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April 27, 2021

Good news: Money can buy happiness after all!

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that it’s possible to buy happiness after all: providing you spend money on others.

In a series of studies, a team led by UBC professor Elizabeth Dunn found that people report significantly greater happiness if they spend money on gifts for others or charitable donations, rather than on themselves.

The researchers asked participants to rate their general happiness; report their annual income; and provide a breakdown of their monthly spending, including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others and donations to charity.

Regardless of how much income each person made, reports Dunn, those who spent more money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves didn’t.

A parallel study also measured the happiness levels of employees before and after they received an annual profit-sharing bonus, which ranged between $3,000 and $8,000. What affected the employees’ happiness, says Dunn, was not so much the size of the bonus but how they spent it. 

In another experiment, the researchers gave participants a $5 or $20 bill, asking them to spend the money by the end of that day. Half the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves, while the balance were told to spend the money on others.

The results mirrored those from their other studies. Yet again, those charged with spreading the wealth reported feeling happier than did the other group.

It seems, even in tough times, that joys of giving are very real – just like your mother told you.

Has this been true in your own life?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...