We all know money can’t buy happiness 100% of the time. If it could, all the therapists in the country would be out of work, because everyone who really needed them would be unable to pay. By the same token, all it takes is a few minutes of waiting in line at the grocery store thumbing through the tabloids to see that money certainly doesn’t always buy happiness. The answer to the age old question, Can money buy happiness? isn’t easy to find.
A new study has taken a different approach to finding the answer. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but can happiness buy money?
Happy Teens are More Likely to Get Rich
In a report published by the journal Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences last month, new research about the correlation between money and happiness was revealed. Researchers tracked the progress of over 15,000 Americans from their early teens in to their late twenties.
Participants were given surveys and in-home interviews about their overall well-being and how happy they’ve felt in the past week. The study accounted for genetics, IQ, height, self esteem and physical health — all things whose relationships with money and happiness have been studied in the past. This data accumulated for 14 years, and in the end, the researchers found a significant correlation between childhood happiness and wealth later in life.
The research suggests that by debating whether money can buy happiness, we’ve been putting the cart before the horse. The study’s author, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a professor at the University College London’s School of Public Policy, points out that happier individuals make more money in the first place.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness but Joy Becomes Wealth
This new research makes an effort to demonstrate that in the chicken-or-the-egg conversation about money and happiness, happiness often comes before wealth, not after. So what can we do to set up our children for more prosperous futures? Is it as simple as making them happy?
It’s not necessarily about spoiling our children into pure, euphoric happiness at a young age, as you might imagine. Those who advanced from being happy teens to wealthy 20-somethings often had life experiences in common. “Significant mediating pathways include a higher probability of obtaining a college degree, getting hired and promoted, having higher degrees of optimism and extraversion, and less neuroticism,” says the report.
In other words, helping our kids avoid the stress and anxiety of our adult lives in an effort to keep them feeling happy and is important, but helping them get through college, encouraging them to push themselves and excel in the workplace, and helping them foster optimistic outlooks and do-anything attitudes are also clearly important.
Do you agree with the notion that money can’t buy happiness? What tips and parenting advice do you have for those hoping to help their children prosper? Share your thoughts and reactions below.