Just a Little Bit More, Please!

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This week’s insight highlights a study that reveals how we all just want a few extra dollars to feel secure.

Legend has it that one of the richest men in human history, John D. Rockefeller, was once asked, “How much money is enough, sir?” Estimated to be worth about 3% of U.S. GDP at his peak (equivalent to around $800 billion today), he responded, “Just a little bit more.”

Whether this exchange actually happened is up for debate, but there’s no question that the most successful entrepreneurs, politicians, and business magnates just never seem satisfied. The thirst for more wealth and power isn’t unique to billionaires, though.

A recent study conducted by Empower, a retirement plan provider, surveyed 2,000 people across the income spectrum on their thoughts about what constitutes “enough.” Intuitively, one might assume that those on the lower end of the income scale would require a significant pay increase to feel secure, while six-figure earners might feel set.

Au contraire. The data show that no matter how much someone is pulling down annually, “just a little bit more” was pined for. Interestingly, it was the wealthier salary crowds that were least happy with their existing income amounts.

‘Just a Little Bit More, Please!’

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The upshot: The pursuit of some cold salary figure will never leave us fully and finally satisfied. While this may seem disheartening at the individual level, it has positive implications for society. You see, this perpetual desire for more drives us to collectively work harder, launch new businesses, create more efficient products, and ultimately improve the world.

For you, though, recognizing how much is enough is critical to enjoying your wealth. There’s plenty of research on the relationship between income and happiness – it used to be that about $75k was the point at which an additional $10k really didn’t matter when it came to our psychological well-being. New studies show that the amount is (not surprisingly) higher these days. A $100k salary seems to be the sweet spot. Of course, the Empower survey shows that the $100k people demand about $15k of extra dough to feel more secure.

The point? Don’t pin your hopes and happiness on landing that big promotion and higher salary. Instead, focus on financial activities that are shown to deliver joy – we’ll look at those next time.