Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 1, 2013

The Good Life: Want what you have

By Tina Taylor
Chronicle contributor

— University researchers found that Americans with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 feel they have sufficient income to live comfortably. Those with this income level were happier than those who made less and were also more likely to say their “best days” were ahead of them. Happiness does with income up to a point, but researchers find no additional gains in happiness beyond an annual household income of $75,000.

Those with a household income under $50,000 were less likely to call themselves happy, and they struggled to pay for such basic needs as health care and housing.

In Cumberland, nearly two-thirds Cumberland County households in 2011 had incomes below $50,000. Less than one-fifth within the county have a household income above $75,000, compared to one-third nationally. The world’s average household income in 2010 was $9,218.

Clearly, most people within our community struggle daily without access to jobs that provide a living wage. But for the more than one-third living here that do have sufficient household income to live without financial stress, how can we break free of wanting more wealth?

1. Know it will never be enough. When we hold fast to the belief that money directly determines happiness, life becomes a constant pursuit of accumulating more. Researchers find that more than four out of 10 American millionaires do not feel wealthy. The majority of those who have more than $25 million do not consider themselves financially secure.

2. Truly reflect on what you value and brings you contentment. Know what you truly value in life. Once you know what truly brings you contentment and joy, surround yourself with them.

3. Want what you have. As you accumulate more material possessions and accomplishments, your expectations rise. The deeds and things you worked so hard for no longer make you happy; you need to get something even better to boost your level of happiness. Daily gratitude practice helps to remember all that we have.

4. Foster connections: Just as a recovering alcoholic does not hang out with alcoholics, distance yourself from those intoxicated with consumerism. Research has shown the happiest individuals have the strongest commitment and connection to family and friends.

5. Make time to enjoy life. The primary reason for reaching financial independence is so that we have more time to do the things we love and enjoy life. However, study after study has shown that the more people make, the less time they spend enjoying their life. With more money comes more responsibilities and more stress.

Basically, what all of this data about money and happiness tells us is that it's called "cold hard cash" for a reason. Without the things that research tells us are the real sources of happiness — social connections, feelings of gratitude, challenging work, good health — you're not going to get very far in your new set of wheels.

May you find what I have reported interesting and something you can use in your life. I invite you to email me your reactions (lgorenflo@gmail.com).