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

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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

How Central Banks Think About Digital Currency

Central bank digital currencies are on the horizon. What do 65 central banks representing 91% of global GDP think about them?

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How Central Banks Think About Digital Currency

In the late 1600s, the introduction of bank notes changed the financial system forever. Fast forward to today, and another monumental change is expected to occur through central bank digital currencies (CBDC).

A CBDC adopts certain characteristics of everyday paper or coin currencies and cryptocurrency. It is expected to provide central banks and the monetary systems they govern a step towards modernizing.

But what exactly are CBDCs and how do they differ from money we use today?

The ABCs of CBDCs

To better understand a CBDC, it helps to first understand the taxonomy of money and its overlapping properties.

For example, the properties of cash are that it’s accessible, physical and digital, central bank issued, and token-based. Here’s how the taxonomy of money breaks down:

  • Accessibility: The accessibility of money is a big factor in determining its place within the taxonomy of money. For instance, cash and general purpose CBDCs are considered widely accessible.
  • Form: Is the money physical or digital? The form of money determines distribution and the potential for dilution, and future CBDCs issued will be completely digital.
  • Issuer: Where does the money come from? CBDCs are to be issued by the central bank and backed by their respective governments, which differs from cryptocurrencies which mostly have no government affiliations.
  • Technology: How does the currency work? CBDCs break down into token-based and account-based approaches. A token-based CBDC operates like banknotes today, where your information is not known nor needed by a cashier when accepting your payment. An account-based system, however, requires authorization to partake on the network, akin to paying with a digital wallet or card.

Digital Currency vs Digital Coins

In essence, digital currency is the electronic form of banknotes that exists today. Therefore, it’s viewed by some as a modern and efficient version of the cash you hold in your wallet or purse.

On the other hand, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are a store of value like gold that is secured by encryption. Cryptocurrencies are privately owned and fueled by blockchain technology, compared to digital currencies which do not use decentralized ledgers or blockchain technology.

Digital Currency: Regulatory Authority and Stability

Digital currencies are issued by a central bank, and therefore, are backed by the full power of a government. According to the Bank for International Settlements, over 20% of central banks surveyed say they have legal authority in issuing a CBDC. Almost 10% more said laws are currently being changed to allow for it.

As more central banks issue digital currencies, there’s likely to be favorability between them. This is similar to how a few currencies like the U.S. dollar and Euro dominate the currency landscape.

The Benefits of Issuing a CBDC

There are several positives regarding the issuance of a CBDC over other currencies.

First, the cost of retail payments in the U.S. is estimated to be between 0.5% and 0.9% of the country’s $20 trillion in GDP. Digital currencies can flow much more effectively between parties, helping reduce these transaction fees.

Second, large chunks of the global population are still considered unbanked. In this case, a CBDC opens avenues for people to access the global financial system without a bank. Even today, 6% of Americans do not have a single bank account.

Other motivations for a CBDC include:

  • Financial stability
  • Monetary policy implementation
  • Increased safety, efficiency, and robustness
  • Limit on illicit activity

An example of payments efficiency can be seen during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when some Americans failed to receive their stimulus check. Altogether, some $2 billion in funds have gone unclaimed. A functioning rollout of a CBDC and a more direct relationship with citizens would minimize such a problem.

Status of CBDCs

Although widespread adoption of CBDCs is still far away, research and experiments are making notable strides forward:

  • 81 countries representing 90% of global GDP are exploring CBDCs.
  • The share of central banks actively engaging in CBDC work grew to 86% in the last 4 years.
  • 60% of central banks are conducting experiments on CBDCs (up from 42% in 2019) and 14% are moving forward to development and pilot arrangement.
  • The Bahamas is one of five countries currently working with a CBDC – the Bahamian Sand Dollar.
  • Sweden and Uruguay have shown interest in a digital currency. Sweden began testing an “e-krona” in 2020, and Uruguay announced tests to issue digital Uruguayan pesos as far back as 2017.
  • The People’s Bank of China has been running CBDC tests since April 2020. In all, tens of thousands of citizens have participated, spending 2 billion yuan, and the country is poised to be the first to fully launch a CBDC.

The U.K. central bank is less optimistic about a rolling out a CBDC in the near future. The proposed digital currency—dubbed “Britcoin”—is unlikely to arrive until at least 2025.

Disrupting The World of Money

Wherever you look, technology is disrupting finance and upending the status quo.

This can be seen through the rising market value of fintech firms, which in some cases are trumping traditional financial institutions in value. It is also evident in the rapid rise of Bitcoin to a $1 trillion market cap, making it the fastest asset to do so.

With the rollout of central bank digital currencies on the horizon, the next disruption of financial systems is already beginning.

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Demographics

The Richest Women in America in One Graphic

Only 12% of billionaires in the U.S. are women. Who is part of this prestigious group of the richest women in America?

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The Richest Women in America in One Graphic

The majority of the world’s billionaires hail from the United States.

But of the 724 American billionaires whose net worths are tracked daily by Forbes, only 86 are women. That’s just 12% of the country’s billionaires.

This visualization examines the select few who have made the cut into this prestigious list, using data compiled from Forbes’ real-time billionaires list.

Note: All data is as of November 1, 2021 unless otherwise stated.

Top 10 Richest Women in America

Since 2020, MacKenzie Scott has donated over $8.5 billion and counting of her wealth. Yet, she still remains one of the richest women in the world. This is largely due to the Amazon shares that she received in her divorce settlement.

Amazon’s stock performance soared amid the pandemic, which resulted in the initial value of her shares ($38.3 billion) nearly doubling.

Top 10 overallNameNet WorthAgeSource of wealth
#1Alice Walton$68.1 B72Walmart
#2MacKenzie Scott$56.1 B51Amazon
#3Julia Koch & family$52.2 B59Koch Industries
#4Jacqueline Mars$31.5 B82Candy, pet food
#5Miriam Adelson$29.2 B76Casinos
#6Abigail Johnson$26.2 B59Money management
#7Laurene Powell Jobs & family$16.7 B57Apple, Disney
#8Diane Hendricks$11.7 B74Roofing
#9Ann Walton Kroenke$9.3 B72Walmart
#10Blair Parry-Okeden$8.8 B71Media, automotive

Miriam Adelson inherited her late husband’s 57% stake (worth ~$19 billion) in Las Vegas Sands, making her one of the richest newcomers to the Forbes list. The casinos have locations across Las Vegas, Singapore, and Macao.

Several of the women in this top 10 list also share membership with some of the richest families in America—from the Walmart Waltons, to the Johnsons at the helm of Fidelity Investments and Fidelity International.

The Oldest Richest Women in America

The oldest female billionaire in the world, Alice Schwartz, is 95 years old. She co-founded Bio-Rad Laboratories with her husband, which operates in the life sciences research and clinical diagnostics markets. They started the company in 1952 with only $720 in the bank.

OldestNameNet WorthAgeSource of wealth
#1Alice Schwartz$3.0 B95Biotech
#2Wilma Tisch$1.4 B94Diversified
#3Doris Fisher$2.8 B90Gap
#4Johnelle Hunt$4.7 B89Trucking
#5Marian Ilitch$4.4 B88Little Caesars
#6Pauline MacMillan Keinath$8.5 B87Cargill
#7Margot Birmingham Perot$4.2 B87Computer services, real estate
#8Martha Ingram & family$3.9 B86Book distribution, transportation
#9Janice McNair$4.2 B85Energy, sports
#10Norma Lerner$1.1 B85Banking

After her husband’s passing in 2018, Janice McNair (aged 85) took over his 80% stake in the NFL team Houston Texans, which ranks highly as one of the world’s most valuable sports teams. This also subsequently catapulted her position as being among the wealthiest sports owners in the country.

The Youngest Richest Women in America

In the online dating era, Whitney Wolfe Herd has made a name for herself. The female-first dating app she co-founded, Bumble, grew into a formidable competitor for her former employer, Match Group (which owns Tinder and OkCupid, among others).

At age 31, Wolfe Herd became the youngest self-made female CEO in the country after Bumble’s $2.2 billion IPO in February 2021.

YoungestNameNet WorthAgeSource of wealth
#1Whitney Wolfe Herd$1.2 B32Dating app
#2Rihanna$1.7 B33Cosmetics, music
#3Neha Narkhede$1.4 B37Software
#4Lynsi Snyder$4.2 B39In-N-Out Burger
#5Kim Kardashian West$1.2 B41Cosmetics, reality TV
#6Jane Lauder$6.7 B48Estée Lauder
#7Amy Wyss$2.0 B50Medical equipment
#8Sara Blakely$1.2 B50Spanx
#9MacKenzie Scott$56.1 B51Amazon
#10Aerin Lauder$4.2 B51Cosmetics

Wearing many hats from influencer to entrepreneur, socialite Kim Kardashian West’s cosmetics and fashion companies (KKW Beauty and shapewear line Skims) have catapulted her to a newfound billionaire status. She has a set of diverse revenue streams, from reality TV royalties to blue-chip and real estate investments.

Top 20 Self-Made Richest Women in America

The self-made label is an additional fascinating avenue to explore. Forbes defines this category as people who establish a fortune independently, rather than partly or wholly through inheritance.

One of the newest entrants into this mix is Rihanna. She already enjoyed significant success as an entertainer, with her claim to fame being one of the best-selling artists of the 2010s. However, it was her entrepreneurial spirit that put her on the Forbes list in August 2021. Rihanna owns 50% of her cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty. The other half is run by Bernard Arnault, who is among the world’s top billionaires.

Here is the rest of the top 20 self-made richest women in America:

Self-MadeNameNet WorthAgeSource of wealth
#1Diane Hendricks$11.7 B74Roofing
#2Judy Faulkner$6.5 B77Health IT
#3Meg Whitman$6.3 B65eBay
#4Judy Love$5.2 B84Retail and gas stations
#5Marian Ilitch$4.4 B88Little Caesars
#6Johnelle Hunt$4.1 B89Trucking
#7Thai Lee$4.1 B62IT Provider
#8Lynda Resnick$4.0 B78Agriculture
#9Gail Miller$3.2 B77Car dealerships
#10Doris Fisher$2.8 B90Gap
#11Alice Schwartz$3.0 B95Biotech
#12Oprah Winfrey$2.7 B67Media
#13Elaine Wynn$2.2 B79Casinos, hotels
#14Peggy Cherng$2.0 B73Fast food (Panda Express)
#15Sheryl Sandberg$1.9 B51Facebook
#16Rihanna$1.7 B33Cosmetics, music
#17Jayshree Ullal$1.7 B60Computer networking
#18Safra Catz$1.6 B59Software
#19Jenny Just$1.5 B53Fintech
#20Eren Ozmen$1.4 B62Aerospace

Source: Forbes, as of Aug 2021 (latest available)

For those paying attention to the rapid rise of the fintech industry, Jenny Just’s entry on this list will come as no surprise. Her firm, Apex Fintech Solutions powers the trading technology behind companies like SoFi and eToro. In fact, she has started or bought 15 businesses in the space in just 24 years.

As the richest women in America continue to make great strides, this list could look very different in coming years.

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