This Generation Needs the Most Money To Be Happy

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How big of a salary — and how large of a nest egg — do you need to be happy? How you answer that question is likely to depend on your age.

Recently, financial services company Empower surveyed 2,000 Americans aged 18 and older as part of its “Financial Happiness” study and asked them how much money they need — both in terms of annual salary and overall net worth — to feel happy.

Empower found that 59% of Americans say money can buy happiness, with the average price of happiness being a net worth of about $1.2 million or an annual salary of more than $284,000.

However, the precise numbers vary widely by generation, and one age cohort’s appetite for wealth is so voracious that they skewed the overall averages much higher than they otherwise would have been.

Here is how much money four generations — baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z — say they need to be happy.

Millennials

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To feel happy, survey respondents from this generation said they would need, on average:

  • A net worth of $1,699,571
  • An annual salary of $525,947

It’s fine to dream big. But millennials are living in fantasyland when they think about how much money they need to be happy.

The net worth millennials claim is necessary for bliss is much higher than that of other generations. But where millennials really go bonkers is in their insistence that you need more than a half-million dollars in annual salary just to feel happy.

No other generation comes close to naming a salary figure that high. In fact, millennials’ salary requirements are four times greater than those of any other generation.

For perspective, earning $500,000 puts you near the top 1% of all earners. So, if the millennials really believe you need that much money to feel joyous, an awful lot of people are doomed to misery.

Generation X

Generation X worker
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To feel happy, survey respondents from this generation said they would need, on average:

  • A net worth of $1,213,759
  • An annual salary of $130,344

Members of Generation X appear to be much better grounded in reality than millennials, at least when it comes to financial expectations.

Gen Xers say you need a yearly salary of about $130,000 and a net worth just north of $1.2 million to be happy. Both of those standards are well within the grasp of millions of Americans. A combination of the right education, a lot of hard work and diligent saving can help you achieve this level of financial success.

And it all starts with the right mindset. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers his thoughts on getting started in “Mind Over Money: How Thoughts Create Wealth.”

Baby boomers

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To feel happy, survey respondents from this generation said they would need, on average:

  • A net worth of $999,945
  • An annual salary of $124,165

In recent years, baby boomers have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism. They often are pilloried as being self-absorbed and greedy.

But perhaps the wisdom that comes along with age has given boomers a better perspective on money than the stereotypes suggest.

The annual salary boomers say you need to be happy is relatively modest. But even more impressive is the fact that boomers say you need just under $1 million in net worth to be happy. That is lower than what both millennials and members of Generation X claim.

Learn more about how this age group views money in “The Top 10 Financial Priorities for Baby Boomers Today.”

Generation Z

Generation Z at work
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To feel happy, survey respondents from this generation said they would need, on average:

  • A net worth of $487,711
  • An annual salary of $128,084

Despite their youth, members of Generation Z display wisdom beyond their years when they identify how much money you need to be happy.

The six-figure annual salary they say is necessary to be happy is reasonable and achievable. But what is more impressive is that Gen Z says you need less than $500,000 in total net worth to feel happy. That means members of Gen Z believe you can be happy with lifetime earnings that are lower than the annual earnings millennials insist you need to be happy.

Of course, as younger 20-somethings, Gen Z might also have lower expectations for net worth since they are just starting out in adulthood.

Perhaps Gen Z’s sensible approach to saving is why they are the generation that has the best relationship with money, as we reported in “Which Generation Has the Most Super Savers?

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