Could This Much Money Make You Happier at Work?

The largest online job site in the United States asked people how much money they’d like to earn. The results may surprise you.

Photo by Carey Sookocheff

Day in and day out, you get dressed, suck down an extra-large latte, go to work, enjoy the far too-sparse evening hours, and then go to bed—only to do it all over again the next day. It may not be such a bad gig if you’re happy with your job, but a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder reports 65 percent of Americans are unsatisfied with at least one thing at work: their paycheck.

The tipping point for salary contentment seems to be right around $75,000 a year, according to the findings: The majority of those who make upwards of that amount reported being satisfied with their income. Those who earned less than that amount, on the other hand, were increasingly dissatisfied the lower their income bracket.

It’s hard to pinpoint whether money alone would make employees happier (one Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans feel unsatisfied with their jobs). It’s likely a combination of factors, including both money and work-life balance, but the $75,000 threshold for salary satisfaction is in line with existing data that examines the correlation between income and happiness.

In a 2010 study from Princeton University‘s Woodrow Wilson School, participants reported having a more positive feeling about their lives as a whole when yearly income was about $75,000 per year. The lower a person's salary fell below that number, the unhappier he or she felt, while the happiness of those who made more seemed to plateau.

Of course, cost of living matters too. Another recent (and unrelated) study by Doug Short, vice president of research at Advisor Perspectives, found how much money you’d need to be happy depends on where you live. After adjusting income to account for the difference in cost of living in each state, Short found that $75,000 in a state like Hawaii, where the cost of everything from food to housing tends to be higher, will not afford you the same lifestyle as it would in a state that boasts a lower cost of living, like Mississippi. Residents of Hawaii need to make just over $122,000 per year before their happiness plateaus. On the other hand, residents of Mississippi need to earn just $65,850 before their happiness level peaks.

Though other external factors like family size are likely to affect the amount of money needed, workers who want a higher salary—or feel they need it—should ask for one. More than half of those surveyed in the CareerBuilder poll have never asked for a raise, yet two-thirds of those who did were given a pay increase. The moral of the story? Ask and you may be well on your way to happier days.