March 21, 2011 -- Would $25 million make you happy?
Not if you're a member of the ultra-rich.
In a survey titled "Joys and Dilemma of Wealth" by Boston College, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Calibre Wealth Management, the wealthiest set revealed they are an unhappy bunch -- worried about appearing ungrateful, rearing bratty children and failing to meet expectations.
The report, obtained by The Atlantic, gives a glimpse of the wealth and fulfillment level of 160 households, of which 120 had amassed fortunes of at least $25 million. The findings: Despite great wealth, many seem miserable.
One of the gems from the survey: "I feel extremely lucky, but it's hard to get other, non-wealthy people to believe it's not more significant than that … The novelty of money has worn off."
So is it better to live life without money? "Being very poor is very miserable," says Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University. "But it turns out money doesn't buy as much happiness as people think it would buy."
Bo Derek once said, "Whoever said money can't buy you happiness simply didn't know where go shopping" -- but that's not true, say happiness researchers. It's not the Screaming Eagle, one of the world's most expensive wines, or the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2 that bring the most joy. It's knowing how to do good with your money, say experts.
"One reason money might not provide as much happiness is because people might not spend it right," says Elizabeth Dunn, who conducts research on happiness. "We find that people get more happiness by spending money on others."
So what are problems of the big spenders?
"The truly wealthy know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated. No yacht is so super, nor any wine so expensive, that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one's children won't grow up to be creeps," writes Graema Wood in The Atlantic.
But don't feel too bad for the rich. It's likely they are happier than you are. "You are happier the wealthier you are, despite the problems you may have -- it's just not as strong as people think it would be," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California Riverside.
"The difference in money is huge but the difference in happiness is not," Lyubomirksy says. The uber-rich may control a huge chunk of America's wealth but they do not have a monopoly on happiness.
"You just don't get as much happiness per dollar," she says.