Does More Work = More Money = More Happiness?

Here’s something we’ve all heard/said: ‘I gotta put in long hours because everybody else at work does, and we need the money just to cover basics.’ This response — typically served up to spousal requests for more home-time — just got a major rebuttal. According to The New York Times (June 18, 1995) a recent Wharton School study showed that people who place high importance on creating a good family life actually end up earning more money than those who were willing to sacrifice homelife for their careers. Another new study from the Merck Family Fund found that 28 percent of Americans have already cut back their income to have ‘a more balanced life.’

Many workaholics interviewed by The Times acknowledged that sometimes long hours just aren’t necessary. CEO Howard Palevsky, who blames his former workaholism for a marital breakup, now values his employees’ good results over hours clocked. ‘There are a lot of people who work long hours because they’ve got nothing else to do, who have no life,’ he observes. Another executive admits he didn’t need to be a workaholic for years — ‘I’m not so sure I always worked effectively’ — and has downscaled to spend more time at home.

Most Americans want to increase family time, even if it means less goodies, according to the Merck study. Many are motivated by environmental concern, with 88 percent agreeing that ‘protecting the environment will require most of us to make major changes in the way we live.’ However, only 18 percent are ready to ‘spend less time working and make less money than we do now.’ And while 77 percent agreed that ‘If I wanted to, I could choose to buy and consume less than I do,’ 53 percent also believe that ‘I spend nearly all of my money on the basic necessities of life.’

Certainly, an ever-increasing number of Americans literally need all their income to cover bare-bone basics. For those who don’t, downscaling is a scary move, notes Barry Schieber in New Dimensions (Summer 1995). He advises taking small steps to decrease fears about the risks of making less money. ‘Voluntary simplicity’ advocate Marsha Sinetar acknowledges that change is tough, but has surprising rewards. Interviewed in Magical Blend (Issue 48) about her new book, To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love (St. Martin’s Press, $18.95), Sinetar notes that ‘whether we make money in quantities sufficient for our needs, no one can say. We can, however, guarantee ourselves a life position of being responsible. We can strive to become fully human beings, embrace the conditions and nuances of our own humanity. We can reach for greater compassion for self and others. All of these are spiritual tasks.

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