Achieving Happiness on just $800,000

Guestblogger Marina Gorbis is executive director at Institute for the Future.

I don't know about you but I am feeling kind of bad about those poor Goldman Sachs investment bankers. Just a few months ago they looked so sad (remember those sad guys on the trading floor?). And now, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, after taking money from American taxpayers, they earn huge profits as if the credit crunch never happened. The 29,400 Goldmanites are expected to take in on average around $800,000 in pay, bonuses, and benefit packages. I can only imagine what this means for the top 400. But I worry that this is just not going to make them happy. And this is because research on happiness reveals some surprising things:

• Wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but not thereafter (Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness.)

• The bewildering array of choices that wealth brings not only doesn't make us happier but actually erodes our psychological well-being. (Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice)

• Spending money on other people has a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. (Dunn et al., Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness)

So I want to humbly suggest that for the purposes of ensuring Goldmanites' happiness, they give large portions of their money to those impoverished by the recession, thus making themselves and others a bit happier. Spread a bit of that happiness contagion. What do you think?