Contrary to the old adage, research shows that money can help make us happy. But how much money are we talking about? $10,000 or $100 billion? Surprisingly, research has found that most people are much more reasonable than you might think — and that not everyone aspires to be billionaires.
Social networks encourage us to live our “best life,” but this pursuit of happiness often comes with a significant price tag. Paul Bain and Renata Bongiorno from the UK’s University of Bath set out to investigate the material and symbolic importance we place on money. They asked 7,860 people in 33 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Nicaragua, how much money they would need to live a dream life.
Participants in the study could choose how much money they would like to win in a lottery, with amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100 billion. In most countries, the majority of people felt that $10 million or less would be enough for them to achieve their “absolutely ideal life.” Only a minority in each country surveyed, on the other hand, thought that it would take at least $100 billion to get there. By way of comparison, that’s half the estimated fortune of Elon Musk, the quirky boss of Tesla and SpaceX.
The researchers found that respondents who wish to have almost unlimited financial resources have a very specific profile. They tend to be younger and urban-dwellers, who value success, power and independence. They also tend to come from “collectivistic” countries — that is, countries focused more on group than individual responsibilities and outcomes — and from countries with greater acceptance of inequality.
Good news for the planet
This is the case in Indonesia. The study, published recently in the Nature Sustainability journal, states that 39% of the Asian country’s inhabitants opted for the $100 billion figure. Significantly fewer made the same choice in Russia, the United Kingdom and even China, despite the country’s cultural collectivism and acceptance of inequality.
However, respondents who chose the $100 billion are not necessarily motivated by selfishness or greed. The researchers put no constraints on what an “ideal life” might look like, so each participant was free to define it as they wished. They found that those who wanted the $100 billion would spend some of it on the common good.
For Paul Bain, the research shows that most people do not necessarily have delusions of grandeur, or desire to join the ranks of the world’s top billionaires. “The ideology of unlimited wants, when portrayed as human nature, can create social pressure for people to buy more than they actually want,” said the researcher. According to him, this frenzied consumerism is terrible for the planet because it favours overconsumption and all the associated ecological consequences that are now only too evident.
“Discovering that most people’s ideal lives are actually quite moderate could make it socially easier for people to behave in ways that are more aligned with what makes them genuinely happy and to support stronger policies to help safeguard the planet,” he concludes.
This story was published via AFP Relaxnews
(Main and featured image: Sharon McCuthcheon/ Unsplash)