Lawsuits are often about money. And the plaintiff often thinks that if she wins and gets all this money- she will be quite happy. And conversely, a defendant thinks that if she wins, she will save a whole lot of money which will make her happy!

Well… as one might suspect, these aspirations are not quite realistic. A recent study indicates that money can buy us all happiness… but only up to a point.  In a post on dated February 14, 2018, entitled “How much Money Would It Take to Make You Happy? Scientists Calculate”, Samantha Mathewson notes that “… there’s a limit to how beneficial a lofty income is to an individual’s well-being.” (Id.)

Using survey data from a Gallup World Poll collected from more than 1.7 million adults over 15 years old from 164 countries, the researchers found that the “ideal income point” appears to be “…$95,000 for overall life satisfaction and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well- being.”  (Id.)

This income happiness index varied by country.  Australia and New Zealand appeared to have the highest ideal income point of about $125,000. That is, happiness in these countries increased up to this amount and then flattened out, if not reduced. At the other end, inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean appeared to need very little to make them happy: $35,000.  And, closer to home, North Americans seem to require $105, 000 to make them happy.

In sum, the study suggests that once these varying thresholds are reached,

…. Additional increases in income resulted in reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of emotional well-being. … The researchers said this is likely because money fulfills basic needs, such as purchasing necessities and paying bills, but after people’s needs are met, they are driven by material gains and social comparison that may ultimately lower their well-being. (Id.)

Notably, the study also found that gender did NOT make a difference. The link between income and happiness was neither stronger for one sex nor the other.   However, education did make a difference:

 … Individuals with higher education reported a more positive life evaluation and emotional well-being in relation to higher income.  This is likely due to income aspirations and social comparisons with different groups of people…. (Id.)

 So, will money buy happiness?  Yes, but only up to a certain point.

This research intrigued me because it may help disputing parties be a bit more realistic in their settlement demands and offers. While our society operates on using money to redress wrongs, this study shows that this remedy works only up to a point! As a mediator, it will provide another tool in my toolbox when I discuss unrealistic demands and offers by explaining that the emotional charge or satisfaction from obtaining “a lot of” money  goes only so far and then actually reduces one’s satisfaction in life and with happiness in general. It will help me convince the parties that the Zone of Potential Agreement is a lot lower than originally envisioned. In sum, it may help settle more lawsuits by pointing out that “money truly does not buy happiness!”

…. Just something to think about.


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