Time Affluence is a Happiness Predictor

“I have just don’t have the time to do anything fun anymore.”  Jack said. Jack commuted from Stratford to Norwalk back and forth each day, about a 25-minute commute. He usually left his house only a few minutes after his elementary school children woke up and would do his best to rush home before they went to sleep.  “Last night, I calculated that I only see them 50 minutes in total during the week. This really saddened me.”  

Jack had come to see me because he had found a different job that was closer to home and practiced a family friendly work environment. However, he was hesitant on switching because the salary was $10,000 less than his current $140,000.  Jack’s wife didn’t work so he did not think it was wise to decrease his pay.  We went through his expenses – which led to the realization that he would save several thousand in car depreciation and gas due to the shorter commute – and realized that he would only lose about $6,500 after taxes. That’s still a chunk of money. But every study that I have seen on happiness suggests that beyond a certain point money does not equate to being happier. $70,000 seems to be the magic number for the U.S.  I’ll add $20,000 to this standard to account for Connecticut’s higher than average family income.  So, let’s say that beyond $90,000, Jack’s happiness would not be higher with a slight increase in salary. By switching jobs, he would gain more time to spend with his family, a major indicator of one’s overall happiness.  Jack ended up taking the job and just sent me a Christmas card showcasing his happy family.