Money and Happiness: The Problems of Understanding its Dynamic Relationship The want of money is the root of all evil. - Samuel Butler- Our society holds a taboo when it comes to explicitly speaking of the desire for money. However, at the same time our behaviors implicitly show us the extent of this desire. Many people spend much time analyzing the stock market for their next bid, millions of people buy lottery tickets looking for their big break, and many people fight with their siblings over their dead parents’ fortune. And the reason we so desperately pursue the accumulation of wealth is because we believe in its positive influence. We believe it will change our lives into a better one. We think it will make us happier. (Campbell, 1981) However, this is an issue still in question and an important one especially for counseling psychology. In this field, the relationship between money and life satisfaction is essential due to its relevance to career counseling. Considering that a jobs’ financial reward and hence its socioeconomic status is influential in career orientation for some people, the clarification of such relationship becomes crucial. And in accord to the importance of this issue, there has been abundant research relating to it. However, the results seem to be mixed and confusing. The purpose of this paper is to point out the shortcomings of previous works on this issue and additionally, to provide a new scope into which will be a guide for further research on this issue. Problems in samples and variables
Previous studies have attempted to see if money increases happiness by looking into the lives of those who have a lot of money. But some of these studies seem to have missed out on a vital factor, sample size. In a study of some of the wealthiest people in the United States, Diener et al. (1985) found the happiness levels of these people to be only slightly above average than that of people with regular incomes. However, the sample size for this study was only 49. Also, Brickman et al. (1978) found that lottery winners were not happier than controls even after their sudden fortune. But his research contained only 22 lottery winners as participants. In both cases the sample size was much too small to make a general rule out of their research. There could have been plenty of other happier wealthy people who are on the Forbes 500 list or won the lottery but did not participate in the study. So it seems obvious that in future studies, the sample size should be enlarged as much as possible. This would be easier nowadays due to the increased number of millionaires and billionaires in general and quicker access to them through e-mail. Sometimes researchers seem to have failed to fully analyze the variables they used in their research. In a more recent study, researchers found that income increase over the course of 10 years had only a small positive impact on happiness (North et al., 2008). This time the size of the sample was relatively large by 274, but certain variables within this sample diminished the implication of this study. Apart from the sample being from a concentrated area (San Francisco Bay area) and being mostly consisted of Caucasians (89%), the researchers have not fully analyzed the spending patterns of the samples’ income. They simply tried to correlate the total income with other variables such as happiness. But considering the possible fluctuations of expenditure during the course of 10 years, for example, due to emergencies or children’s college tuitions, the net worth of the increased income could have been no different during those 10 years. According to other research, having a strong sense of control over ones financial state can be linked to greater overall satisfaction and that strong sense of control is possible if there is sufficient net worth of income (Cummins, 2000). So without knowing whether the participants had sufficient net worth it would...
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