Research suggests that — contrary to popular wisdom — money can indeed buy you happiness. But it also offers another gift: a sense of calm and control.
Researchers from four prestigious institutions — Harvard Business School, the University of Southern California, Groningen University and Columbia Business School — recently conducted a series of experiments that underscored how wealth can improve emotional well-being.
In one experiment, 522 participants kept a diary of daily events and their emotional responses to them. In the previous year, participants had annual incomes that ranged from less than $10,000 to more than $150,000. While everyone experienced roughly the same amount of daily frustrations, those with more income felt “less negative intensity” from those events.
They also reported a greater sense of control over the events and higher life satisfaction in general.
In another experiment, researchers presented participants with daily dilemmas, such as finding time to cook meals or having to deal with poor public transportation options.
Regardless of income, many people said they would turn to family or friends to solve their problems. But those with money were more likely to identify a solution tied to spending cash — such as ordering takeout food.
In a summary of the findings, Jon Jachimowicz, Harvard Business School professor, says:
“If we only focus on the happiness that money can bring, I think we are missing something. We also need to think about all of the worries that it can free us from.”
Jachimowicz says the research underscores that while the rich have problems just like everyone else, “having money allows you to fix problems and resolve them more quickly.”
By contrast, those who do not have money often experience a sense of shame when they come face to face with financial difficulties. He adds that society’s failures — such as a lack of robust public transportation options or penalizing people for being late to work — make the situation even worse:
“We have normalized this idea that when you are poor, it’s your fault and so you should be ashamed of it. At the same time, we’ve structured society in a way that makes it really hard on people who are poor.”
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