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Savings Guide 2006

Savings story

  We may be saving less than ever, but money DOES buy happiness.
Money can ... and does ... buy happiness

People who believe money can't buy happiness might simply have too much of it to understand.

True, money won't guarantee happiness, and there are some things money can't buy. But happiness is not one of them, according to financial experts who tout the power of money when it comes to being financially able to live the life you love.

The key is understanding your core values in life and knowing what makes you happy, says Laura Rowley, author of "Money & Happiness: A Guide to Living the Good Life." Once you figure that out, she says, "Use money as a tool to maximize happiness."

For example, if it will make you happy to see your children go to college, your money can buy that happiness. Even if you're not wealthy you can achieve happiness by opening a 529 college savings plan. Likewise, if happiness for you is not worrying about feeding your family in the event of a job loss, a six-month emergency savings account will provide that peace of mind and make you happy.

The correlation between money and happiness has been studied for years. A Pew Research Center report released in February found that the more family income survey respondents had, the more likely they were to say they were happy. For example, according to the study titled "Are We Happy Yet?" 49 percent of survey respondents with an annual family income of more than $100,000 said they were happy, while only 24 percent of respondents with an annual family income of less than $30,000 reported that they were happy.

"There's a very strong relation between income and happiness," says Cary Funk, senior project director for the Pew Research Center and author of the happiness report. "People who make more money or have more money in their family from another source tend to be happier than those who don't."

However, Funk cautions, the survey doesn't prove whether money causes people to be happy or whether happy people tend to make more money. "We can't say for sure that it's a causal relationship," she says.

Covering the basics
Nevertheless, most experts agree that a person who's unable to make ends meet is not going to have enough peace of mind to be happy.

"You have to be making enough to cover your basic needs," says Rowley. "You have to have decent housing in a safe neighborhood, you have to have schools that your kids can go to without getting assaulted, you have to have food, and you have to have enough to pay the utility bills. If you don't, the stress is going to outweigh the happiness."

-- Posted: Oct. 1, 2006
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