Money and Happiness

I had an upsetting conversation with one of my good friends the other day. She used to work in NYC at a investment bank, and now she’s a full-time MBA student at a school in Boston. I hadn’t seen her in awhile because her banking job took over her life (+100 hours/week). When I did see her, she was exhausted and could never enjoy her time outside of the office because she was glued to her Blackberry.

I get it. Money is important if you want to live comfortably…but how much do we really need to be happy? And is it worth giving up our lives in the pursuit of a bigger paycheck?

Having worked for a couple of big Wall Street banks, I know a thing or two about working your life away for a paycheck. After a few years I realized that I was spending 95% of my waking hours at work, and I was missing out on all the things that used to make me happy:  time with my husband and family, my social life, exercise, traveling, cooking, etc. What was the point of making a lot of money if I didn’t even have time to enjoy it?

I read an article the other day about the “happiness benchmark”. It referenced a study done in 2010 by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton, which found that a person’s happiness stops improving after a certain income threshold. The national average is $75k, but it differs by state based on cost-of-living (see chart below).


People will inevitably vary from these averages, but the idea is worth thinking about. What is your happiness benchmark? Can you afford the things that make you happy with a lower paycheck? If so, maybe it’s time to leave that miserable job that works you to the bone and take a risk doing something you’ve always wanted to try.

Do you agree with the idea behind this study, or do you think it’s missing some crucial points?

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6 Tips for Getting Out of an Unhealthy Slump

Some days we just lose it. We lose the energy to work for the things that we usually spend so much time fussing over. We forget why these things matter.

This is totally normal, so start by reminding yourself of that…Then let’s work to get out of it.

When you find yourself in a slump, here’s what to do:

1. Tell yourself (as Little Gram used to say) “this too shall pass” 

2. Think about how you feel when you’re productive and focused. Getting back to work and into healthy habits helps us feel strong, confident, and energized. 

3. The slump usually starts because our routines get thrown out of whack somehow (traveling, illness, etc.). Remind yourself that once you return to consistency, you will be happier and more productive in other areas of life.

4. Take a break. Sometimes we need to rest. It’s hard to make ourselves slow down, but it’s absolutely necessary once in awhile.

5. Enlist a friend. Most things are way more fun to do when you have a friend to do them with. It gives you a chance to relax and catch up while putting your stresses aside.

6. Do the same thing differently. If you can’t motivate yourself to do what you usually do, try to accomplish the same thing in a different way. Changing things up a little bit can make a big difference.