In Sight

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Researchers say yes . . . if you know how to use it.

by Jonnelle Marte

As humans, we are almost always aspiring to land the next promotion or the next big raise, or to strike it rich some other way.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge concluded in a study released this month that money can indeed buy happiness. But the secret, they found, is not how much cash you have. It’s what you do with the money you have.

After analyzing people’s personalities and money habits, the researchers found that people who spent more of their money on the activities and causes that were important to them were more satisfied with their lives. It gives a new sense of importance to the phrase “know thyself.”

“People should stop worrying too much about making more and more money, and start asking themselves how they can use the money they have in a way that benefits their happiness,” said Sandra Matz, a Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department of the University of Cambridge and one of the authors of the study.

Ms. Matz and her colleagues analyzed close to 77,000 financial transactions completed by 625 consumers in Great Britain over six months.

The participants were also asked to answer online surveys that gauged their personality types, and they were polled on how happy they were with their lives.

While having more money on hand can still make life a little easier, once the basics like food and shelter are taken care of, people may be more likely to have the income they need to help meet some of their other goals and needs. The lesson is that it pays to think carefully about what you’re really trying to accomplish, Ms. Matz said.