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Can Money Buy Happiness?

The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil, but we've heard that the one to die with the most toys wins.

Money may talk, but will you be happier if you listen?

In its August issue, Money magazine reported the results of a survey on the ageless question, "Can money buy happiness?"

It turns out, said the magazine's managing editor, Eric Schurenberg, following the money doesn't necessarily put you on the path to happiness.

On The Early Show Tuesday, Schurenberg gave co-anchor Julie Chen the bottom line of the results: "Money can make you happy but having more money doesn't make you more happy. That's where a lot of people go wrong.

"Once you get above a subsistence level, it almost doesn't matter. If you make $50,000, you're about twice as likely to say you're very happy than somebody who makes less than $20,000. I think you have a level of confidence. But, once you get above 50, it doesn't make any difference. (From) 50 to 90, (there) is almost no difference at all."

What's at work here?

"It's all kind of psychological," Schurenberg responded. "First of all, we always compare ourselves to others. The definition of a happy man is the person who makes a hundred dollars more than his wife's sister's brother. You're always going to find somebody who makes more than you and you will always find a reason to be unhappy about that. Another thing we always do is we overestimate the pleasure we're going to get from things or from having more money. We think that having that new sports car is going to make our day. Well, at first, maybe it will. But three months later, that fancy new sports car is just an appliance. It's just the car you have."

The survey resulted in a list of things that make people happy, and they're not "stuff," fort the most part.

"Oddly enough," Schurenberg pointed out, "(they're) things that money largely can't buy. Good health is on top of the list. Owning a home. Kids. An interesting job. Things that you can buy with money, like luxury cars, fancy gadgets, they're down at the bottom of the list."

But, he adds, there are things you can buy that will make you happier.

"A barbecue grill is a great investment in happiness," Schurenberg says, "because people are what make you happy. So, buy a barbecue grill, have a barbecue, invite a lot of friends over. People who have a large circle of friends are twice as happy with people who have a small circle of friends."

Another happiness provider? Splurging on guitar or golf lessons.

"Psychologists and economists talk about something called flow, getting into something that's challenging, really absorbing and when you do it, time flies and you never even notice it," Schurenberg explained. "So, guitar lessons, playing golf, a couple of sets of tennis, a tough crossword puzzle, all of those things that make you feel good when you've accomplished them is a good happiness investment."

Finally, buying a souvenir from a great vacation makes people happy, reminding them of their trip. And, Schurenberg concludes, "Over time, memories get better. Things get worse. But memories get better."

To read the article in Money, click here.

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