Men, women, and generations disagree on how much money will buy happiness

Nov 27, 2023, 5:00 PM

A man counts U.S. $100 bills at the craft and art market in Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, ...

FILE: A man counts U.S. $100 bills at the craft and art market in Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. A new survey shows vast differences between men and women, and the various generations, when it comes to how much money it takes to be happy. (Sunday Alamba/ Associated Press)

(Sunday Alamba/ Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — What amount of money can bring you happiness? A financial expert gives some surprising insights.

When it comes to salary, Americans say they need $284,167 per year to be happy. Broken down by gender, men estimate the target is more like $381,000, while women say the target is $183,000.

There’s an even larger gap between generations. Millennials put their annual desired earnings at $525,000, Gen Z wants $128,000, Gen X will take $130,000, and Boomers want to make $124,000 per year, according to a survey by

In Utah, the average salary is $48,501 or $23 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter.

Why the huge disconnect? 

“[Millennials] may not quite have a concept of what it takes to run a household fully,” DMBA Certified Financial Planner Shane Stewart told KSL NewsRadio.


“They also are thinking housing, ‘I’ve got to buy a big house.’ They’re thinking of the current situation rather than over decades,” Stewart said. “I am not surprised by that … What kinds of jobs are out there for every millennial to make 500,000 a year?”

Why are men’s expectations higher than women’s?

As a financial planner who consults with couples, Stewart said men feel pressure to be the primary breadwinner.

“Whether this sounds sexist or not, men are hardwired to be the breadwinner. They feel like that’s their duty … men think they have to be the primary breadwinner,  and there’s probably some truth to that.”

Stewart said the pressure men supposedly feel is probably “self-imposed,” but he added the difference in financial expectations between men and women is surprising.

How much money buys happiness?

Stewart cited a 2010 study by Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton that concluded happiness reaches an upper limit at $75,000 a year, but higher than that, more money has little effect on happiness.

Because of inflation, Stewart said that upper limit today is likely about $100,000.

Yet new findings suggest that, for most people, happiness does improve with higher earnings — up to $500,000 a year as reported by CBS News.

But whatever your dollar figure is, “the focus on money is a dangerous, slippery slope. You can be happy with very little as long as you don’t tie it to the money and tie it to the law of sufficiency: How much do I have to keep me going and is it sufficient for my needs?” Stewart said.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Men, women, and generations disagree on how much money will buy happiness