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The Student News Site of Liberty High School

The Live Wire

Does money buy happiness?

Liberty students must navigate the complex relationship between income and happiness when choosing future careers.
Students consider debt and income when deciding their careers.
Leela Strand
Students consider debt and income when deciding their careers.

Income can play a central role in quality of life, perceived status, and resources. However, the understanding of its impact has evolved over time. Liberty students must navigate this landscape as they make choices for their future careers. 

“I absolutely agree that money buys happiness,” said Mariah Rollins, 12. 

Rollins hopes to pursue something related to finance. The perceived link between income and happiness plays a large role in her plans. 

In 2010, a popular Princeton University study found that day-to-day happiness increased with income only up to $75,000 and then plateaued. Interestingly, the median US income in 2022 was around $75,000 according to census data. Despite this, many Liberty students have goals above this average income. 

Stella McCullough, 12, is planning to go into music-business. Her belief in the connection between money and happiness contributes to her desire for career success. 

“I’ll make more money if I’m good at [my work] and successful and have good connections,” said McCullough. 

Debt adds another layer to students’ decisions. Bachelor’s degrees increase average lifetime income from about $1,576,000 to $2,804,000 according to the US Career Institute. However, the average student loan debt is around $40,000, and average total debt is around $90,000-$100,000, compounding over time. Many students want to choose a career that ensures their debt will be manageable. 

“I know I will have debt after college and I want to minimize its effect… It is part of the reason I am interested in engineering,” said Lilly Harris, 12. 

However, not everyone is in complete agreement with this mindset.  

“I disagree with the idea that money buys happiness at a fundamental level, but at a certain point I think it would be naive to say there isn’t a connection between income and happiness,” said Ridley Hazeltine, 12.

In contrast to the Princeton study, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) found in 2021 that happiness increased far beyond $75,000. When the universities collaborated, they confirmed UPenn’s findings, but discovered a more nuanced relationship. Those who have lower emotional well-being still plateaued around $75,000 – $100,000. 

“I think emotional intelligence contributes to happiness,” said Harris. 

However, emotional well-being and income are not distinct from one another. 

“Of course well-being should also be a major consideration when choosing a career, but I do think that higher incomes could provide access to more mental health resources,” said Hazeltine. 

Resources such as Advisory and school counselors attempt to support students as they explore these possibilities. As Liberty students consider their career goals, the intertwined factors of income and emotional well-being must be contemplated.

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About the Contributor
Leela Strand
Leela Strand, Managing Editor
Leela is a senior at Liberty High School. This is her second year on the Live Wire staff. At Liberty, Leela plays tennis and is part of SEA club. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering, and skiing, among other things.