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How to Have a Positive Relationship with Money

Whether you have enough or are facing financial hardship, new research offers insights about protecting your overall happiness.

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Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, says money is one of the most studied questions in his field.

What is his field, you might logically ask?

Human happiness.

Killingsworth’s most recent study adds to the body of research that explores the complex relationship between money and happiness. His study, which collected more than 1.7 million pieces of data from more than 33,000 participants, adds a new layer to what social scientists previously believed about money and happiness.

In his research, he found that more money corresponds with higher self-reported happiness, without any cap or plateau that would level off a person’s happiness. Previous studies had suggested that any annual household income of $75,000 or higher correlates with more happiness than lower household income—regardless of how far above $75,000 the income is.

Killingsworth’s study collected data on “snapshot” emotional states throughout participants’ days, including overall happiness and specific emotional attributes like confidence, boredom, inspiration and stress.

The higher the income, the more positive the overall emotional picture emerged in the study.

Some of the reasons for this, according to Killingsworth, are self-evident. “When you have more money, you have more choices about how to live your life,” he said. 

But another reason for the finding is a good reminder for anyone seeking to maintain a positive relationship with money, whether you have enough or are facing financial hardship.

Killingsworth said, “Although money might be good for happiness, I found that people who equated money and success were less happy than those who didn’t.” In other words, cultivating an intrinsic understanding of success, rather than one that is connected to external rewards, paves the way toward greater happiness.

The emotional aspects of our finances are as complex and worthy of our attention as other aspects of our inner lives. Especially in these financially fraught times, how are you protecting your happiness?

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