Researchers for years have studied the effect of winning the big lottery jackpots.
Do the people become more happy?
(Don’t worry we’ll talk about just what “happy” is in a minute.)
Only for a few months.
Then they return to their old level of happiness. Almost every study I’ve seen shows this to be true. Hit the big one and life is back to normal in a couple of years.
This has nagged at me for a long time because I’ve lived dirt poor and I have lived at every socioeconomic level between the bottom 10% and the top 10%. I’ve known a significant number of other people who have done the same, or close. I spent almost 15 years in the bottom 10% and 30 years in the bottom half.
Fact is overall, my impression has been that people are definitely happier when they have higher incomes. Overall they seem to have slightly less stress, fewer worries, are healthier, live longer, you name it. That’s not scientific. It’s just my experience.
And by some stroke of luck, my impression is correct when you do the real research…and not just looking at those who went from poverty to the top 1% in an hour.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
So why doesn’t happiness go “up” and stay “up” when people take home the big check? What’s up with that?
First, they didn’t earn it and therefore don’t deserve it. They spend it. It brings gratification for the moment and it is then gone….poof. Like a David Copperfield illusion.
And second, money is only paper. The ability to generate value exists only within the human being. People who win the big prize have no clue how to create value for others and that’s why more often than not their money goes as fast as it comes.
What Has Value?
Money has no real value. People do or don’t have value. Money is an illusion and this is no metaphysical mumbo jumbo.
I can rip up a twenty dollar bill and have people freak out. (I did this a number of times at a convention recently. I made one woman rip up a $5 bill of mine and she broke down and cried.)
WHY?? Money is a piece of paper. Value is INSIDE of Kevin Hogan. I can collect as many of those little pieces of paper as I want. But that is just collecting. They are worthless in reality.
I meet very few people who can tell me what “money” is. Even fewer who can tell me what happiness is.
For example: Did you know that the U.S. Government doesn’t issue money?
That’s the fact.
The Federal Reserve Banking System creates and issues money. (Little pieces of paper.)
(That sounds like the government…but it is a bank.)
- The U.S. Government then BORROWS the “money” from the bank.
- The Government then SELLS “I.O.U’s” (bonds) to the public and the world to pay the Federal Reserve Banking System back…with interest.
End of story.
Your money is backed by one thing: “In God We Trust.” (Nothing wrong with “In God We Trust,” but God didn’t ask to be on the dollar, last I read…) That’s it. There WAS a time in our history when our money was backed by more than faith. It was backed by gold or silver. Not any more. The real value of a dollar is so small it would scare you if I told you, so I’ll spare you the fear.
A thought: Keep God in your heart and GOLD in the safety deposit box…
By the way, The U.S. Government COULD just print the money themselves and have no interest payment to the bank! (That’s quite a story in itself, but I digress.)
But who knows this kind of stuff? Maybe 1/1000 people.
And that’s just the beginning of not knowing what money is. And we’ll talk more about this later. Back to our story…
So people win all these pieces of paper in a drawing on National TV and they get all excited, quit their jobs and in just a few years they are no better off.
One thing money is, is that it is pretty easy thing to quantify.
You have X dollars or pounds or whatever in the bank or invested. It’s easy to put a number on what you have and what you owe.
Now, let’s jump over to happiness.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness isn’t an emotion. There is no happiness emotion. You can’t accurately measure happiness. Some people say they are happy when they are “content”. Some people says they are happy when they win a game. Some people say they are happy when they say they are married or divorced or whatever. Some people say happiness is the opposite of sadness. That’s not correct. Sadness is an emotion (grief) and its opposite is “not sad.” But there is no happiness thermometer.
So, scientists have to figure out ways to measure something nebulous. These measurements are based on “self report.” That means you tell me you are VERY HAPPY and I believe you.
Assuming that happiness is a good and desirable thing…something which we all aspire to…something that you can’t identify when you get there….but you want “it”….OK, now we’re on the same page…knowing that there isn’t necessarily a page…
The question finally came about to researchers.
What happens if some dude doesn’t take home the BIG check. What happens if he takes home a smaller check? You know the consolation prize! The 100,000 and not the 10,000,000.
Get it? The ” pretty small” prize might just be something special.
And in fact, now interesting things start happening!
Researchers at the University of Warwick and Watson Wyatt have been examining just how many pounds one needs to take home in the big game to have a long-term impact on personal happiness.
Unsurprisingly the researchers found that small wins in tens or hundreds of pounds made little long-term difference, but they also found one did not need to win the jackpot to gain a significant increase in long-term mental well-being.
In work to be published in the Journal of Health Economics, researchers Professor Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick and Dr Jonathan Gardner from Watson Wyatt showed that medium-sized lottery wins ranging from around just £1000 to £120,000 (2000-220,000 U.S.) had a long term sustained impact in the overall happiness of those winners.
On average, two years after their win medium-sized lottery winners had a mental well-being GHQ score 1.4 points better than previously – meaning loosely that two years after their win they were just over 10% happier than the average person without a win or only a tiny lottery win.
Intriguingly the researchers also found that this increased happiness is not obvious immediately after the medium-sized win and takes some time to show through.
Economist Professor Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick said: “This delay could be due the short-term disruptive effect on one’s life of actually winning, but a more plausible explanation of the delay is that initially many windfall lottery funds are saved and spent later.”
The researchers studied 14 years of longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) which tracks 5,000 British households.
Whatever happiness is, it does appear that having another 150,000 around the house good significantly improve the “happiness” of those in the house and would certainly be worth obtaining to see if the same result happened to you.
Given the remote chance of actually taking home something in these government sponsored games of chance…. I would encourage alternative ways of bringing those dollars home!
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