Happiness Factor (By Sibyl S. Slade, CRPC)


If you are like me, you have this lofty idea that if I made more money, I would be happy. To the contrary, what I found as I climbed the corporate ladder and increased my income to the six figure mark is my happiness factor didn’t necessarily increase. With more income came more responsibility and demands. I spent a lot of time traveling and away from my family during the times I wanted to be with my family. For example, when 9/11 happened I was attending an examiner training school in Texas. My youngest son, who was 4 years old at the time, told his daycare teacher that he was afraid for me because I was staying in a hotel room all by myself. It was exactly one week later before I was able to return home with my family.


Likewise, when my father was first diagnosed with dementia, I was still traveling for days at a time. I didn’t have the adequate time away from work to get my father stabilized in his new living arrangement. And in a matter of months, my dad passed away. And to top it off, four months later I was laid off from my job of 21 years. This is where the buck stopped for me.


While I had an accelerated career with great income that provided a comfortable middle class lifestyle for my family, the loss of the job was not as detrimental as most would have thought. Yes, I experienced a significant loss in income, but what I gained was control over my life again, the ability to become more actively involved in my sons’ lives, and the opportunity to follow my dream of creating generational wealth for the larger community. I am no longer consumed with achieving my next level of success. Success now has a new meaning for me. It is seeing the results of how my sons have come into their own and standing on the sidelines of their lives waving a banner that says “I am here for you!”


This phase of my life reminds me of one concept I learned while completing my CFP Certificate program and that is the happiness factor. The happiness factor is basically research findings that states money can buy happiness up to $75,000 in income and beyond that, your happiness will not increase regardless of how much you income you earn. Like the researchers, I surmise that happiness is not an abstract destination that I will arrive to at some time in the future if I attain a certain income level. So then, you might ask, what is it the secret happiness? Well, here’s what some experts have to say:

  • Meaningful Relationships: “Income is just one variable in the complicated equation of happiness. It’s not trivial, but there are other factors that are at least as important, such as meaning and significance and social relationships, family, and friends,” ~ Andrew T. Jebb, Senior Author of a study conducted by Purdue University and the University of Virginia

  • Freedom: “freedom to do whatever you please without the constraints of time or responsibilities”~ Rachel Sherman, a professor of sociology at the New School and author of "Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence"

  • Purposeful Living: "The number is less relevant than how you earned it and what you're doing with it," ~ Robert Frank, host of CNBC's "Secret Lives of the Super Rich"

  • Love: “the warmth of your relationship with Mommy matters long into adulthood. Specifically: Valliant’s key takeaway, in his own words: “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ”Men who had “warm” childhood relationships with their mothers earned an average of $87,000 more a year than men whose mothers were uncaring.” ~ George Valliant, Author of Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

With that being said, is it money that you want? Or is it really what money can provide that you want? Perhaps, you already have a bird in hand and your goal is being buried by the chase for money. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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