Emerging research looks at the relationship between money and well-being and finds conflicting evidence on the link between money and happiness.
Research published in the journal Psychological Science has shown that experiential purchases — money spent on doing — may provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having).
Investigators found that waiting for an experience was linked to significantly more happiness, pleasantness, and excitement than waiting for a material good.
“The anticipatory period [for experiential purchases] tends to be more pleasant…less tinged with impatience relative to future material purchases we’re planning on making,” said lead researcher Amit Kumar.
Given the results, the researchers suggest that it may make sense to delay consumption of some purchases, and shift spending away from material goods to more experiences.
In short — start planning for vacations, dinner parties, and concerts ahead of time to reap more benefits from anticipation.
Another research effort found that sometimes, less is more.
As published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that both material and experiential wealth tends to reduce people’s ability to savor simple joys and experiences.
That is, wealth and abundance may undermine appreciation and reduce the positive emotions associated with everyday experiences.
Researchers found that in contrast to abundance, experiencing adversity in the past or scarcity in the present increases individual’s ability to savor everyday moments.
“Simply reminding individuals that the future can be unpredictable drives people to stop and smell the roses,” says lead researcher Jordi Quoidbach.
Another study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that temporarily giving something up may provide an effective route to happiness. Thus, consistently indulging in pleasure and abundance may not be the most productive route to happiness.
Finally, many people believe that becoming rich is the path to happiness, but pursuing wealth may be an ineffective means of pursuing well-being.
According to a study from researchers at Harvard Business School, the University of Mannheim, and Yale University, wealthy individuals report that having three to four times as much money would give them a perfect “10” score on happiness — regardless of how much wealth they already have.
“Wealthy individuals — whether worth $1 million or $10 million — are not happier as their wealth increases,” says lead researcher Michael Norton.
The research shows that current happiness is not related to wealth and may even be negatively related to income. The study is expected to be published in the coming year.