family picking applesBy Gary W. Buffone, Ph.D.

Over the past four decades, we’ve become more than twice as rich, yet we are far less happy.

When asked in a Roper survey how happy we Americans were with different aspects of our life, we expressed the least satisfaction with the amount of money we have to live on. When a group of University of Michigan researchers asked what hampers our ability to live a good life, the most frequent answer was, not enough money. Except for those with the highest incomes, most of us thought that a little more money would bring us greater happiness.

But if financial success equals bliss, then we would expect that our satisfaction level would grow with our paychecks: more money, more happiness. Let’s look at the numbers.

Since the 1950s the buying power of the average American consumer has more than doubled. In 1957, as John Galbraith was writing his popular book on us, The Affluent Society, our per-person income expressed in today’s dollars was about $9,000 a year. Today it’s $20,000. Compared to 1975, we own twice the number of cars, eat out twice as often, and enjoy a never-ending array of VCRs, home computers, dishwashers, pools, answering machines, juicers, garage door openers, cell phones, and digital personal assistants.

So with this much more income, and all this cool stuff, are we happier?

We are not. In a large survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research center, the number of people reporting that they were very happy declined between 1957 and 1998, from 35% to 33%. In fact, judging from the post-war rise in depression over the same period, we’re more likely to be miserable. Psychologist and researcher Martin Seligman reports that depression rates have increased tenfold in the last fifty years.

Over the past four decades, we’ve become more than twice as rich, yet we are far less happy.

When I think back nearly twenty-five years, when I had just received my doctorate, I was earning about $15,000 as a psychologist at a publicly funded mental health clinic. I drove a used VW Scirocco, lived in a hovel near the beach, ran, rode bikes, surfed, played tennis, and hung around with a great set of friends. It was a simple, good life.

Now I earn a strong multiple of my earlier income, have collected considerable assets and stuff, live in a beautiful home, drive a Lexus, and hold a respectable position in a successful psychological consulting practice. I still run, surf, play tennis and ride bikes, and am also married with two grown daughters starting their own lives. I’m still fortunate to have a great group of friends. Am I happier? Perhaps just a little. But I would say the difference is largely due to my wife and kids and not so much the advances I’ve achieved financially.

I don’t mean any of this to sound anti-materialistic. I enjoy the conveniences and luxuries of our affluent society as much as the next person. Still, for each of us, there’s a point of diminishing returns. With our needs comfortably met, more money only buys things we don’t need and hardly care about. If we hoard it, it becomes nothing more than a blip on some distant bank computer, a string of digits on a brokerage report. What’s the point?

I’m sure we all know, at least on some level, that money can’t buy happiness. Yet, with the best of intentions, this is precisely what many parents try to do, which at times can result in their best intentions creating the worst of results for their children and families. So buyer beware!

Excerpt from Choking on the Silver Spoon by Gary W. Buffone, Ph.D.

 

https://www.familiesonlinemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/apple-picking.jpghttps://www.familiesonlinemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/apple-picking-150x150.jpgGary W. Buffone, Ph.D.Family Financefamily,family finance,happiness,wealthBy Gary W. Buffone, Ph.D.Over the past four decades, we've become more than twice as rich, yet we are far less happy.When asked in a Roper survey how happy we Americans were with different aspects of our life, we expressed the least satisfaction with the amount of money we...Parenting Advice and Family Fun Activities