How much do you need to earn to be happy?

Happiness is a topic of constant debate, often elusive and frequently misunderstood. Work has a huge part to play in the happiness scale but does the remuneration we receive from it have a bigger impact on our happiness levels as you might think?

Over the years I have coined the phrase ‘happy tax’ in the office, I have seen it used in other contexts as well but I refer to it with individuals we work with when they are seeking new opportunities or career changes and the topic of what they want to earn comes up. 

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Just as Maslow's triangle dictates the importance of money is very much a matter of perspective and at what stage in life you find yourself. If you are worried about putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head then clearly money has to be a major factor in your work choices,

At the opposite end of the spectrum if you are earning a six-figure sum and your basic needs are all catered for, then money is less…  hold that thought. 

Experience has shown me that this correlation doesn’t always ring true, for many money still remains their primary driver and for a good proportion of the individuals I have spoken with over the years their sense of happiness historically was fleeting and elusive regardless of their paycheque so in an attempt to breathe some logic into the thought process ‘happy tax’ was born.

The concept is simple and won’t blow your mind but how often have you actually sat down and approached a new opportunity or salary review with this level of thought and clarity? 

Just as life, work holds a degree of compromise. It’s human nature to desire what you don’t already have and in a world of social media that paints a wholly false view of the world, it’s very easy to think the grass is always greener and think the next shiny thing, pay rise, new partner, new house, relocation, emigration you name it will bring with it a renewed sense of ‘happiness’ because well that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? 

Don’t confuse my comments with a lack of endeavour, striving for a better life for you and those you care about is a great cause and one you should push for but What if your ‘desire’ for those things is stopping you from being happy?

Happy Tax+:-

Weigh up what it is that you actually enjoy in life?

Eating out



Home etc. 

Yep, all very easy, and I’m guessing you want more of it, a newer one and a bigger one but it's not as simple as that.  

This article was written by a nurse on an end-of-life ward she lists the top five regrets her patients routinely spoke of, Perspective is everything and actually had they lived the life they thought they wanted with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps they would have listed something different? The point is Money can only provide so much and if you choose to forego a promotion that comes with a pay rise or even heaven forbid consider a pay cut don't deem it as a step backward, Happy Tax will enable you to reason a little more clearly:

What would you pay to spend more time with friends?

What would you pay to have a little less stress in your life?

What would you be willing to pay to have the opportunity to do more of that thing you love to do inside work or outside of it?

How much is the relationship you have with your boss and your colleagues worth to you?

flexible working, ability to see your kids sports day?

The Satisfaction you get from completing your work?

The maths is unique to you as an individual but the idea is you pay a degree of happy tax on your earnings to enable you to have more of the things you want, which may or may not be the same things that you desire.

Money is often framed with the idea of Success but surely success is more about living the life you want to live? Yes money will be part of that and it does open doors to you and your loved ones, you should also be rewarded for your efforts, but before you take that extra 10K think about what it might cost you? What are you sacrificing for that additional income? Life is a compromise just be conscious of what it is you are compromising on to ensure the deal is worth it.

Happy Stats:

Nato conversations aside, the Finnish are officially the happiest nation in the world according to the 2022 UN Nations Happiness report Home | The World Happiness Report, their society is built around a concept known as ‘Lagom’ the English translation is ‘just the right amount’ 

  • Wayne State University did studies into why the Finnish were in general happier with their lives and one core element came out of their research. “if your basic needs are met, there’s no great drive to strive for more, which makes contentment and happiness more attainable. Their minimalist approach actually views having too much of something unseemly with a 'less is more approach' to material things being the societal norm.
  • Apparently how much sleep and sex your receiving is a better metric to focus on… I will leave you to discuss it amongst yourselves.
  • Believe it or not, 30K+ was the salary for the UK, as earnings increased beyond this point impacts on overall happiness were less and less, on a global scale it was closer to 65,000 dollars. Lots of studies out there so I'm sure you will find conflicting evidence.

Everyone is different and what salary package works for one may not work for another that’s the beauty that is life, but I can guarantee Rockafella said it best…

Answer: How much money is enough money?

For John D. Rockefeller the answer was “just a little bit more.” At the peak of his wealth, Rockefeller had a net worth of about 1% of the entire US economy. He owned 90% of the oil & gas industry of his time. Compared to today’s rich guys, Rockefeller makes Bill Gates and Warren Buffett look like paupers.

Potentially the recipe for happiness? Truthfully running a business is tough and I don’t always get this right, but we are all a work in progress!

1.   Find your click, Having people in your life makes the true difference in how much you’ll enjoy the daily grind of life, friends and family are the most valuable asset any of us can have, invest in them. - To my click, I'm sorry I know I have been consumed with work and I am trying to find a balance, I still love you all.

2.   Relish the quest; don’t focus on just the prize: Seriously, the saying that "anticipation is half the fun” is a truth. Humans are designed by nature to master challenges and engage in problem-solving behaviors. Once you have amassed all of the “prizes” or “toys” you’ve desired, there’s little joy that the stack of stuff will provide once you own it. We need to continue to generate and refine our Goals and take time to appreciate the period before achieving them as much as we appreciate the satisfaction of the hunt completed.

3.   Measure your happiness by the satisfaction you feel at the end of the day when you put your head down to sleep: Don’t get strung out on external markers that others try to convince you are the measures of success, do you really need all those social media feeds? Are they actually adding value to your life. Clearly, LinkedIn is, keep this one :)

4.   Recognise what chapter of life you are in, what worked for you then, may not work for you now, it’s important to take stock and assess what the next part of your journey looks like. 

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