 60K/year and living happy. You would find that single person living in a basement apartment rather than a small home of their own.

  12. The research indicates that its household income of $60,000 or more that they are talking about. Closer to 40-50% of American households are above $60,000 household income. Household income is generally higher than personal income on average given theres often more than 1 wage earner or high income households have the luxury of only 1 earner.

  13. Chris: Quit. Really, Find a job that would make you happy and go for it. My neighbor was making $150k at an ad agency but was miserable. She quit it to work at a nonprofit as an arts administrator, making a little more than 50k. While she’s had to make a major adjustment to her new financial situation, she’s become a MUCH happier person.

  14. While I agree with the general premise, I think this type of thinking is dangerous in the wrong hands. I’d think it would be easy for a government official to use this kind of argument to say it’s ok to confiscate income much over $60k and give it to others since they can buy more happiness with it. Unfortunately, when you take away the incentive for productive people, those jobs making more than $60k quickly become worthless and the whole economy collapses.

    Another point, I’ve made $20,000 a year for the past 5 years as a grad student and I already have the basic things I need to be happy and $40,000 in savings not counting retirement (another $20,000). Granted, the past year or so I’ve had the help of my wife (also a $20,000 a year grad student), but it makes me wonder where some people’s money goes if I’m able to save this much. I guess having a very modest house, no kids, and 13 year old cars goes a long way.

  15. Ace @ aceofwealth.com says

    It makes me wonder how correlated it could possibly be once you have “enough” money. As you quoted above, Jon, perhaps it’s only when we don’t have enough to get by that the lack of it makes us unhappy. But above that perhaps there are other driving factors that prevent money from being a primary concern? Very interesting indeed.

  16. rubin pham says

    if i am rich i will be happier. why? because i can persue my true passion, to travel around the world in 800 days.

  17. Chris,

    I respectfully disagree with David.

    I also love what I do and the fringe benefits I receive, yet I can’t stand the bureaucracy. I think David’s suggestion holds true only if you can find that something else that you would enjoy doing. While you try to figure that out, I would suggest adjusting your frame of mind with the job you hold now. For example, what you and I make in a day is what some people in this world make in a month. Your job and my job isn’t something to love. Loving is far too important an emotion to attach to the way we make our way of living. You have to love your friends and family and you have to enjoy your avocations. And aside from IRAs and 401ks, your current wealth can be invested in ways that may benefit you years down the road. In my case, I spent money on acquiring my graduate degrees so that I can teach in my older years. I give money to my relatives-in-need in hopes that when we are all older, they would return the favor and help me out in return. I don’t mean that to sound like I’m buying them or making them indebted to me, it’s just a “golden rule” kind of thing…it’s the right thing to do. And doing the right thing promotes that feeling of well-being.

    Our frame of mind can easily get overly fixated on those frenemies or that intolerant boss at work. Leaving your current job may seem like an escape, but you’re bound to encounter similar people and situations that you cannot stand now. And your way of dealing with those feelings depends on your frame of mind or perspective. There is one gal I cannot stand at work. But I always say to myself that she is a smart person and a valuable asset. True, she should burn in hell for all eternity, but her content expertise is greatly needed. There’s another gal I mentored at work for two years. I recently found out that she makes 14% more than I do. My frame of mind helps me deal with this. One perspective is that she is now indebted to me. She owes me big time for helping her get where she is. I don’t expect dividends from helping her out, I just believe that what goes around comes around – the notion that the beneficial effects one has on the world will return to oneself. Another perspective is not only am I happy for my colleague; I would never want to do what she does for a living. Her role involves far more risk and anguish that I am willing to endure. My take is that those golden handcuffs are just one frame of mind (i.e., if there is a hell, we’re already there).

  18. I can attest that $60K/year in NYC doesn’t make you feel like the top quintile of anything. I make considerably more now, but it was a tough period to work through, even with the reasonable expectation of upward mobility.

    Anybody who thinks we don’t have significant rationing of opportunity and a de facto class system in this country is fooling himself, IMO.

  19. I would also add that, for much of the population, $60K/year happens to be about the level at which you are earning “more,” while still not paying a great deal in taxes. And it is about the level at which you still don’t ever need to think about the words “alternative minimum tax” — something that would add a point or two to almost any misery index.

  20. 60k would definitely make me happier than current salary (actually not a WHOLE lot lower than that) Right now I don’t have much going into savings. If I had a modest increase I’d be able to put away more money into savings, which would make me happier.

  21. To those who disagree with the claim based on your own experience, be aware that Kahneman is an incredibly rigorous researcher, and his claims are based on large datasets and sophisticated measures – he doesn’t discuss hunches. As one of his colleagues is fond of saying, “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data'”. Yes there are people with nothing who are deliriously happy. Yes there are super-wealthy depressives. But Kahneman is saying that after controlling for a huge number of factors (and making a number of assumptions), income does not contribute to overall happiness beyond the $60,000 mark. It’s a heuristic, but it provides some insight into the relationship between income and happiness.

  22. Chris:
    When you are dying, you won’t give two monkey farts about the stock options.

  23. If I were not taxed to death by an ever growing bankrupting socialist and communist government plus the parasites at state and local levels, I could be happy with my less than $60k salary.

    Don’t forget the corrupt monetary system creating inflation every year that lowers everyone’s standard of living.

  24. All of you are really making 60K or more? I just turned 30 and am making 35K and many of my friends, most who are in careers of their choice, (more arts-oriented like designers and media, advertising etc) are not making 60K.

    I think for us, it’s hard to even imagine earning that much right now. And when Dave said he can’t imagine being able to comfortably raise a 4-5 member family on his income of a little over 60K, it really freaks me out.

    • Namelyname says

      I am 28 and work in the insurance adjusting industry.. I made 82K this past year and that’s not counting my bonus. Granted that 82K was earned working 7 days a week 12 to 14 hour days. I just took a job with another company who provides full benefits, 401K matching, and its 60K a year. Granted it’s only going to be 40 hours a week 8 AM to 5 PM. The pay cut kind of freaks me out but at least I can finally make an eye and dentist appointment asap since I have not been to both since I was 16 and still under my parents insurance.

  25. Ted Valentine says

    Yeah, that’s what I thought when I made $50k per year.

    No matter what the number is for any person, the happiness quotient when it comes to money is always “just a little bit more.”

  26. Oh man still too far to go…..

  27. sth_txs – but don’t you know, inflation is GOOD and necessary for a thriving economy?! And don’t you realize that without the federal reserve, our monetary system would become unstable and we would all lose all of our wealth?!?


  28. sth_txs – if you are only making $60K you are NOT being taxed to death.

    “Nearly 22% of those making between $50,000 and $75,000 end up with no federal income tax liability or negative liability as do 9% of households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000.”


    The effective tax rate for a single person making $60K is only 18.64%, without any deductions.

  29. Most people don’t enjoy money beyond a certain point because they don’t really know how to use that money. But yes, I totally agree, that less money brings in misery and some people needlessly romanticize poverty, or having “just sufficient” money.

    ~~ Sarah ~~

  30. I know there’s a lot of good points on either side of the argument but I have to agree that money does help in buying happiness. I know a lot of people are commenting that “I was working making $###K a year and I was miserable”, but seriously, if the money/job is making you unhappy at least you have more financial resources to try and find a full-filling happy life where as someone who is making significantly less can’t change their life into a better life as quickly. In short, it’s easier to get rid of money to make yourself happier then it is to make it.

  31. * Location matters: I bought a house when I was making $45,200/year. Single-family detached on 1.33 acres.

    * I agree withsth_txs: it would be easier to enjoy 60K/year without the income tax, medicare tax and social security tax. (Fair Tax anyone?)

  32. Happiness is not Money!!!

    This article is rubbish. Do not try to relate money and happiness.

    Sorry to be rude..

  33. atish banerjee says

    If you take a 30% tax bracket, then the difference between gross income for a person earning 60k vs. a person earning 90k appears to be 30k ,whereas the difference in actual income is only 9k.
    So assuming that the person earning 90 k has to go through far more years of education and has a job which gives the person more tensions in their life, it is as if the person earning 90 k is taking on lot more tensions (worth 30k) for a return of only 9k hence the incremental happiness flattens out.

  34. I make about 32K a year and support 4 at my home a baby, 12 year old, and my husband. The stuff we have that we enjoy were gifts given to us, the things that were not gifts we are paying for monthly. If I could get my car paid off and my loans, then we would be able to dine out, or even go to a movie. Now, we can’t go to the movies, or any other places that aee fun because all our money is going to bills and food. I agree more money would make me happier. I need to find a job for even 45K a year which would allow for some entertainment, or emergencies. Money is not an equivalent to happiness, but it sure does help.

  35. 60K is a totally subjective number, which unfortunately the presenter fails to mention. I make over $100K … but live in Manhattan, and have a family of 4 – and I’m barely making ends meet!!

  36. Question says

    60000 USD / year before or after Taxes?

  37. One reason that the curve becomes flat after 60K is that, the more you earn, the longer you have to work for it. What’s the point of owning luxury items if you never get to enjoy them? If you’re the CEO of a major corporation, you may have $100 million in the bank, but you work 24/7 and if you’re lucky, you get to take that yacht out for a cruise a few times a year. Even a manager at an engineering firm, making $150K, works 50-60 hours per week. Then there’s the constant stress that these jobs generate.
    The people making 60K are often in 9-5 jobs.
    Basically, the ‘happiness’ derived from the luxury items is negated by the fact that you don’t have the time to enjoy them.

  38. I agree with Robert and Dar; location matters. I know people who have nice large homes in Canada or third world countries, but their jobs are here in the States.


    I make almost $180k, but that doesn’t mean I’m rich. Like Dar, I live in an expensive area and it’s really, really tough to make sure I maintain an emergency savings, regular investments, and something stashed away for my toddler’s college fund. Last year we were burglarized, so now I also have a monthly bill from ADT too.


    I partially have to disagree with Kevin. With regards to your stock options when you are dying, you should have some sort of plan for beneficiaries should something happen to you. If you have no beneficiaries and you have only so long to live, then that’s the time to cash out and either complete that bucket list or give the funds to a charity. Of course, if your plan doesn’t allow for beneficiaries and/or you are dying within a short time span, then yes, Kevin’s quite right.

  39. The TED Talk was 1-dimensional. It never takes location into account, or children. Or if both spouses work or just 1. Too many variables for this to mean anything. Sounds like someone just got a grant and after x number of years of “research”, this is what he found. big whoop.

  40. If someone can earn $80,000 doing their exact same job (no extra pressure, hours, or responsibilities), I daresay they’d be happier.

    It definitely also depends on location, family demographics and so on. $60,000 in Ohio is not the same as $60,000 in NYC.

    If we’re talking $60,000 each person, then a dual income household in NYC at $120,000 might make more sense.

    But if it’s $60,000 for a whole household in NYC… not so much.

  41. About stock options when you’re dying – you’d die more peacefully if you knew you could afford to pay your medical bills and weren’t saddling your family in debt. Or you might live longer because more money buys more and better medical care. It all depends on the context and the point is you don’t know ahead of time what that context will be.

  42. John Baker says

    Is that before or after taxes?

  43. I make a bit more than 60k, have 4 kids and a wife that stays at home (I guess that makes her a “homemaker?”), and we’re great as far as I can tell. Our basic needs are met, we have a little extra for savings and fun, and try to keep our debt minimal (we have house and car debt, but don’t use credit cards). Like he says, we get most of our enjoyment from having friends and family over, which is about every other night as our house is often referred to as the “party house.” No drugs or alcohol, mostly playing games and watching movies. Oh, and the house is a “humble home,” no more than 20k sq feet, just big enough for what we need. 🙂

  44. Yea, I earn just over this but I blow it all on booze and parties. I have a great life but another 100k would be even better.

  45. CapitalG says

    Fascinating topic…

    Back up from the details and grasp the concept:

    It’s not significant whether we’re talking $60 or $80K, New York City or Billings Montana, Family or single, low or high taxes, etc.

    The point is this – at that magic level where you can pay the rent, have a car, maintain health and have a few extras, that’s where misery drops to a base level. You need to reach this level to ward off unhappiness (worry, stress, safety concerns, health concerns, etc.).

    At income levels above this point (whatever the exact figure), there is minimal additional happiness, since the money can only be used for material goods or non-essential services. This does not enhance happiness in a meaningful way (only marginally) – but many people mistakenly believe that it will.

  46. I think there is far too much of generalization! Geographic location, marital status, number of kids and other dependents (parents?), and also social class – if your father was a renown surgeon and you make $60k – that will make you feel completely different compared if you earn the same money when your father is jailed and mother an unemployed alcoholic…

  47. Baughman says

    I’d say the key to happiness is the ability to be satisfied with what we have. I’d say the key to unhappiness is to consistently defer happiness until some future date when we get a better job, car, house, etc.

    I’ve been blessed with the ability to feel satisfied on meager salaries. When my wife and I first got married and she was student teaching, we were pulling in a whopping 13k/year and were easily able to live comfortably (though frugally) and save on that income (just a few years ago, so those are almost real dollars today).

    It’s a sad state of affairs when individuals let marketers tell them what goods will lead them to happiness. It’s a sad state of affairs when our society can’t be satisfied making more than 90% of the world. It’s a sad state of affairs when our society thinks that $200/month TV and cell phone service plans are needs, not wants. It’s a sad sate of affairs when people are financially illiterate and fund their insatiable wants with credit cards charging 30% APR. It’s a sad state of affairs when people can’t fathom making purchases like cars with cash, because who in their right mind would have over $10k in savings to fund such a purchase; and who in their right minds could possibly defer such a purchase until acquiring such “savings.” It reminds me of that SNL savings skit with Steve Martin.

    I’d be interested to see if there are any studies which relate happiness to financial literacy. I’d be there’s a pretty big correlation. I think that financial literacy is a good complement to income (because financial literacy essentially augments income through wise choices), so that a financially literate $30k/year earner is just as happy as a financially illiterate $60k/year earner.

  48. Chris in Boston says

    One point to clarify. The stock in question is REAL stock, not options. I hold the shares in my brokerage account. These are direct equity awards that are given to me annually. Most companies these days do not offer “options” in preference to restricted shares which vest over time.

    Aside from planning my retirement years… Hopefully less than 20 yrs away (I am 44) I do also have a plan for giving. Each year I donate 10-15% of my income to an organization of my choosing. This year, the private grade school I attended will be the recipient of that money as they are suffering through a serious financial crisis.

    I do have plenty of beneficiaries listed in my will, and I do plan on helping my 9 nieces and nephews with college, or later in life with their weddings or first home purchases.

    @Ron, I agree. I actually love what I do for my job. Its exciting, I find it fun. Fortunately I do get to work from home a far amount of the time and I can avoid getting sucked into the corporate environment. It is a state of mind, and I just need to find the balance and method to escape it from time to time.

  49. Another thing I find interesting here is that there doesn’t seem to be an appreciable effect from the increased financial security that would be provided higher incomes. Even if a person only “needs” 60K, I would think that the ability to save a significant percentage of income on top of that would meaningfully increase peace of mind. Perhaps this mentality is not all too common (meaning most people consume up to their incomes), but I think the question might be worth looking at separately.

    Maybe a study could attempt to control for individual savings rates as well, and see if there is a more durable relationship between income and happiness among the group of “savers.”

  50. I think the location and the associated costs is already built-in to the numbers. If you make more than $60k a year then it is likely you live in a higher cost location. $60k just happens to be the middle ground (near the top of incomes in low cost locations and near the bare minimums in high cost locations).

    “Income sixpence, expenditure five-pence, happiness. Income sixpence, expenditure sevenpence, misery.” Few can explain the money-happiness connection better.

  51. Hi guys,

    Try to live in Serbia on $300/month or go to Africa and live on $2/month – come back to America and you will be the happiest man on the world!

    Many people don`t appreciate what they have for granted.

  52. My guess is that, in most parts of the US, $60K is an accurate target amount for average people who lead reasonable lives. It’s the reasonable life part that needs to be defined. $60K doesn’t get the McMansion, luxury SUV, deluxe home entertainment system, and all the rest. As long as there’s no overblown sense of material entitlement, $60K should be fine for most.

  53. Unfortunately Its true… money can buy happiness- eventhough it may be in a material form. So where 60k may provide a comfortable lifestyle for the single man or smaller families; it often leads to wanting more. I agree with you Zsolt- it’s easy to take the things you have for granted.

  54. Money is just part of the complex nature of our emotion…60K is good but you need other things to be happy on it’s fullest sense.
    Happiness is a very complex emotional experience and different individuals have different emotional orientation.

  55. My wife and I together make that after taxes (about 30k each) together and we have a child. We do fine, but some months we have to use credit card as cash gets low. If we both made 60k each a year (instead of combined), there would be no worries and I am sure that would make me happier.

    One downfall to being financially happy to me is; I gain weight and have to struggle to keep it in control…

  56. This whole monetary system and capitalism needs to go. What if the whole world was your home and you could travel and do what you wanted everyday instead of chained to a desk staring out the window of yet another nice day of your life passes you by. This reality will come true someday for us all when we drop this stupid monetary system and change it to a resource based economy. Letting technology work for us not just using it for entertainment purposes. Then one day politics, religion, and mundane jobs will all become irrelevant.

    Oh and that Iphone you bought was made in China and the person who helped build it for you made pennies building it that day then went home to their dormitory where she shares a room with 6 other women and committed suicide.

    • Capitalism gives you what you want and need. Without it we would have complete and total meltdown. A free-market society is indeed the best way for us to operate not only as a country, but as a global business sir. When it comes to us vs. other countries, put the compassion away and look at the political corruption at the expense of human lives. We have civil liberties, a constitution and human freedoms to which we are lucky. Your suicide comment is deplorable in the fact that not just disenfranchised people do it. My father was very successful and took his own life. Compassion is one thing but having the entire world telling you what to eat, wear and how to live and pray is another. Whatever happens in the future neither you or I will get a seat at the table.

  57. This is just an assumption…I come from a very humble family and they never made close to that much and they’ve been most of their life happy.

    So if you ask me yea, who wouldn’t mind 60k per year, but if you don’t need it for the things that you want…it just doesn’t matter. I can live like a king in south america with 20k a year. And I am still happy

  58. having spent most of the past 20 years making less than $20k a year, and in 2009 getting a job that pays me $60k a year, I can affirm that I was miserable, and am now quite happy. Grin.

  59. As the great American philosopher David Lee Roth put it, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.”

  60. If you take a 30% tax bracket, then the difference between gross income for a person earning 60k vs. a person earning 90k appears to be 30k ,whereas the difference in actual income is only 9k.

    That is wrong, and it’s apparent you do not know how the income tax brackets work. I’d also suggest learning the difference between effective and marginal tax rates. Only the income that’s in that bracket hits that tax rate.

    The IRS tax tables are published on the internet and they reveal the effective income tax at each dollar amount. 60K in taxable income equals about 11K in income tax and 90K in taxable income 19K in taxable income. That’s 49K net and 71K net, or 22K more in income. This is assuming single and zero deductions, but the deductions would cause my numbers to favor the higher earner even more.

  61. When I lived in Monterey, CA, I earned about $65k a year. I won’t say I was happy, but I surely did not worry about my money.
    Since breaking my back and being unable to crack $30k since then, I can say my level of happiness has substantially dropped. I have a place to live, food, and can care for my kid just fine, but I can’t do anything else, and that, my friends, is a recipe for unhappiness.

  62. Don’t get hung up on the actual $60,000 figure, it’s all relative… In certain parts of California, $60,000/year won’t get you even a sub-modest house to live in, so if you happen to live in an expensive area you of course have to up the ante a little…

    But even so, lets say the figure is $100,000 due to the housing market in your area… the study still indicates a flat line from there, so the observations are still valid.

  63. I make around 60k a year. Single mother supporting three kids, two in college. Let me tell you, on that salary life sucks. The cost of living (utility and grocery bills)has increased at a greater rate than my salary in the last few years with the result that I can’t afford to pay all my bills most months, haven’t been able to afford a new wardrobe in years which is impacting my image at work, have a second job so that I hardly see the one kid at home still, and I haven’t been on vacation in years. And I have no credit card debt or excessive spending to blame it on. I’m not materialistic, so I don’t require much, but it would be nice to be able to go on vacation once a year or the movies and to be able to pay my bills without biting my nails.

    For me, an ok income would be 80,000. But then I live in the ny suburbs, so maybe that’s the equivalent of 60,000 elsewhere.

  64. What is up with all these anti-tax people? I make about the number in question and I have never considered my tax rate a burden. On top of that I am a single, childless, renter, so I don’t get the massive tax deductions that many do. Overall, if you are making $60,000 then you are probably paying in the neighborhood of about 18% in federal taxes.

    If you want to argue that is too much, then you are not realistically considering the cost of government. If you want to keep Social Security, Medicare, and the current Defense budget (the three most expensive programs), then taxes will have to be paid. Obviously, considering what these people want to spend, they aren’t taxed enough. We’re looking at about $15 trillion in debt, all because these people want the government to provide the goods, but they don’t want to pay for them.

    And saying that we should just cut spending… well, where? Try to cut Social Security or Medicare and these same people claim you’re trying to kill grandma. Try to cut defense and these people say you’re with the terrorists. Try to raise taxes and these people say you’re taking away our freedom (they say that about everything, unless it’s about civil rights). So we can’t cut spending, and we can’t raise taxes, but its always these same people have the chutzpa to gripe about the deficit.

  65. Robinson Street says

    A lot of you are missing the last comment: “Really, 60k for one job is far enough “ahead of the game” to keep happy those that can be kept happy. And that’s probably why this is true.”

    In other words, if you aren’t happy at $60k, then maybe you need to examine why you’re not happy. It’s less likely to be about the paycheck. Maybe you should explore a career change, or lose some personal baggage (ex. stop complaining about wanting to lose weight and act upon it).

    I’m in my mid-20s, I make very near the $60k mark now, and I’ve never really found money’s presence or absence to make me happier. There is a momentary boost whenever I have received a raise, and I can assure you I’ve always wanted to make more. However, the reason I want to make more money was for other reasons. I view money as being tied to success and responsibility in my career. It’s not about Money.

    When you have less money, you learn how to find less expensive (or even free) entertainment. I would much rather be surrounded by people I love than more money.

  66. From reading through the comments it would appear that NONE of you actually listened to the whole talk, which was by the way, fascinating.

    The essence of this talk is that the ‘experiencing self’ and the ‘remembering self’ have completely different viewpoints of happiness. The experiencing self is the aspect of our life that observes the individual moments of our lives. Meanwhile the remembering self is the entity that keeps track of our memories and the happiness we feel over time. Without understanding this concept you all are missing the point big time.

    Now Kahneman says that for the experiencing self when people make more than $60K per year their happiness reported by the experiencing self is absolutely flat. Meanwhile people earning less than $60K per year report more and more unhappiness as their income is lower- again this is for the experiencing self.

    In the case of the remembering self, Kahneman says that the more money that people make the greater the memory of happiness.

    I think this makes a lot of sense and should clear up this discussion.


  67. I would only be happy earning less money if my kids could still go to the colleges that suit their skills and talents, and if I had enough to take care of myself at some basic decent level when I get old. If my children’s educational opportunities suffered because of my lack of money, I would be sad.

  68. Ann Salva says

    When you get older, you’re happy if your children are happy.

    So when you’re younger, care about your children. It will come back to you.

  69. When my husband and I got married and had our first child, he was in grad school and I was working at an entry level job. Our combined income was about $30K (although I did have decent benefits). We lived in a rental that was mostly furnished with stuff we’d picked up off the curb, had one small car, didn’t take fancy vacations, and didn’t have a lot of possessions. We were very happy, though. We had enough money to pay the bills and splurge a bit on entertainment, not to mention good friends, a beautiful child, and each other.

    These days, we pull down about four times as much money. But we’re not four times as happy. So I agree with the premise that after a certain point, having more money doesn’t make you proportionally happier. (Although it does make it easier to console yourself with material possessions.)

    Also, I’ve known a lot of wealthy people who were just plain miserable. Their money certainly didn’t make them happy.


  71. Joshua Grass says

    If you adjust this for location I think it’s totally accurate. But it’s pretty ridiculous to compare the same “base happiness income” for a place like Kansas and New york City. The quality of housing is so vastly different, and I think that is a huge factor.

  72. $60,000 would be great. I have a job offer for just that, and I sure hope it comes through. It would be more than double what I made in the Army, and it’s $15,000 more than both my parents ever made together. For me, $60,000 represents a big step upwards. I’ll try to remember that happiness caps out past that point for future reference. 🙂

  73. DAKA SHAH says


  74. One Income Family says

    I think $60,000 used to be a good salary. My salary is $65,000 annually, plus bonus and I was able to support my entire family comfortably on my salary alone but all that has changed. I live in Michigan and the economy here is so bad that I haven’t seen a raise for the last 8 years. In fact, my salary has decreased since I now have to pay $300 every month towards my health insurance. The cost of utilities and food is skyrocketing and it’s becoming harder and harder for us to make ends meet. We never overextended ourselves and we live in a modest home and have zero debt other than our mortgage. Again, $60,000 used to bring us happiness. Now I think it would be more like $80,000.

  75. Just accepted an offer letter for 60k base salary for sales. I cant imagine supporting a family on it, however, from Manhattan to Juno human beings make less and support more, this entire conversation is subjective to life style. My ex roommate now hates me because I don’t really like Pabst and hotdog night anymore. I really Newcastle and chicken wings, What can I say? Point being its all how you live regardless of salary of location. I was raised on 3 good meals, 2 good beatings and not a lot of money allocated for niceties each day and my parents make close to 200k combined. This country is suffering a culture crisis. For the first time the demand for the newest and latest is actually hurting the economy because people still haven’t paid for the last model. This drive is typically helpful as it drives technology but like post cold war russia the cost of space travel left a lot of folks hungry.

  76. $60,000 a year is the American ‘optimal point’, which contains quite a large amount of invalid happiness. The real ‘optimal point’ is much lower than that, as much as 100 times lower, based on our instincts or 10,000-years-ago norm. (See “Is Your Happiness Valid?” Kindle/paperback book at Amazon.com)

  77. Greg Cynaumon says

    Life has become more complex to many resulting to more complicated effects which is also affecting the supposed to be simple quest for happiness. Thanks for this post. 🙂

    This is indeed a valuable reminder for us human to understand the real essence of life – to live happily and with love and respect to our fellows.

  78. joy paterson says

    I think it depends on what kind of lifestyle you want to live, if you have kids to support, a spouse to support etc. Its not so cut and dry I dont think.

  79. At 60,000 with a family of 3 or more is a bad life in todays world. In Atlanta if you want safe living with a commute less than 2 hours a day you must spend 180+ or more on a house, + debt, + college funds, …. and you will not have anything to save and will be forced to finance everything and work your self into a grave.

  80. To what Steve said (August 11th, 2010 at 10:37 am):

    If you can refuse all invalid happiness and pursue only valid happiness, you will certainly feel very rich.

  81. The key to happiness is also related to how much goes out as well as how much comes in. Having all your debts paid off and making $60K is a lot different from making $60K with house payments, credit card debt, and student loans. I can attest to that fact now that I don’t own anyone a cent–never been happier!

  82. Hi Bruce, (August 16th, 2010 at 5:43 pm )

    You are right.
    However, we can not be happy long if we only have $60k/year without doing something A-STEP-BETTER for keeping our DNA alive.

  83. As family is the most important SYMBIOTIC group (an big origin of happiness), I could not entirely agree what Dave said (May 26th, 2010 at 4:02 am) “some people would be happy without a family”.

  84. Matt Vorwald says

    atish banerjee Says:
    May 27th, 2010 at 10:32 am
    If you take a 30% tax bracket, then the difference between gross income for a person earning 60k vs. a person earning 90k appears to be 30k ,whereas the difference in actual income is only 9k.

    Dear Artish:

    Before you make claims about math, learn how to perform its most basic functions. The take-home income difference between 60k and 90k assuming a 30% marginal tax rate for both levels is $21,000. It’s uneducated folks like you who scare thousands of other uneducated people into a frenzy.

  85. Sorry, Matt Vorwald, but it looks like you know just as much about taxes as Atish Banerjee! Do your HW, you can become educated and hit the 60k happiness mark too!

    Based on 2010 Tax Brackets:

    60k Salary
    Taxes: $11,181
    Take-home: $48,819

    90k Salary
    Taxes: $18,909
    Take-home: $71,091

    Tax difference: $7,728
    Take-home difference: $22,272

    • Matt Vorwald says

      Don: you clearly lack reading comprehension skills. All of them.

      “Assuming 30% marginal tax bracket for both.” This is the key phase, introduced by Artish. At no point was the conversation based on the 2010 tax brackets. Even if it were, and the assumption of 30% marginal tax wasn’t clearly specified (it was) then your math STILL proves Artish to be a complete math fool. The take home difference is nearly 1.5 times greater than he claimed.

  86. I hate all the rich and well-to-do people commenting that complain and whine about a good life.

  87. greeneyed.kaye says

    A lot of these comments are about the additional material possessions that people can buy with a higher salary. But nobody has mentioned the experiences that money can buy: travel, private schools, lessons or classes.

    It’s not all about having more stuff. Money can give you a great lifestyle- and I think that can increase happiness.

  88. Is money happiness? it seems like that is the question floating in the comments above.

    Hi- I am Junior I am 19 will turn 20 January 2011. I am also an immigrant from Haiti. I have been living here for 7 years now, and since living here, I have noticed that the American money ($) is something to die for. Where I am from, money is happiness to us- why? because more than half of our population are dry broke- Other countries come and uses our labor and trow cheap money at us. We, we think its a lot until we convert the money into Haitian Gourdes, than reality bites. I currently graduate from high school, due to low grades and financial issue, I was reluctant of even bother looking at colleges.(Money would have def help me here.) But I am in the process of writing people for grants. Unlike other 19/20 years old, I think I have a different approach to life, ya I wish I could live the lives of some of those rich Americans but unfortunately its not that easy. I always want to go to college and pursuit a degree in Computer- other than the fact that I am good with PCS, money is the other reason why I have choose this field- if you guys are following me, y’all see the connection there. So I have done things that are detrimental to my life(no criminal background), but I am human, and (I am not using that as an excuse). So even in my situation, I still don’t think money is happiness, BUT it is something that is equally side by sides with health and family, and these are to me the three majors HAPPINESS factor out there. Money will guide you to happiness, but you in your own term need to decide what happiness is to you.


  89. Interesting comments. I wonder what the ave. age is of most of the people commenting just out of curiousity. I grew up in a poor familiy from Boston. I got a scholarship to go to college and then went to med school. I have spent the last 20 building a medical cosmetic company. Long story short, I now earn around 2.4 million a year and have been making 1 mil+ for the last 7 years now. One thing I will say about money and work is that if you want to earn more money in your life then set goals and work as hard as you can to achieve them. ONE catch though, more money is nice to have to use for enhancing family life (traveling the world, living comfort, help around the house, toys-cars,boats). IMO the best attribute to more money is the ability to do a variety of unique things with people close to you. BUT, the catch is, for me and many others most likely, is that I have had to work very hard for many years to get to where I am. Working long hours makes people less happy; family is what makes people happy. So In my case more work towards career goals translated into more work to maintain a happy family life. I hope that is somewhat understandable. To put it another way, someone works hard building a business, and in turn that person will need to work even harder to maintain a happy life on the journey…i.e. spending time with family, kids sporting events, birthdays…. I can say that it did take the extra effort making sure I was always there for my family, but honestly if I had lost my family along the way it would have NOT been worth it. Now I am starting to really scale back work and really devote the rest of my life to quality times with my family. If you want achieve high income and have a happy family life, you MUST do something you enjoy, but other than that it is possible. Be creative though, build a business or something, busting your ass to make 150K from 75K is not worth it; take a shot at something great that your have a passion for…money will be a by product.

  90. 60K is more than enough for most people as long as they know how to budget properly. If you don’t know how to budget, millions of dollars can be gone before you know it, as it happened to many lotto winners. It’s true, having less money will make people miserable because they can’t afford important and necessary things for survival. But having too much money also make people miserable because they realize there are many things they still can’t buy. You will never have enough money to buy all the things that you want.

  91. In NYC, 60k is not enough. I’m 23, going on to 24 and I’m actually in Queens, but work in the NYC. No way is 60k salary enough because that’s relatively what I’m reaching now with all the side jobs, etc. When it boils down, you’re looking at approximately $39k after-tax, if not even less than that. Perhaps, if you rent for $1500/mo, that’s already $18k aftertax from the $39k, that’s $21k left. You figure you would be spending at least $600/mo for food expenses, loans, bills, etc. so that knocks your $21k to $13,800. Your looking at $1000-4000 for travel expenses, your down to $12,300.00 – Now how much is that allocated to investing? How much is allocated to gifts for holidays? How much is that allocated to saving? At that rate, that will be a long time before I will have enough money to put on a down payment on some property. Saving $10k a year… that means possibly 7 years just for a down-payment.

  92. The Reality is says

    I’m 50 and I’ve made 60k for a few years now, not constant due to illnesses. What I see is disheartening, Although I’m single and no children My take home pay is only about $1400. every 2 weeks. I have 2 siblings – one is raising 2 children on her own the other has a child but pays child support, both siblings make 20 to 30 less than I do and I can only pray that they get through each month. I find it difficult to understand with making over the 60 mark and ending up with a little over 1400 bi-weekly and on top of that I must pay my local taxes that are not taken out by my employer. and that averages about 100 a month. I hold my breath when my bills come in. My mtg is under 500 but the house is not fit for more than 2 people-bad judgment when buying-but I figured better then paying rent and paying someones mtg, If I purchased a more livable home YES it would have added some happiness “knowing I would have room if a family member needed a place to live. Point being 60k is not that much and I feel for my siblings doing the best they can and have concern for them that effects my happiness also-. The Govt needs to stop with this triple taxation and start thinking where their salaries are going to come from when there are no jobs that pay enough to tax the people. Fuel and basic necessity items need to come down / it always amazes me to see stores selling items at 70-80% off and still knowing they are making a profit. The Us needs insurance reform as well as watchdogs for price gouging in many areas, I understand its a free economy but big corporations are not going to have consumers being able to buy products that are so over priced. vehicles have almost tripled in 19 years -But wages have not… milk alone over $4 a gal. I see why people buy cheap alcohol to numb the shock of whats become of our Great Country. 60 would be enough if basic needs and taxes where not tripled.

  93. So I make just under 60K. Now divorced, stayed in the house. Due to the economy can’t sell it at this moment, however, before the big D we were closer to 90K. I can still a) pay the mortgage b) pay bills and c) find time to get some entertainment worked in. Have very little debt (maybe $75 a month if I pay minimums, which I don’t), no car payment (PIF car that I take very good are of). I live pretty damn well, can afford to go shopping here and there (not Saks, but A&F sales, yes), and i even splurge for a starbucks coffee here and there. It’s all about looking for the deal when shopping. Groceries at target, shopping TJMax or Marshalls. I don’t go out to the bar/club scene anymore or do weekend binges with the lads. That saves a ton of wasted $$$. Sure the ex is still doing it, so that’s probably why I live what I consider a happier life now with less money!!!

  94. The D man says

    I make a little over 60k a yr but I live alone. Does that mean I should be uncomfortable. I seem to have no problem surviving here in California. I could pay bills with no problem. I could eat out every day if I wanted to. So why is this article stating that if I make less than 60k a yr, then I’m most likely unhappy?

  95. The Breaking News says

    Most people do not have the money to a certain point, they do not know how to spend the money. But yes, I agree that less money will bring some of the unnecessary misery and idealize poverty, or who have money “just enough”.

  96. SaraJaff192 says

    in my opinion key to success lies in this phrase “if there is a will there is a way”

    First strong your will then all will be your, i am also trying to follow this rule for my work.

  97. I know many of you guys are lying about how much you make because you guys are making no sense at all. I will soon be making 60,000 dollars a year and if you divide that up its $5,000 a month for your expenses. If you have good credit you can definitely buy a house. I dont believe most of you guys make near that amount because many of you guys say you make that much but say you cant get a house with that. How can you be wise enough to make that much and be dumb enough not to know how money works? 60,000 a year is good enough to have a mortgage, car, pay your bills and still have money to party.. Its called payments, learn how to build your credit stick with your job and you can live off that with happiness and a small family.. I doubt any of you guys are even close to making that much but if some of you guys are then please do the math. good day

  98. Yes, to an extent money brings about happiness. When one is struggling financially and worrying about day-to-day necessities how can he/she even begin thinking happy thoughts? The big killer today is inflation–in the housing market, for food, vehicles, prices are constantly rising yet incomes are barely changing for the better. If anything, some positions that used to yield more reasonable salaries are now paying hardly a livable wage because employers bank on the desperation of the unemployed to fill positions. All in all, it’s a sick sad world, and we cannot depend on monies not even backed by tangible goods to bring about true happiness.

  99. $60,000k pa? Are you kidding me? Even with $25,000k pa if are doing what you like and have free time to pursue your interest, it will bring you sufficient happiness. For starters, you could make $12.00 an hour as a security guard watching a construction site or a vacant building and you can pursue your other interest with plenty of downtime, if not 90 percent of your work time being downtime able to pursue your own studies like doing homework, building websites, playing videogames, or just practicing meditation.

  100. To John: My husband and I don’t have any children yet, and even at 5-7k a month we’ve had to hold off on a few things here and there. I am not complaining. Our home is almost paid off, mortgage & insurance is $650 a month, yet we still have other bills and obligations. It’s not as simple as you think. Our home really is beautiful too. We purchased it 20 years ago and put down 35%. Most people are astonished to hear this. One car is paid off, the other will be paid off this year.

    Homes cost money to maintain. We had to put on a new roof $16k, new air conditioner 3.3k, and we need both our bathrooms & kitchen remodeled as well in addition to new rugs (2-3k). One estimate for our master bathroom was between 7-10k and the other was 2.5k. We can’t even take a shower in our master bathroom until we come up with 10k. People have no idea how much money it costs to maintain a home. It costs about 2k to paint the house, which our family gave us as a gift a few years ago. Insurance for our home is about 2.5 – 3k a year due to our tropical location. It all adds up.

    We have no kids. Think about it. We need more than 5k a month to get our home fixed up. Seriously! And we have no kids. Even though our mortgage and property taxes are very inexpensive, in addition to living in a lovely neighborhood, it still costs money to keep it maintained. This year will be the first year we went on a vacation that we actually paid for since 2005. We did get a good family and friends’ discount, however it still cost us about 1.8k for this 4 day vacation. I think two people need much more than 5k a month to be comfortable. And for families, that amount would have to be higher. I don’t believe in taking out a second mortgage for home repairs so maybe you could factor in that as the reason why I feel the way I do. I feel it’s important to save for retirement first. Using one bathroom until the other gets repaired seems more economical than taking out another mortgage. I just can’t see doing it.

    I personally feel you need much more than 5k a month to live comfortably. I really do. Try sharing one bathroom with your husband, your cat and any house guests that drop by for a few months. It’s a little too close for comfort.

  101. I have never nor do I now make $60k/year, even during my last year of active duty – and I had EVERYTHING I needed. I’m trying to figure out how the figure got dialed in on this exact amount. People need to be happy with what they have. You don’t need a new auto every 3 years (or months for some). You don’t need the latest gadget. You don’t need the largest house on the block. You don’t need the latest fashions. You don’t need ANYTHING but the basic necessities. There are people out there that don’t have that, yet Americans (not any other country’s populace per se) feel these things are important. Well, feelgood economics and religion and everything else is a bunch of malarky. Now, if you were suggesting that all occupations be capped at 60k/year including Government, then sure. Maybe that will drive inflation down and put more money where it should be and maybe even create more jobs that have been lost due to lean green corporate hogwash. To quote a movie, “Money money money money… who do you trust?”. People are in for a world of hurt because of their own doing and feelgood mentality.

  102. Money buys happiness, Naw
    I agree with this article. I know of people who are attorneys and they make a bunchload of dow, but they have a special needs child. Are they happy. No way

  103. I make around $60,000 a year. No debt. I can’t afford to get a decent apartment in this city ( San Francisco) and am now living like a college kid in a dorm style house with no privacy. I am happy most of the time but frustrated that I am now making what I consider “good” money but cannot get a decent place to live.
    Looks like I will be moving out of the city and spending my money elsewhere. Sad as I do love SF and supporting the local eateries and shops.

  104. All I have to say is I would trade my worries of how I will pay all of my bills for paying all of my bills without worry. Without the perk of being any happier

  105. I feel like this research is geared toward SINGLES with no children. I’m only 21 years old, but I know that RENTING a 2 or 3 bedroom older house in the SF Bay area where I currently live with family can run anywhere from $1,800/mo-$3,000/mo. When I say older house, I mean built before 1960, with poor insulation and central heating. With 60k annually, you’ve got to be willing to live closer to other people, be willing to downsize, and be willing to have a tighter grip on your wallet. It doesn’t help that eating healthier tends to be more expensive, which leads us to have bad eating habits, which leads to medical complications, which leads to MORE MONEY SPENT. Things can quickly spiral. We can’t have it all. I think that’s what many Americans struggle with. You can’t have 3 kids, <$60k annually, live in a 4 bedroom house, drive a new Mercedes, and shop at Gucci. You can have 1 kid, shop at Macy's, drive a Honda Accord, and live in a modest 3 bedroom abode. Life's about sacrifices, and you have to sacrifice something—it's either your time, your money, or your health.

  106. Happiness for me would be 60 million…….not 60k

  107. I agree I made the jump from 42K to 65K+ 15% annual bonus and the level of happiness was a HUGE increase. This change of jobs was actually pretty life changing in terms of happiness and access. I went from juggling bills to being able to pay everything comfortably and getting lots of wants. It would be great to make more but I can’t say I am super pressed at this point because more money now would just mean more stuff and faster building a savings, since all of the basics are covered.

  108. This must be based on the fact that this person has no children. I make 59.9k currently. Between bills, a mortgage, car payment and insurace, as a single mother of 1….60k is peanuts. I also live in Michigan, one of the hardest hit….and its still not enough. I was lucky enough to have my mortgage modified after the crash but even still daycare costs 1,000.00 a month in addition to the rest. If I was single and couldnt live on 60k comftoarably…..I would be saddened. There is no reason that this is not possible. If I can still raise a child, pay my bills, contribute to my retirement and a college fund….there is no reason in hell you should not be able to live comfortably. I will agree that student loans hamper this as well as NYC or SF loations. But to the rest of you……get grip. If I can do it….so can you.

  109. I am graduating with a BS in speech and hearing science. I work for an airline for 20k per year. My bachelor degree is worth nothing unless I get accepted into grad school. Husband has a mental illness and we have a third child on the way (last one) and we have a tough time paying medical bills along with normal bills even though we have insurance. We have zero extra money so we can’t even use my flight benefits even if we wanted to. We use redbox for entertainment and use coupons for everything. Husband just barely started an $8 an hour job after spending 2 years getting to a point to where he was finally functionable. I have accepted that I will be the breadwinner, but I am always stressed out over my choice of career- audiology of 60k with 60k in student debt after everything is said and done. More money = less stress about life. But will I make enough for our family of 5? Right now we still live with parents but we pay for utilities and more but I would like to own a house. We are barely above the poverty level now because of the $8 an hour job so we are only on WIC. These people saying they couldn’t raise a family on 60k, I am freaking out. I live in the west, but still get scared of the future. I believe America is sinking downhill fast with our corrupt government and greedy capitalist coorporations. Pretty soon 60k is going to be on the mid to low end of income regardless if it is considered in the top 20%.

  110. Having been in senior business positions for many years, I believe that money does make a difference. Unfortuneatly, not necessarily for the right reasons. My experience of well to do men means more booze, prostitutes and generally a decadent life style. The lesser paid individuals, had to pass on the loose life, but as they hadnt experienced it, didnt seem to miss it. Look at the people who go to Hollywood. They quickly become corrupt. So it is with people on the street. More money doesnt mean a happier home life, less debts etc. It usually means more consumption in terms of a decadent life style. Just think about all those people you hear off or know who have money. By and large they are not happy because they are always looking for a bigger thrill.

  111. For those of you who are not happy making $60,000 per year, consider my situation. My take home pay is $18,000 per year. Between my wife and I, we have $70,000 in student loan debt which increases by $180 per month in interest. I can’t even afford pay the full amount of interest each month.

    I’ve been trying to get a better paying job for the past seven years without success. I’ve come to the conclusion that a BS and an MDiv are worthless. Even the average high school dropout makes $1000 more than I do in a year. I would have been better off had I dropped out of high school and not accumulating any student loan debt.

    Suffice it to say, I’d be much happier with an income of $60,000 per year. Are any of you hiring?

  112. Well, I have a wife and two little kids and an underwater mortgage around $260K and I make about $57K a year and my wife makes about the same…BUT…she has $160K in student loan debt…soooo…around $60K a year each of us ain’t cutting it. We are not happy with our work lives, schedules, etc. Love our beautiful children, wish we had more time and money to spend with friends, but it is what it is right now. Not sure how I could make much more than $60K though and be “happy” with my job ? Don’t love my current job, but I work from about 8:30am to 4:00pm and am home with my kids by 5:00pm (BEST part of my day), so I cannot really complain right ? My point is that we cannot really paint the happiness of people making $60K with such a broad brush can we ? I highly doubt that another $100 bucks a month is going to do much for my overall happiness or my wife’s ? Again, I don’t have a lot to complain about, I did think life would be easier by this stage than it is, but I also thought after we bought our beautiful (overpriced) condo in 2005 that I would be able to turn around and sell it in a few years (did’nt EVERYONE ?) so really I am just naive and at 39 feel like I have woken up to a financial nightmare. Cheers everyone !

  113. Come now people lets not bull***t here. Less money = lower quality food, housing, vehicle, clothes, shoes, water, education, future, etc.

    Anyone who claims that money does not increase the happiness factor in these catagories is totally delusional.

    If you have $$ and you are not happy, then you will never be happy.

    If you trade all your time for money than you need, then you are a greedy idiot.

  114. I make $19.58 at 23 years old, with only $4500 in student loans and no degree yet, dropped out of college. Transferring jobs in a few months to a new factory with the same company, and will be making $25 an hour, between 55k-65k depending on how much overtime I work. I’m very happy with that income, its will be enough for my wife to be a stay at home mom, make a car payment, and cover a mortgage on the house I’m purchasing when we move. Utilities here are ~$150 a month, and we’ve been averaging spending $200-$250 a month on our new baby expenses. That will leave us with ~$1500-$1800 a month, with at least 1k of that going to savings. But life is good in Idaho, you can buy a new 3500sq ft house for under 300k

  115. I remember when I made 35k and single mother of 1, I told myself I would be soooo happy if I made 50k. Now I make 87k, married with second child. My husband makes 57k (no other kids). These kind of articles need to first define “happiness”. If happiness is not worrying about paying the bills and living comfortably, then we’re over the moon happy, especially my husband.

    But because I always feel I’m need to be prepared “more” financially, I realize I will never be happy. It’s just how I am. I don’t know if it’s because I was a immigrant child or if it’s genetic. However, it does bring me happiness that I and my family have finally accepted me despite. There’s worse things to be than a workaholic.

  116. Mary Smith says

    I’m finally making 44k a year. I don’t have a lot of debt, but recent medical bills (even had/have insurance) for a spinal surgery last year…needed, not elective for sure! Now, I’m barely scraping buy once again. My car, bought used with 100k on it will be paid off this summer. I rent and it’s really a great deal since I’ve been there 4 years and the rent has not been raised, as the landlord love the fact I take good care of the property. Now my health insurance has gone up…cost of living $$$ and more bills. I’m miserable. I have no time for friends and if I do…I have NO money to do anything with my friends or grown children. I can’t afford a tank of gas to go visit my son on a weekend. Both kids are grown and I’m single. So, 47yrs old…single, grown kids, minor debt…and no savings, no money for any extras at all. Is that the American dream? No. Just got paid and I have to go 2 more weeks until my next paycheck with only $20.00 after I paid all my bills. I’m afraid to ask for a raise because my boss will overreact….been applying for jobs that pay more but no bites.

    I ask you….I’ve got my ducks in a row…I put my kids through college, I’m single…love life, but just need a few extra bucks to get to the point where I’m not dirt poor between paychecks. Oh, retirement? Ha.

    Yes…money makes life easier, IF you handle your spending correctly and you realize there is more to life than money. Money makes things less stressful when handled correctly.

  117. I’m 23 yrs old, male, living in Michigan(where cost of living is alot cheaper than other places), I’m a senior in Computer Science Engineering, and even though I’m not even done yet, I still just received a job making $60,000. Therefore……I don’t see how 60k is happiness nor is it the top 20% of U.S. …… even in cheaper states…that is nothing..

  118. I know this is an old tread, but I’ll give a breakdown of my expenses also. I make 60k a year, but my salary goes up each year, I Work in Television. My now Wife makes 31k as a medical assistant, I would love for her to go back to school but whatever, i have a step daughter whom is 11, WE live in a great neighborhood, I pay all the rent which is only 1250 a month, she pays the utilities which are around 300 a month,overall after taxes my take home pay is around 1680 a month, my car note is 415 (G37Coupe, Dream car) car insurance 90 bucks, cell phone 95 bucks, student loan 285 a month, and maybe 200 in entertainment, I would like to cut down on entertaiment, but i still save money each month, I could be saving more but i could be poor like i was in NYC lol in only 3 years here in sugar land TX i managed to save 30k cash,

  119. Carolyn Watson-Dubisch says

    Well after over a decade of our combined income of about $10,000 a year for our family of 5 (yes 3 kids). We now make about $60,000 a year and honestly it still feels very tight for us. Maybe because we live in a large metropolitan area, but next year my oldest starts college and I’m not sure how we’ll make it work. I think we still need more money to “attain” happiness.

  120. irene chaffee says

    It seems that everybody is forgetting about saving for the future..which gets there sooner than you think.. I am still working. my kids are grown and I am 65 next month. I just started a new job where I will make 65,000 before taxes.. I don’t consider that a lot of money. but its good money. I just wish I could have been making that all along and then maybe I would have some put away. I lost a job in 2010 and I went through what little savings that I had. Also there always seems to be those unexpected expenses that come along.

  121. We have a family of 11 and have had an income between 20-40k for most of our married life (wife is a homemaker). And we have always made it by. I finally have a job that is paying in the 50-60k range, and we are certainly able to do a lot more than we used to; we can start working toward building our family homestead that we always wanted.

    But regardless of our income, our happiness and joy always came in one another and in the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason why most who make less than 60k are unhappy is because they are putting their hope in the things of the world, instead of in the person of Jesus Christ.

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