Chart: The Relationship Between Money and Happiness
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The Relationship Between Money and Happiness

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Charting the Relationship Between Money and Happiness

Charting the Relationship Between Money and Happiness

Today’s chart is best viewed full-screen. Explore the high resolution version by clicking here.

Can money buy you happiness?

It’s a longstanding question that has many different answers, depending on who you ask.

Today’s chart approaches this fundamental question from a data-driven perspective, and it provides one potential solution: money does buy some happiness, but only to a limited extent.

Money and Happiness

First, a thinking exercise.

Let’s say you have two hypothetical people: one of them is named Beff Jezos and he’s a billionaire, and the other is named Jill Smith and she has a more average net worth. Who do you think would be happiest if their wealth was instantly doubled?

Beff might be happy that he’s got more in the bank, but materially his life is unlikely to change much – after all, he’s a billionaire. On the flipside, Jill also has more in the bank and is likely able to use those additional resources to provide better opportunities for her family, get out of debt, or improve her work-life balance.

These resources translate to real changes for Jill, potentially increasing her level of satisfaction with life.

Just like these hypotheticals, the data tells a similar story when we look at countries.

The Data-Driven Approach

Today’s chart looks at the relationship between GDP per capita (PPP) and the self-reported levels of happiness of each country. Sources for data are the World Bank and the World Happiness Report 2017.

According to the numbers, the relationship between money and happiness is strong early on for countries. Then later, when material elements of Maslow’s hierarchy are met, the relationship gets harder to predict.

In general, this means that as a country’s wealth increases from $10k to $20k per person, it will likely slide up the happiness scale as well. For a double from $30k to $60k, the relationship still holds – but it tends to have far more variance. This variance is where things get interesting.

Outlier Regions

Some of the most obvious outliers can be found in Latin America and the Middle East:

Latin America vs. Middle East

In Latin America, people self-report that they are more satisfied than the trend between money and happiness would predict.

Costa Rica stands out in particular here, with a GDP per capita of $15,400 and a 7.14 rating on the Cantril Ladder (which is a measure of happiness). Whether it’s the country’s rugged coastlines or the local culture that does the trick, Costa Rica has higher happiness ratings than the U.S., Belgium, or Germany – all countries with far higher levels of wealth.

In the Middle East, the situation is mostly reversed. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, and the U.A.E. are all on the other side of the trend line.

Outlier Countries

Within regions, there is even plenty of variance.

We just mentioned the Middle East as a place where the wealth-happiness continuum doesn’t seem to hold up as well as it does in other places in the world.

Interestingly, in Qatar, which is actually the wealthiest country in the world on a per capita basis ($127k), things are even more out of whack. Qatar only scores a 6.37 on the Cantril Ladder, making it a big exception even within the context of the already-outlying Middle East.

Nearby Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., and Oman are all poorer than Qatar per capita, yet they are happier places. Oman rates a 6.85 on the satisfaction scale, with less than one-third the wealth per capita of Qatar.

There are other outlier jurisdictions on the list as well: Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan are all significantly happier than the trend line (or their regional location) would project. Meanwhile, places like Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore, and Luxembourg are less happy than wealth would predict.

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Money

The Richest People in Human History, to the Industrial Revolution

What do Augustus Caesar, Cosimo de Medici, Mansa Musa, and Genghis Khan have in common? They were some of the richest people in all of history.

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The Richest People in Human History, to the Industrial Revolution

Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.

When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.

For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires—while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.

This infographic we created with Texas Precious Metals focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution, and it highlights key facts and anecdotes on how they created their wealth.

Is This List of People Definitive?

While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.

Here’s why:

Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.

Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa—these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.

Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.

So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun—and that the list of the richest people in history may change depending on who you ask!

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Personal Finance

Is $1 Million Enough for Retirement in America?

The average American needs their retirement savings to last them over a decade. In which cities is $1 million enough to retire comfortably?

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Is $1 Million Enough for Retirement in America?

The average American needs their retirement savings to last them 14 to 17 years. With this in mind, is $1 million in savings enough for the average retiree?

Ultimately, it depends on where you live, since the average cost of living varies across the country. This graphic, using data compiled by GOBankingRates.com shows how many years $1 million in retirement savings lasts in the top 50 most populated U.S. cities.

Editor’s note: As one user rightly pointed out, this analysis doesn’t take into account interest earned on the $1 million. With that in consideration, the above calculations could be seen as very conservative figures.

How Long $1 Million Would Last in 50 Cities

To compile this data, GOBankingRates calculated the average expenditures of people aged 65 or older in each city, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cost-of-living indices from Sperling’s Best Places.

That figure was then reduced to account for average Social Security income. Then, GOBankingRates divided the one million by each city’s final figure to calculate how many years $1 million would last in each place.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Francisco, California came in as the most expensive city on the list. $1 million in retirement savings lasts approximately eight years in San Francisco, which is about half the time that the typical American needs their retirement funds to last.

CityHow long $1 would last (years)Cost-of-living IndexAnnual expenditures
(after using annual Social Security)
Memphis, TN45.376$22,043
El Paso, TX40.381.4$24,789
Wichita, KS39.782.1$25,145
Tulsa, OK38.883.2$25,705
Indianapolis, IN38.683.5$25,857
Milwaukee, WI37.684.9$26,569
Oklahoma City, OK37.385.4$26,824
Columbus, OH37.285.5$26,875
Kansas City, MO36.786.2$27,231
Detroit, MI35.887.6$27,943
Baltimore, MD35.388.2$28,248
Louisville, KY35.388.4$28,349
San Antonio, TX34.489.7$29,011
Omaha, NE34.389.8$29,062
Albuquerque, NM33.691.1$29,723
Tucson, AZ33.391.6$29,977
Jacksonville, FL32.393.5$30,943
New Orleans, LA30.896.3$32,367
Houston, TX30.896.5$32,469
Charlotte, NC29.698.9$33,690
Forth Worth, TX29.399.8$34,148
Arlington, TX28.8100.6$34,554
Philadelphia, PA28.6101.2$34,860
Nashville, TN28.5101.4$34,961
Dallas, TX28.4101.6$35,063
Raleigh, NC28.2102.3$35,419
Fresno, CA28.1102.6$35,572
Phoenix, AZ27.6103.7$36,131
Mesa, AZ27.4104.2$36,385
Colorado Springs, CO27.3104.5$36,538
Virginia Beach, VA26.9105.6$37,097
Minneapolis, MN26.6106.5$37,555
Chicago, IL26.4106.9$37,759
Atlanta, GA26.3107.5$38,064
Las Vegas, NV24.8111.6$40,149
Sacramento, CA22.9118.2$43,506
Austin, TX22.7119.3$44,065
Miami, FL21.7123.1$45,998
Denver, CO20.4128.7$48,846
Portland, OR20.0130.8$49,914
Washington, D.C.16.4152.1$60,747
San Diego, CA15.4160.1$64,816
Long Beach, CA15.3160.4$64,969
Boston, MA15.1162.4$65,986
Seattle. WA14.0172.3$71,021
Los Angeles, CA13.9173.3$71,530
Oakland, CA13.8174.4$72,089
New York, NY12.7187.2$78,599
San Jose, CA10.8214.5$92,484
San Francisco, CA8.3269.3$120,355

A big factor in San Francisco’s high cost of living is its housing costs. According to Sperlings Best Places, housing in San Francisco is almost 6x more expensive than the national average and 3.6x more expensive than in the overall state of California.

Four of the top five most expensive cities on the list are in California, with New York City being the only outlier. NYC is the third most expensive city on the ranking, with $1 million expected to last a retiree about 12.7 years.

On the other end of the spectrum, $1 million in retirement would last 45.3 years in Memphis, Tennessee. That’s about 37 years longer than it would last in San Francisco. In Memphis, housing costs are about 2.7x lower than the national average, with other expenses like groceries, health, and utilities well below the national average as well.

Retirement, Who?

Regardless of where you live, it’s helpful to start planning for retirement sooner rather than later. But according to a recent survey, only 41% of women and 58% of men are actively saving for retirement.

However, for some, COVID-19 has been the financial wake-up call they needed to start planning for the future. In fact, in the same survey, 70% of respondents claimed the pandemic has “caused them to pay more attention to their long-term finances.”

This is good news, considering that people are living longer than they used to, meaning their funds need to last longer in general (or people need to retire later in life). Although, as the data in this graphic suggests, where you live will greatly influence how much you actually need.

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