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Money can't buy you ...

Love, according to the Beatles, or happiness either, according to professors from, in part, the University of Michigan.

OK, so Blue researchers might not be as lyrical as John, Paul, George and Ringo. But they say the connection between how much green you have in the bank doesn't necessarily translate into seeing life through rose-colored glasses.

Stack_o_money_2 In fact, the more money you earn generally means you are likely to spend more time commuting, working and doing other things you feel you just have to, rather than want to, do. And all these activities, say the professors, tend to provide us with little or no actual enjoyment.

It's natural, despite musical protestations to the contrary, to believe -- hope? -- that more money will make us happier. That's why most of us never turn down a raise. Or why so many of us, against our common sense, keep buying lottery tickets every week.

Don't just take my word for it. The researchers (representing, in addition to Michigan, Princeton, the University of California at San Diego and Stony Brook, N.Y., University) say that when we, meaning humans in general, consider the impact of any single factor -- any one thing, not just money -- on our well-being, we tend to exaggerate its importance.

The academicians reviewed several possible reasons why income really has so little effect on happiness, including their own explanation: As income rises, people's time use does not appear to shift toward activities associated with improved affect.

In English, when we spend all our time making the dough, we don't go out and spend some of it on just having fun! Total bummer.

Their findings were detailed in the June 30 issue of Science in the article, "Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion." If you can't get your hands on the magazine, you can read a bit more on the study in this U-M press release.

C'mon, get happy: Jonathan Clements, who writes the "Getting Going" column for the Wall Street Journal, came up with some ideas on how to put the findings of the study to practical use. He narrowed it down to four suggestions:

  • Keep your commute short.
  • Choose time over money. 
  • Think carefully about how you spend your dollars.
  • Use your leisure time wisely.

If you have a subscription to the WSJ, you can read the Clement's full column here. Of course, if you have a subscription to the WSJ, then you've probably already read it ... or you're a Type A personality so focused on making money that you don't have time for such trivialities.

To me, the bottom line in the money-happiness equation is not so much the amount of money you make, but what you do with it. Essentially, you need to control your cash, rather than letting it control you.

Don't be so obsessed with getting more money that you lose sight of all the good things you already have going for you. And don't spend so much time in the pursuit of more money that you have no time left to enjoy what cash you do have on hand.

Iandthebird_icon_1 Taking a bird break: I agree completely with Clement's fourth point about maximizing leisure time. So now I'm going bird watching.

But since it's still 100-plus degrees here in Austin, I'm going to do so via the latest birding blog carnival, I and the Bird #30.

Burning Silo, this week's host, has put together some life-list worthy birding blog items. Just opening the bird carnival page and seeing the photo of a chickadee, one of my all-time favorite songsters, immediately brightens my day.

Among my other favorites this week, In the company of wrens, the baby birds in What we've learned so far this summer and yikes! bald birds, a phenomenon we used to see at our feeders when we lived in Maryland. And, shameless self-promotion here, my item on how birding skills can help hone your investment techniques also is part of this latest I and the Bird.

Even if you're not a birder (yet!), give it a read. I promise it's a very worthwhile way to spend some of your valuable free time.


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what bull! if i had tens of millions of dollars, i guarantee i'd be a happier bloke. the researchers should start looking into the /amount/ of money that would make people happier.

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