Happiness Doesn’t Start With A Big Salary, Study Suggests


Many students go to college or university with the notion that by going they’ll be doing something that will improve their chances of finding a high-paying job.

However, according to a study out of Pace University, there is a negative correlation between striving for that well-paid job and your own subjective happiness.

While this doesn’t prove that going after a lucrative job will make you less happy, it doesn’t bode particularly well for the assumption that getting that profitable job will make you happy.

Stressing over money and the desire to earn a six-figure salary will only offer the slimmest increase in your overall level of happiness.

Of course, this doesn’t really point to what aspirations will make you happy during your university career.  That same study showed that those most happy were typically those who were looking to earn money to help others, to feel secure and to make oneself proud.

Over at UBC, another study looking at money suggests that thoughts about money have a negative effect on pleasant experiences.  The study specifically looks at money affecting small experiences, such as the old ‘smelling the roses’ cliché, with money concerns preventing you from noticing the more smaller joys in life.  The study also poses the idea that worrying about money can dampen pleasant experiences in general.

While there’s a common misconception that happiness is related to financial success, several studies show that this is only true insofar as when financial success can satisfy one’s basic needs.  When you’ve got enough money to provide yourself shelter, food, and clothing, you’ve already achieved the vast majority of happiness that money has to offer you.

So, stressing over money and the desire to earn a six-figure salary will only offer the slimmest increase in your overall level of happiness. By putting off your concerns over your future salary, your time  in post-secondary school might be better spent working towards a career that makes you happy regardless of what sort of monetary reward it offers.

One last important bit of information regarding the Pace study is that it was done in the United States and a similar study conducted in Canada showed that most Canadian students aren’t nearly as preoccupied with making money in their future career.  Along with that lack of interest in money, Canadian students also seem to carry with them a sense of optimism about their future that’s measured with some pragmatism.  So, while the findings of the study at Pace University do show the danger of worrying about your salary after graduating, it may be that most Canadian universities don’t place that same type of pressure on their students.

In spite of these apparent differences in attitude between Canadian and American students, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still very possible to become hung up on what your wages might look like after graduating.  While there’s no shame at all in wanting to strive to your full potential, it’s also crucial to keep in mind that there are more important things to worry about in university or college than snagging a big fat pay cheque after you graduate.

About the author

José Gonzalez is currently studying English and psychology at the University of Toronto. He's tried his hand at a wide variety of jobs, from pizza maker to autism therapist, but so far he hasn't figured out his exact niche. He figures as long as he's making a positive difference in someone's life, whichever path he goes down is a good one.