Nearly 60% of Americans believe money can buy happiness — but the price tag varies widely between generations, according to a new poll.
Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 have the loftiest financial standards, requiring an annual salary that tops $525,947 to “feel happy,” according to financial firm Empower, which surveyed more than 2,000 American adults.
Millennials’ ideal paycheck is more than four times bigger than that of their elder counterparts — Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 — who say they can comfortably live on a $124,165-per-year salary.
The two generations adjacent to millennials — Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980 and Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012 — each only need roughly $130,000 annually, Empower found.
The price of happiness for millennial earners followed a similar trend when it came to net worth, with this age group wanting a fortune that tops a staggering $1.7 million. However, the average earner in this age group — the majority of which are in their 30s — have an average net worth of $275,413, Empower found.
Millennials set their sights on raking in lofty sums of money due to the economic headwinds they’ve experienced in their formative years, namely the 2008 financial crisis, according to Empower.
Boomers and Gen Z, meanwhile, say the ideal net worth is below $1 million — $999,945 and $487,711, respectively — while Gen X says a net worth of $1.2 million can buy happiness.
There was a stark difference in the ideal earnings between men and women. Generations aside, adult men surveyed told Empower that their “magic” net worth number is roughly $1.5 million, while women said a figure that was nearly half, $880,950.
Empower also surveyed participants on what exactly financial happiness means to them — and top responses included paying bills on time and in full followed by being debt-free.
Millennials in particular put an emphasis on wanting to enjoy “everyday” small luxuries without worries, like a daily $7 coffee — which 62% of those surveyed in this age group said they would buy every day because of the joy it brings them.
A stunning 96% of people said that making a purchase — no matter what it is — increases their love for life, according to Empower, while 88% said such joy comes from experiences.
For two in five Americans, or 45%, buying a home is the purchase that defines financial happiness.
Finances are so important to Americans that 76% said they would relinquish tickets to big events and 73% would ditch social media to achieve such financial happiness.
However, there’s one glaring thing standing in the way. The top financial stressor keeping Americans from reaching their money goals: inflation, Empower reported — an unsurprising finding given that prices across all categories are up a blistering 18.2% since October 2020.
Coffee, for example, is also among inflation’s most hopped-up pantry items, with a pound of ground beans surging to $6.18 on average, up from $4.52 in October 2020, according to data from the US Inflation Calculator.
The price of a dozen grade-A eggs, meanwhile, rose a whopping 47% over the past three years, to $2.07 from $1.41.
Other staples that rose roughly 33% from October 2020 to October 2023: White bread, which is up 50 cents to $2, as well as potato chips and chocolate chip cookies, both up over $1. The price of ground chuck, bacon, sirloin steak and chicken were also up more than 22%.