Here’s how to use your salary to buy happiness

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published March 14, 2019

Key Takeaways

Good news if you’re a doctor whose annual income exceeds $75,000. According to this study, you’ve surpassed the amount of money it takes to reach “income satiation.” Income satiation, the study says, is the point at which additional income no longer makes you happy. With the lowest-paid physicians in the U.S. bringing in about $189,000, that means you have likely surpassed the income satiation point. So what’s a doctor to do with the extra money if it won’t buy happiness? 

Research has demonstrated that we can derive greater life satisfaction from spending our money strategically. If you’re fortunate enough to be a high-earning physician, here are some research-backed ways you can put your riches to work enriching your life.

Buy time

A recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americastudy showed that adults in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands, as well as a sampling of Dutch millionaires, all reported that using money to buy time gave them greater life satisfaction. This proved to be true across income demographics.

So, what should a doctor do to buy time? The study shows that doctors looking to improve their life satisfaction should purchase time-saving services that alleviate “end-of-day time pressure.” Hate cleaning your bathroom? Hire a cleaning service. Don’t have time to pick up your white coats from the dry cleaners? Pay a little extra to have them delivered. Hate devoting hours at the end of the day filling out EHRs? Maybe it’s time to spring for a medical scribe service.

Time — not money — is our most finite resource. Weigh whether making these purchases could make a difference in your life. But, it’s also important to spend that money wisely, on collecting moments that add value to your life.

Buy an experience

A landmark 20-year study has shown that those who seek happiness should spend their money on experiences, not things. The study looked at groups across demographics, and participants said that purchases made with the intention of having a life experience yielded more happiness than material goods.

Interestingly, the study also featured a laboratory component in which participants were asked to imagine making an experiential purchase and a material purchase. Again, the experiential purchase provided more positive feelings. The researchers concluded that “experiences make people happier because they are more open to positive reinterpretations, are a more meaningful part of one’s identity, and contribute more to successful social relationships.”

Looking to have a memorable experience this year? Why not start with one of these.

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