aNewDomain — How much money do you need to make to be happy? Psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton say they know. According to them, there is a “happiness benchmark for annual income.”
And the income level for happiness, they say, is $83K a year.
Kahneman and Deaton’s idea was first set forth in an academic paper in 2010. Back then, the happiness salary was just a wimpy $75K. They’ve since beefed-up to reflect the cost of living index.
Now $83K is a lot less than you probably need if you live in such places as New York or San Francisco. Then again, the average household income in the US hovers right around $52K.
So are you going to be miserable if you don’t clock in at $83K a year?
I say no. No way. And here’s why.
How hard do you want to work for that $83K salary?
Salary alone isn’t a valid predictor of financial well-being and satisfaction. The size of your family, your satisfaction with your close relationships and your engagement with work are a few other things that figure into overall happiness.
And a lot of us millennials on the younger side of the work force don’t want to only to make money. We want to find real purpose in our work. Sometimes that requires you sacrifice a little, and we’re cool with that.
Also, how hard do you want to have to work for that $83K a year?
If you’re working 80-hour weeks and commuting an hour each way to a soul-sucking, morale-sapping horror show of a job, you’ll feel very differently about your life than someone who’s a work-from-home web designer working flexible hours with a handful of clients.
So if salary isn’t the strongest predictor of happiness, what is the factor that really will make us happy at work?
Increasingly, experts say that workplace flexibility contributes a ton to overall serenity and peace of mind, which are two other ways to describe happiness, in my book.
If you’re a younger worker, maybe you’d rather have flexibility than big money.
Younger workers like me are looking for work environments that provide flexibility, work-life integration, friendship and a sense of making a positive impact on the world. We want to engage, too, in working to solve social problems that we hold personally meaningful.
This kind of thinking used to be the exception, but no more. And it’s soon going to be the rule. Workers who are 18- to 35-years-old now will be comprising some 75 percent of the workforce in 10 years.
Cherished relics of Baby Boomer and GenX values like productivity, high earnings and money just for the sake of money (damn the means!) are soon to wither and die. And good riddance. Shallow values like that — and greed — subtract happiness. They don’t add to it.
Current research is bearing this out.
Sixty-four percent of younger workers (18 to 35) say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place. Seventy-four percent of them want flexible work schedules and 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture to a competitive one.
Fully 88 percent want work-life integration, not balance. Another report shows 45 percent of younger workers will choose workplace flexibility over pay and fully 71 percent want their coworkers to be their second family.
A handful of employers are beginning to take the values of younger employees into account. They’d better.
And if employers want to stay in tune with today’s workforce, they need to pay attention to more than just the 401K and salary bottom line. We younger employees care about a lot more. They need to make a serious effort to find out exactly what drives us. Because it’s no longer so simple as just a number.
For aNewDomain, I’m Raquel Cool.
Ed: The original version of this article ran on aNewDomain’s BreakingModern. Read it here.
Images in order: Blur of Smile by Porsche Brosseau via Flickr; It’s So Funny by Emanuele Spies via Wikimedia; Flexibility by Shelley Rodrigo via Flickr