Is ‘The Happy Movie’ on the Money?

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Is ‘The Happy Movie’ on the Money?

As bosses around the world are being urged to rethink large bonuses, they might console themselves with a documentary film called ‘Happy’ which has been recently released on DVD. One of its findings is that vast wealth is not guaranteed to give you a permanent smile. However, I believe the link between salary and happiness is as controversial as a banker’s bonus.



The Happy Movie is a 75-minute documentary by Oscar-nominated director Roko Belic (Genghis Blues). It examines what makes people happy. When it looked at material happiness, it found that in the USA, once a person makes the equivalent of £30,000 a year, anything above that makes no difference in happiness at all. A rickshaw driver in India was said to be as happy as a middle-class US citizen.


Our research at the iOpener Institute for People and Performance tells a slightly different story.


We aimed to find out that if money doesn’t matter, why do so many people behave as if it does? Why are so many executive boards adamant that they’ll lose talent unless they pay for it to stop walking out of the door?”


Richard Easterlin wrote a seminal paper in 1974 in which he suggested that more money didn’t bring greater happiness. He showed that as industrialised economies doubled, happiness levels remained static. So if money doesn’t make societies happier what about individuals?


Our findings showed that pay is not associated with motivation, interest in work, having an impact on the world or achieving potential. In fact it’s negatively associated with it.


People don’t want money as a reward for being interested or motivated at work nor does money have much sway on an individual’s performance, time off sick or willingness to stay with an organisation.


We were so surprised by this that we checked it out twice on two different groups of 1,000 people each, one before the recession and one during it. The findings were the same both times.


However, there is a lot of evidence that there is a correlation between money and happiness – a Gallup survey showed that in the USA 90 per cent of people earning the equivalent of $250,000 called themselves very happy while just 42 per cent of those earning under $30,000 said the same.


Money doesn’t make you any happier at work because work isn’t where you get to spend it. It is actually out of work where it matters – where not having enough creates an enormous pressure. And having it enables you to make greater choices.


There are some important things that will impact your overall life happiness in relation to money. That includes what your attitude to money is, why you value it and how you intend to spend it. If you want cash to do good things with it, especially for others, you can increase your happiness by earning more.



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