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Save More, Live Longer

Richer people tend to be happier, healthier

Richer people tend to be happier, healthier


Could saving money now be the secret to a happy retirement down the road?

I recently wrote a column about the ways that saving money can make you happier. If you need more convincing on the value of saving, research suggests it will probably increase your life expectancy as well, especially if you're a man.

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According to a recent New York Times article about a study by the Brookings Institution, richer people live longer. Among other fascinating findings:

  • For a man born in 1950, life expectancy is to age 73 if you are in the poorest 10 percent of wealth, but age 87 if you are in the richest 10 percent.
  • For a woman born in 1950, life expectancy is to age 75 if you are in the poorest 10 percent of wealth, but age 88 if you are in the richest 10 percent.
  • While life expectancy has increased overall compared to those born in 1920, it has increased most dramatically for the wealthy. In fact, it increased only modestly for the poorest 10 percent of men and actually decreased for the poorest 30 percent of women.
  • While women still have a longer life expectancy, the gap has narrowed, especially for wealthier men.
  • One theory by researchers for the more rapid increase in life expectancy among the wealthy is that they are more educated, which has led to less use of tobacco. Another is that obesity has increased less rapidly for the wealthier. Finally, medical advances are more readily available for the wealthy.

My theory

Though I'm sure those explanations have merit, I'd like to offer a possible theory of my own: Wealthier people are happier and happier people tend to live longer.

In support of my hypothesis, research conducted by Michael Finke and Hoang-Nhat Ho at Texas Tech University demonstrates that wealthier retirees typically describe themselves as happier. The data suggest that one factor for why wealthier people may be happier is that they have more time to spend socializing with friends and family. And according to the Mayo Clinic, "Research shows that those who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer."

See also: How to retire happy

My advice

Statistically speaking, it appears that the slogan "he who dies with the most toys wins" couldn't be more wrong. Spending to impress others, or even yourself, is not going to make you as happy as you think. In fact, in the long run, you may be buying a shorter life expectancy. So review the seven techniques to save more and get off that hedonic treadmill. In the words of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, it may help you "live long and prosper."

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Allan Roth is the founder of Wealth Logic, an hourly based financial planning firm in Colorado Springs, Colo. He has taught investing and finance at universities and written for Money magazine, the Wall Street Journal and others. His contributions aren't meant to convey specific investment advice.