Money vs. Happiness: Notable Readers Weigh In

The money versus happiness debate is nothing new; it seeps its way into conversations of relationships and careers alike. Any young professional either wishing to start his or her own business venture or embark on a career in anything arts-related knows that the initial salary expectations are modest to say the least. It is almost expected that in careers like event planning, public relations and media that a recent university graduate will likely have made more income in their university bartending jobs. Entry level positions aside, how much is required to sustain a healthy YP life in our increasingly expensive cities? An enriched YP life is expensive after all, and things like dinners, theatre and concert tickets add up – not to mention rent and mortgage payments. We asked 175 young professionals to weigh in on the money versus happiness debate, and here is what they had to say.

Of the young professionals surveyed, most fit into the $45,000-$60,000 salary range, with 21.8 per cent of YPs reporting that they fit into this category.

The second category our hard-working readers reported was $75,00-$100,000, with 20.7 per cent responding that they earn this amount.

Among those surveyed, it seems our young Notable readers are doing alright, by certain measures. The survey results revealed, however, that YPs want more and feel they need more to live their desired lifestyles. In fact,64.9 per cent of those surveyed were not happy with their salaries. Among other revelations, we learned that apparently money talk is not as taboo as it may have once been and young professionals indeed discuss their salaries with their friends and peers. As a matter of fact, 78 per cent of respondents know their friends’ salaries. Inevitably, we also compare ourselves to our friends. Compared to their friends, respondents are either in the middle or on top of what their friends make. Of the respondents, 37 per cent feel that they are on par with their friends and 32.4 per cent believe that they top their friends.

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It comes as no surprise that a correlation exists between money and happiness. We have, however, learned that to be blessed with an unlimited bank account doesn’t necessarily equal happiness and have come across many a trust fund kid and self-made millionaire alike who are just as miserable as the university student living on Kraft Dinner. However, the desperation and helplessness of not having enough money to sustain certain things, ranging from paying rent to group dinners with friends (especially when the bill is divided among guests regardless of what was individually ordered) and destination weddings is a major source of stress among YPs.

“Although I was intellectually stimulated in my job at a promising start-up and really loved working there, having to constantly decline on social events, dinners, and shopping trips with my friends started to take its toll on my self-esteem,” said a 27-year-old Toronto YP. “I felt embarrassed and desperate and was definitely not having much fun, but I ploughed through it, knowing that it was only going to get better. And it did.” 

In fact, 68.8 per cent of respondents cited salary as a determining factor in short-term happiness. Some YPs are more willing to make the initial “working for peanuts” sacrifice than others, namely those with the safety net of generous parents or the “glass half full” set who accept and endure the accompanying misery and anxiety of their peanut salary by remaining focused on the bigger picture and the other benefits of their job, like influence and expanding portfolios and professional networks.

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A whopping 76 per cent of YPs surveyed believe that salary is a determining factor to long-term happiness. For Canadian urbanites this isn’t surprising – desired Canadian cities are expensive, especially when YPs consider the future. After all, the cost of having kids has increased drastically in recent years in everything from baby food (we are only going to want the best for our babies one day), appropriate real estate and education. Any YP who attended an Ontario public school in the late 90s knows how prevalent and damaging the affects of teachers strikes can be and an increasing amount of YPs, whether they have children yet or not, have goals of private school.

The high cost of living is evident in Toronto in everything from ridiculous cab fares (it now starts at $4.50 just tosit in a cab) to real estate. In fact, the new global Mercer cost of living survey rates Toronto and Vancouver among the most expensive cities in North America for expatriates. The annual survey compares the costs of over 200 items, including housing, transport, clothing, food, household needs and entertainment. The survey ranks Toronto at No. 61 and Vancouver at No. 63 among 214 world cities assessed. In North America, only New York at No. 33 is more expensive. Other Canadian cities to make the list were Montreal at No. 87, Calgary at No. 92 and Ottawa at No. 115. 

So, what is the required salary to be happy in Canadian cities? Among Notable readers, it is generally agreed that the required salary to be happy is $75,000-$100,000, with 36 per cent responding that they would be happy earning this amount. It was agreed by 67.6 per cent that this required amount would be less if they did not live in an urban centre.

It seems, then, that we have two options: either to relocate to the suburbs and small towns (highly unlikely for most urban YPs) or to keep pounding the pavement and remaining positive that all of our dedication, lunches at our desks and late nights at the office will me met with substantial financial rewards that will enable us to live that enriched life that we envision, strive for and deserve.