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"The researchers believe that wealth might increase happiness by providing a greater sense of autonomy. The more wealth a person has, they argue, the more freedom they have to choose how to spend their time." This is true, lot of people want to have a sense of autonomy so it makes them more happy.
Wasn't there a study once about how past a certain income, happiness and low stress levels are not significantly different from one amount to the next? I think it was like $55,000
It'd be nice to see a recreation of that study
Oh shoot, this comment might get removed because its /r/science, but I hope I have something valuable to add here.
I think the value of money works like this.
* If you are poor, money doesn't buy happiness, but it does by food. It buys security, comfort, healthcare, stability, and a host of very important things. it doesn't buy happiness but it gets rid of a lot of problems. It gets rid of a lot of misery.
* If you have enough money to buy most of the things you want, then a bit more money doesn't mean very much to you. A couple extra shirts, a nicer car, an expensive dinner out, these things are fleeting. They do not buy happiness. Advertising tells us we should want them. They might be fun for a few minutes, but they don't buy lasting happiness. The difference between making 100k and year and 110k a year is pretty trivial. The difference between 30k and 33k is much more significant. Certainly 10k means more to a person making 30k then it does to a person making 100k.
* Then there is another level of wealth. If you have around 3 to 5 million dollars invested properly you can live quite well and never have to to work. At this level money is freedom. You no longer need to sell your time. Even someone making 100k a year is bound to his job. His time is not his own. He must work to maintain his lifestyle. But the multi-millionaire is free. he can take 3 months hike the Appalachian trail. He can sail around the world. He can learn to paint. He can spend 30 hours a week working for habitat for humanity.
* poor people - Money buys security and stability.
* For middle class - Money doesn't buy happiness.
* For upper class - Money buys freedom.
The trick for middle class is to diligently save and invest. Its not ~~terribly hard~~ complicated to achieve financial independence. It just take 30+ years. (/r/financialindependence/)
TL;DR "Money doesn't buy happiness" only apples to people with a certain amount of money. At some point you need a LOT more for it to have a significant impact on your happiness. Buying a slightly nicer jet ski isn't going to make you happier.