Friday, April 08, 2016

Turns out money can buy happiness!

We all know that money can’t buy you happiness, right?  As it turns out, this is not exactly true.

A recent study by University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, examining data from more than 150 countries using World Bank data, has shed new light on the interaction between happiness and the size of your bank account.  Their first conclusion: the more money you have, the happier you tend to be, regardless of where you are on the income spectrum.  They concluded that multi-millionaires don’t think of themselves as “rich.”

However, there do seem to be income levels where a person’s happiness can be increased faster than others.  Princeton University economist Angus Deaton has found that peoples’ day-to-day happiness level rises until they reach about $75,000 in income—a point where a person can comfortably afford the basic necessities of life without worrying where his or her next meal is going to come from.  After that, this type of happiness levels off. 

In fact, a report in Psychological Science magazine found that the wealthier people were, the less likely they were to savor positive experiences in their lives.  Another study found that lottery winners tended to be less impressed by life’s simple pleasures than people who experienced no windfall.  Once you’ve had a chance to drink the finest French wines, fly in a private jet and watch the Super Bowl from a box seat, then a sunny day after a week of rain doesn’t produce quite the same jolt of happiness it used to.  The additional money tended to have a cancelling effect on day-to-day happiness.

It’s another kind of happiness, which focuses on something the researchers call “life assessment,” that continues to rise at all levels of wealth.  The more money people have, the more they feel like they have a better life, possibly (Deaton hypothesizes) because they feel like they’re outcompeting their peers. 
Is there any way to more efficiently buy happiness with money?  A study by the Chicago Booth School of Business found that people experienced more happiness if they spent money on others than when the money was spent on themselves.  Treating someone else—or, more broadly, charitable activities—are among the most powerful financial enhancements to personal happiness.

Other research has shown that you get more happiness for your buck if you buy experiences rather than things.  An epic trip to Paris, or a weekend at a bead and breakfast near the cost, can be more enduringly pleasure-inducing than buying a new watch or necklace.  The watch of necklace quickly become a routine part of your environment, contributing nothing to happiness.  But your travel experience can be shared with others and reminisced about.

Finally, you can buy time with money—decreasing your daily commute by moving closer to work, hiring somebody to help around the house, hiring an assistant to clear your desk—all giving you more leisure time to pursue your interests.  With the free time, take music lessons or learn to dance—and you’ll be happier than somebody with millions more than you have.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Sleep Like a Superstar

Have you ever wondered how successful people get it all done?  Apparently, they don’t stint on their sleep in order to find extra hours in the day.  But they do seem to get up earlier than the rest of us, giving some credence to Ben Franklin’s saying: Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Forbes magazine looked at the sleep habits of 21 people that most of us would consider successful—including Franklin himself, who routinely went to bed at 10:00 PM and awoke promptly at 5:00 AM.  The word “routinely” is important; virtually everyone on the list was consistent about bedtime and awakening time.  Some sleep seven hours like Franklin, including Winston Churchill (3:00 AM to 8:00 AM), Bill Gates (midnight to 7:00 AM), Apple CEO Tim Cook (9:30 PM to 4:30 AM), Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington (10:00 PM to 5:00 AM), Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (10:30 PM to 5:30 AM), and founder Jeff Bezos (10:00 PM to 5:00 AM).

People who sleep six hours a night include U.S. President Barack Obama (1:00 AM to 7:00 AM), Yahoo! President Marissa Mayer (midnight to 6:00 AM, but sometimes up by 4:00 AM), AOL CEO Tim Armstrong (11:00 PM to 5:00 AM), Newton Investment Management CEO Helena Morrissey (11:00 PM to 5:00 AM), and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk (1:00 AM to 7:00 AM).

Others sleep or slept only five hours, among them Richard Branson (midnight to 5:00 AM), PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi (11:00 PM to 4:00 AM), and inventor Thomas Edison (11:00 PM to 4:00 AM).

If you sleep eight hours a night, you’re still in good company.  That list includes Virgin Money CEO Jayne-Anne Gadhia (10:30 PM to 6:30 AM), MediaCom UK CEO Karen Blacklett (11:30 PM to 7:30 AM), software-as-a-service company Mor founder Rand Fishkin (1:00 AM to 9:00 AM), digital networking guru Neil Patel (11:00 PM to 7:00 AM); Ellen DeGeneres (11:00 PM to 7:00 AM) and Buffer Software co-founder Leo Widrich (1:00 AM to 9:00 AM).

With a handful of exceptions, few of these successful people are staying up late to catch the Late Show, Saturday Night Live or the end of the NFL Monday Night Football game on the East Coast.  And few are sleeping past the delivery of the morning paper—which means they’re getting a jump on the rest of the world.