The Perfect Income for Happiness? It’s $161,000

The Perfect Income for Happiness? It’s $161,000

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More than one study has tried to determine the financial price of happiness. Some look at wealth. Others look at income.

One well-publicized study last year put the optimal income for happiness at around $ 75,000. Rising income, it turns out, produces greater happiness until you get to around $ 75,000. After that, there are diminishing returns, with more income leading to little or no gain in real happiness.

This is a fraught question, of course. “Happiness” itself is not easily defined, and money, as the winners of this week’s Powerball jackpot will tell you, doesn’t always guarantee it. And the financial requirements for happiness usually depend on geography, peer groups and other external factors.

The latest to weigh in on the issue is Skandia International’s Wealth Sentiment Monitor. It found that the global average “happiness income” is around $ 161,000 for 13 countries surveyed. The United States wasn’t specifically measured. (Read more: Why Millionaires Prefer Dogs)

But there was a wide range of answers depending on the country. Dubai residents need the most to feel wealthy. They said the needed $ 276,150 to be happy. Singapore came in second place, with $ 227,553, followed by Hong Kong, with $ 197,702.

The region with the most modest needs for happiness is Europe. Germans only need $ 85,781 to be happy, placing them lowest on the list. The French need $ 114,000, while the British need $ 133,000.

The survey doesn’t ask about total wealth needed to feel happy. But it does ask about the amount of wealth needed to feel “wealthy.” Globally, the average amount needed to feel wealthy was $ 1.8 million.

Singaporeans took the lead on the “wealth” needs, with $ 2.91 million needed to feel wealthy. Dubai ranked second with $ 2.5 million, followed by Hong Kong with $ 2.46 million. (Read more: Surveys show that among Americans, most say they need $ 1 million or more to feel wealthy.

All of this shows that wealth and financial happiness is not an absolute number, but is relative to your peers and surroundings. Living in Dubai, with all those oil barons and oligarchs, the needs are higher. In Germany, where wealth is more evenly distributed, the needs are not as high.

How much wealth or income would you need to feel happy?

-By CNBC’s Robert Frank
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