Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is more important to happiness: compensation or commute time?

"When deciding between job offers, most of us give a lot of weight to salary, even though money and happiness don’t have a directly proportional relationship. Studies consistently show that money can buy happiness, but only up to a certain point. Once one’s basic needs are met, the value of the additional material goods that come with greater wealth diminishes rapidly. The nationwide 2004 General Social Survey found that Americans earning under $20,000 per year reported being significantly less happy than those in a higher income bracket, but more than 80 percent still described themselves as “pretty happy” or “very happy.” Above this tier, people are relatively happier overall, but further increases in income hardly make any impact. For the most part, people earning $100,000 are no more satisfied with life than those earning half that sum. Other studies have found that this trend—rising income without an attendant rise in reported happiness—holds true even for Americans who earn more than $5 million per year. We may be too strongly drawn to higher salaries because our reflective system convinces us that more money buys greater comfort and security, which is an objectively better outcome. But the system may fail to include in the equation the psychic cost of the commute and of the loss of leisure time that often accompanies the bigger check. A study by Daniel Kahneman and colleagues found that commuting is by far the most unpleasant part of the average person’s day, and spending even an extra 20 minutes in transit is one-fifth as harmful to your well-being as losing your job. You might consent to a lengthy commute because you want the larger house in the nicer neighborhood, perhaps with better schools, but these benefits rarely counteract the negative effects of longer travel time." (Iyengar, Sheena (2010-04-01). The Art of Choosing (pp. 132-133). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition)

Money is a helpful, useful tool, but if you turn it (or even what it can do for you) into an idol, it will never deliver.


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