2008-06-03

To Get Rich, Be Happy—But Not Too Happy

Gray skies are gonna clear up…

Or is that another cloud headed this way?

A Jean Chatzky article in the June 2008 issue of Money reports that two different research studies suggest that people who are generally happy do well with their money. But the people who are the most happy, the top of the happiness scale, the kings and queens of happiness? They flop when it comes to money.

[H]appy people tend to earn more than sad people… [H]appy - but not too happy - people are strivers. They're interested in making the sorts of changes necessary to get ahead in life, including engaging in competition (not always a happy pursuit), obtaining more education and changing their behavior when what they're doing now isn't working. The [people who are “too happy”]…, on the other hand, are too complacent to adjust enough.

A Wall Street Journal article discussing some of the same research went further:

Optimists, the Duke finance scholars discovered, worked longer hours every week, expected to retire later in life, were less likely to smoke and, when they divorced, were more likely to remarry. They also saved more, had more of their wealth in liquid assets, invested more in individual stocks and paid credit-card bills more promptly. [¶] Yet those who saw the future too brightly… behaved in just the opposite way, the researchers discovered. [¶] Rather than save, they squandered. They postponed bill-paying. Instead of taking the long view, they barely looked past tomorrow. Statistically, they were more likely to be day traders.

So, be somewhat optimistic.

Unless you’re a lawyer. The Wall Street Journal article also mentions lawyers seem to do better when they are pessimists. Pessimists seemed to get better grades in law school and better job offers coming out of law school. The article said “[t]here was no scientific reason” for this variation from all of the other research results—which indicated it was better to be an optimist.

I’m not sure why, but that kinda made me laugh, which made me happy.

But not too happy.

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