Today millions of American taxpayers will file their income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. As they do so, it is worth noting that according to a new Marist poll money really does matter, and an annual household income of $50,000 is an important tipping point in personal happiness and satisfaction with life.
These results are part of the Generation to Generation study conducted for Home Instead Senior Care by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College. It is the first of an annual survey to assess how Americans view their lives based on 10 indicators of satisfaction – family, neighborhood safety, housing situation, spiritual life, health, friends, work or how days are spent, free time, finances and community involvement.
This multi-generational study looks at quality of life and finds that for Americans with household incomes of less than $50,000 – some 93 million households – their financial situation spills over to shape a more negative view of their future and life. They are more likely to say they are not very happy and more worried about becoming a burden to their families.
What's more, their quality of life suffers. Most negatively impacted are: Satisfaction with housing, 13.2 points below those with household incomes above the $50,000 figure; relationships with friends, 11.5 points lower; and how work and time are spent, rated 9.1 points lower. Even satisfaction with family life suffers, 5.4 points less for those living below this income level.
In contrast, those with a household income of $50,000 or more – about 60 million (39 percent) of U.S. households - say they enjoy a better quality of life in each of the 10 primary drivers of life satisfaction measured. Family, neighborhood safety and housing receive the highest satisfaction ratings.
"Money may not directly buy happiness, but our study clearly shows that it is an important factor in satisfaction with quality of life," said Paul Hogan, chairman and founder of Home Instead Senior Care. "The important take-away is not only the extent to which income shapes perspective on life but how difficult the recent economic downturn has been for many."
The study finds that in the past 12 months, 64 percent of all Americans – about two out of every three – experienced at least one financial hardship: 57 percent cut back on household spending, 26 percent considered delaying retirement, 17 percent experienced trouble paying for medical care, 14 percent had trouble paying their mortgage or rent and 12 percent faced difficulty paying for prescription drugs. What's more, these financial challenges hit younger Americans (Millennials and Gen Xers) harder than Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation.