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Passion Versus Big Money: Study Reveals High Income Improves Ones Evaluation Of Life

Every fresh graduate, every struggling employee, every aging worker gets hit with this perennial dilemma: should I go for a satisfying job or a satisfying paycheck?

In a perfect world, you would typically go for a balance of these two things. Be really good at something you really like doing and eventually you’ll be raking bills for it. But reality check: not everyone has the luxury to get the best of both. While some make it as a seasoned author, a rockstar, or even a professional DOTA player, not everyone can earn enough publishing books, playing music, or playing video games.


As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. But on the contrary, not having enough money can buy you misery. So much stress and problems come with the lack of money such as debts, stress of paying bills, and the inability to afford wants and needs, that can ultimately influence your relationships with your partner and your family.

This is why a recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that high income can buy life satisfaction, not necessarily happiness; and low income can bring about low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.

According to the study, people’s assessment of their own lives continued to improve as their income rose—but that’s not exactly the same as experiencing happiness. One of the authors of the study, Professor Daniel Kahneman, said that while people who had more money had the ability to buy more pleasures, they “seem to be less able to savor the small things in life.”


But while high income does not necessarily increase one’s emotional well-being, Kahneman noted that low income exacerbates pain from misfortunes such as disease, divorce, and being alone. This does not literally mean that people with lower income are more likely to go through these things. It means that the effects of divorce and sickness and other painful experiences could have worse effects on poorer people than richer ones. Imagine having to go through cancer without enough funds to pay for your medications, or wanting to break up from your abusive husband but not having enough money to pay for a lawyer.

This is why according to Catherine Baab-Muguira at Quartz, work for money so you’ll have more time and money to pursue your passion later. She writes, “The sooner you have money, the less money you need. If you work for money now, you’re generally in a better position to pursue your passion later on with no financial stresses. Imagine being able to paint or sing or act or write lyric poetry about your cat and not worry about how to pay the rent, like some lucky trust-fund kid.”

But again, there’s not universal rule that will make everyone agree. It seems that at the end of the day, it all boils down to what people consider as success, depending on what they view as a satisfying end goal to their careers: working to earn big and spend bigger, or working to express yourself and pursue what you love doing. And for many people, there’s a difference to what they want out of their lives, which will ultimately make them happier and satisfied.