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Exactly How Much Money Do Americans Need to Be Happy?

Generations have differing views on how big a salary they would need to be happy. Millennials are driving up the average.

By Shalene Gupta, Fast Company (TNS)

As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness, but millennials and Gen Z would beg to differ.

Empower, a financial services company, surveyed over 2,000 Americans over the age of 18 to understand what financial happiness looks like. While money can’t buy everything, it manages to buy a lot of the things that make for a happy life. Here are the key findings:

  • Most Americans think money does buy happiness: 59% of Americans agree with this, and this shoots up to 67% of Gen Zers and 72% of millennials.
  • Happiness is a six-figure salary: On average, Americans say they need $284,167 per year to be happy. Millennials are driving up the average. While the other generations say happiness is about $130,000 a year, millennials say they need $525,000 a year. Apparently, the recession left some deep scars.
  • Happiness means paying the bills on time: While you might argue that people define happiness differently, 67% of Americans said financial happiness is paying the bills on time, 65% said it was being debt free, 54% said it was being able to afford everyday luxuries without worry, and 45% said it was owning a home. However, 54% of people say they have debt, and 36% said they could not pay for an unexpected expense over $500 without worrying

“Every generation has grappled with questions of how to calculate financial happiness: hard work, a lot of planning, consistent savings, and even a little bit of luck, in just the right measures,” says Carol Waddell, president of Empower Personal Wealth. “With financial goals in mind and a solid plan to reach them, savers can spend more time doing the things that make them happy—in their working years and beyond.”


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