Do We Really Need $83K Salaries To Be Happy?

BreakingModern — You’ve probably heard of it: the magic annual income that correlates with maximum day-to-day happiness. First conceived in 2010, the so-called “happiness benchmark for annual income” — developed in an academic study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton. It has increased from $75K to 83K after being adjusted for cost-of-living per state, writes Business Insider.

But what about those of us under 35? We’re only making a median salarey of $39,700 a year, according to and Millennial Branding, Gen-Y research and management consulting firms based in Boston.

Money’s Not Everything

Of course, there are many variables at work, and salary is not a sole predictor of happiness: cost of living, family size, work satisfaction and the disparity between generational values contribute to happiness, to name a few.

Happiness, it seems, is far more than the sum of dollars and cents — and this is particularly true for the younger generations.

[Workers between 18 and 35] also want to find purpose in their careers, which might not mean having the highest pay,” Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, a consumer insights and strategy group, told The Columbus Dispatch. “They want to be making meaning, not just money.

Besides, not all $83,000 incomes are created equal. Someone earning $83K a year for 80-hour weeks at a soul-sucking, morale-sapping, Dante’s-cubicle inferno can hardly be compared to, say, a work-from-home web designer who rakes in $83,000 annually by working flexible hours with a handful of clients.

A pound of feathers isn’t the same as a pound of tacks.

The distinction matters. “Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring,” according to a report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C.-based independent-research and public-policy nonprofit.

So if salary isn’t the strongest predictor of workplace satisfaction, what is the factor that really will make us happy at work?

The New Workplace

In a nutshell, workers in our generation tend to seek work environments that provide flexibility, work-life integration, friendship, a sense of making a positive impact on the world and engagement in aiding social issues that they hold personally meaningful.

“[Young workers] were raised with a different perspective,” said Gutfreund. “Their boomer parents taught them to believe that their opinions are important.”

Workers 18-35 are poised to disrupt the future of work-life culture, as they will take up an estimated 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Cherished relics of Boomer and Gen-X values — such as productivity, high earnings and money-for-the-sake-of-money (damn the means!) — will take a backseat to what younger employees want at work.

happy millennials 2

Gutfreund told Forbes that The Intelligence Group has found of workers 18 to 35:

  • Some 64 percent say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
  • 74 percent want flexible work schedules.
  • 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture than a competitive one.
  • 88 percent want work-life integration, not balance. Integration.

This is consistent with a recent report by Millennial Branding, which found:

  • 45 percent of workers 18025 will choose workplace flexibility over pay.
  • 72 percent of so called Gen-X students (aged 35 to 50) consider “having a job where I can make an impact” to be key to their happiness.
  • 71 percent of younger employees (18-35)  want coworkers to be their “second family.”

A handful of employers are taking notice of these changing trends. Employers who are still holding onto the traditional 9-to-5 work paradigm may find themselves scratching their heads at what, exactly, makes us tick.

For BMod, I’m Raquel Cool.

First Image Credit: By Bùi Linh Ngân from Hanoi, Vietnam (Hanh Dung - Son) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Second Image/Cover Art: By Emanuele Spies from São Leopoldo, RS, Brasil (;funny!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Raquel Cool

Author: Raquel Cool

Raquel Cool is a Silicon Valley-based writer who covers tech, culture, science, and feminist issues. Raquel’s work has been published by the The Bold Italic, The Social Justice Journal, Mutha Magazine, Our Bodies Ourselves, and

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