Why do people always think about making money

Does money make you happy? From 60,000 euros - but not for long

Do you mainly work for money? Error. For many people, earning money and the highest possible salary are the driving force behind their career choice or additional performance. Most of them are also convinced that Money doesn't make you happy. Sure, it doesn't work entirely without a subsistence level. There has to be a fair basic income so that the work is fun over the long term. But beyond that? Does money make you happy? Does it motivate you, and if so, how long? Science comes to surprising results ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

More money: does that motivate you at all?

Money doesn't make you happy, but it is immensely calmingis the popular saying so beautifully. For the publicist Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who died in 2013, the following is again Quote attributed to: "Money alone doesn't make you happy, but it's better to cry in a taxi than in the tram."

To know that you can afford something Fulfill wishes can and not have to turn every euro for it - that's a nice thought. Financial freedom and independence have a tremendously relieving effect on the psyche.

But does the money spur us on in the long term?

This question has preoccupied economists, sociologists and psychologists for decades. In fact, most work structures and organizations are based on the idea that monetary compensation an essential motivation for work performance. In short, the more you pay people, the better results they get. Allegedly.

But Motivation cannot be bought. Almost every second specialist and manager (47 percent) in Germany is convinced of this. That was the result of a survey by the management consultancy Hay Group (around 18,000 respondents). Most of them would not be motivated by a raise in their salary.

One in four also had variable, i.e. performance-based, remuneration components such as bonuses and bonuses no motivating effect whatsoever. 56 percent of the skilled workers even stated that they felt under pressure from a variable salary component of 30 percent.

This also fits the so-called Easterlin paradox: When Richard Easterlin examined the subjective life satisfaction of Americans over a period of 25 years, he soon realized: Although the income of Americans had almost doubled on average between 1946 and 1970, they were by no means more satisfied. Even more: people in poorer countries like Puerto Rico or Colombia had a significantly lower per capita income than Americans, but had a comparable level of life satisfaction.

In short: More wealth in a society does not automatically lead to more life satisfaction. This is the Easterlin paradox. Money makes people happier. But only those who have little and who (have to) get by with it.

The question, whether money makes you happy or motivates, of course, is not new. The vile Mammon was denounced in the Bible and the Beatles once sang: "Money can't buy me love".

Still leaves that love money hardly a person cold. The fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is always an upset. Just like the question whether money spoils the character. Whereby that is more the question of that Hen and the egg: Can such a connection even exist? Conversely, nobody would claim that a lack of money improves character!

Does money spoil character - and are the poor more generous?

That the poor are more generous than the rich can be observed again and again in everyday life. However, it would be too easy to believe that getting rich automatically more selfish and cold-hearted would be.

And neither is it, as Paul Piff of Berkeley University showed. In his experiments he worked with what is known as priming. He used videos to get his test subjects to believe they were in different financial circumstances and - the rich as poor and vice versa - to think about whether they would give the personable beggar in the film some money.

Result: The manipulated The wealthy were more generous, the poor meanwhile, more stingy. The feeling of belonging to a social group was in the stuff generosity decisive: members of the individual social classes tend to identify with their own kind. Accordingly, the rich find it easier to support cultural institutions, colleges and universities with amounts of money that they and their friends have visited or regularly use. The poor, on the other hand, see beggars as people who ultimately struggle with the same problems as themselves.

The really dramatic thing about this finding is that the stronger this effect, the more it increases the gap between rich and poor.

Does money make you happy? That's what science says

There have long been numerous studies on the connection between Money and luck, Motivation or satisfaction. We have compiled a few of the most remarkable results on the subject of money and its effects for you here.

But one thing should be said beforehand: The idea that money motivates is one Misbelief. A dangerous one at that ...

  • We are happiest with an annual salary of 60,000 euros.

    Many people think they would be happier if they made more money. That's true, but it's only half the story: In fact, this only applies up to a certain income. Scientists working with Daniel Kahnemann and Angus Deaton have found: With an annual income of 60,000 euros, our happiness in life reaches a maximum. After that, more money may expand financial leeway - but it doesn't make it happier.



    From an annual income between 80,000 and 100,000 euros, it is hardly possible to measure a connection between more money and satisfaction. Economists also speak of one decreasing marginal utility.

  • Salary increases only motivate from 7 percent.

    The management professor at the University of Northern Iowa, Atul Mitra, intensively examined the percentage at which a salary increase is motivating or demotivating.

    Result: only from one Plus by seven to eight percent Employees feel sufficiently appreciated that they will work harder in the future. Below that, the increase in salary had at most the half-life effect of an amuse gueule.

    Mitra turned the tables again and researched how big a drop in salary has to be in order to have a demotivating effect. Result: employees only have five percent less in their pockets than before, they reacted with maximum sniffiness and anger. And of course they work less hard and with less commitment afterwards.

  • More income motivates a maximum of 4 years.

    Money or a raise only motivates for a certain amount of time. More precisely: for a maximum of four years. When scientists at the University of Basel researched whether and for how long a salary increase makes you happy, they came to the conclusion: Although the salary increase provides more satisfaction in the short term, after around 4 years but the effect was already fizzled out again.



    The researchers cite this as the reason for this rather short-term motivation boost Habit effect. At the beginning you may still feel the plus in your wallet, but over time it becomes normal and is no longer anything special. So over the years, wishes as well as demands and reference points shift.

    In addition: Everything is relative - especially the salary. Accordingly, employees do not just measure their income in absolute numbers, but rather evaluate it in comparison to their colleagues. This was also shown by the study: The salary increase motivated in the short term, especially when the salary (felt) exceeded that of the other colleagues.

  • Money only motivates the above average.

    Performance-based pay makes employees happy, but only those who are above average. Scientists led by Uwe Jirjahn from the University of Trier, Thomas Cornelissen from University College London and John Heywood from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee came to this conclusion. The trio of economists attributes the positive effect to the fact that one performance-related salary the above-average performers also benefit the most.

    Their productivity gives them a higher income, which in turn increases job satisfaction. And because they know that they are hardworking, they tend to look for employers who offer appropriate compensation models. The recommendation for companies is therefore: select more when it comes to salary. For particularly productive employees, performance pay would be the best instrument for recruiting, motivating and retaining them.

  • If you only think about money, you hardly have any time.

    Time is money. Another bon mot. However, it makes a difference whether you think about one thing or the other: If you only think about (earning) money, you run out of time.

    This is the conclusion reached by marketing professor Cassie Mogilner from the renowned Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Depending on whether people ponder about their time or the disdainful Mammon, they feel more relaxed and happier or not. It even affects relationships with other people.

    In the experiments for the study, business people who wanted to grab a coffee during their break were asked to fill out a questionnaire. The scientists distributed two versions of it: One questionnaire dealt exclusively with terms relating to money, the other dealt with the time factor.

    Lo and behold: Anyone who had thought a lot about money sipped their coffee quickly and then went back to work immediately. Those who had dealt with time issues, on the other hand, preferred to stay a little longer and above all cultivated social contacts.

    When the participants left the shop, they were asked again how they felt: Those who took their time and preferred to chat with their colleagues were happier.

  • Anyone who thinks of money gets cold.

    According to a joint study by researchers led by Leonie Reutner from the University of Basel and colleagues from the University of Salzburg, we are already at Thoughts of money colder. In one of the experiments, for example, 40 test persons were asked to estimate the number of banknotes in a glass; a second group did the same Estimation questions - only this time there were only envelopes in the glass. At the same time, the participants were asked how warm they found the room - and indeed: who had the money in mind, felt the room colder.

    In another experiment, 62 subjects were asked to put their arms in one Bucket of water hold and estimate the temperature. Again one of the groups was manipulated into thinking of money. Result: Her water (although there was in fact no difference) felt colder to her.

    So what is fascinating about the study is that alone Thought of money our feelings, up to and including the perception of temperatures.

  • Money changes relationships.

    People who think a lot about money have different priorities: they graduate Work higher and relationships lower a.

    This, in turn, has been shown by studies by Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester in New York. Students who had set themselves the goal of fame and fortune described their relationships with friends and partners much more negatively than their fellow students in the control groups. Other people were often only a means to an end for the money geeks.

  • Money makes goals seem less valuable.

    If you then motivate people who have previously done something voluntarily with money, their commitment drops dramatically (see also “Corruption Effect” below). This is proven by studies by the US psychologist Theresa Amabile from Brandeis University.

    In the specific case, the test subjects appreciated goals related to work promptly less if they are rewarded with money: In an experiment, she asked 72 students to write poetry. Some students were lured with the prospect of money and fame, others with the prospect of playing with words or expressing themselves - the result: The financially motivated authors not only wrote less, but also less well.

  • Money shifts priorities.

    Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer's experiment took place between 2008 and 2009. His idea was to offer students money if they graduate particularly well.

    Of course, the students were delighted with the prospect of cashing in on graduation and tried to achieve a particularly high premium. However, they did not know exactly how: When the scientists asked how they wanted to do it, the classmates answered the classic: learn more, complete more test training courses, read the exam questions more carefully. But there was no really substantial need for research among them.

    "None of them stayed in class after a course and spoke to the professor or asked him questions," says Fryer, frustrated, "not one". In the end, the students' entire motivation revolved around getting the highest possible bonus. The good graduation, the actual learning were only a minor matter and a means to an end.

  • Money makes you lonely.

    This series of experiments by Kathleen Vohs from the University of Minnesota fits in well: In one experiment, those sitting under a billboard preferred to read a book alone instead of going to a café with a friend. Who at Monopoly game won and cashed in abundantly, then again hardly helped in collecting pencils that had just "accidentally" dropped.

  • Money even makes you unhappy.

    This is to blame for the difference between To have and Want to have. Those who strive for financial goals in their actions ultimately make their happiness in life dependent on extrinsic factors. And because they have to be increased more and more, happiness and goal are never achieved.

    In addition, those who have a lot more often define themselves through their possessions, according to the finding of social psychologist Marsha Richins from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Accordingly, rich people often feel more insecure, how real their friendships are; they suffer more often from fears that someone might steal from or ambush them; and they drink more alcohol and use drugs more often than others.

    The studies by Nobel Prize winner and business psychologist Daniel Kahnemann also fit in with this. Among other things, he found that rich people are by no means more likely to devote themselves to the pleasant things in life than less wealthy people. After a short period of acclimatization, rich and poor find their way back into their old role models: the satisfied remains content, the complainer complains.

    Philip Brinckman was also able to prove that money does not inevitably lift people's spirits: He chose a particularly dramatic comparison between lottery winners and people who were severely disabled as a result of an accident. He interviewed 22 lottery millionaires, a 22-person control group and 29 accident victims. Result: The millionaires were by no means happier than everyone else, and the disabled were not even more unhappy than the people in the control group.

Money and motivation: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

The behavioral scientist Abraham Maslow developed the eponymous Needs pyramid. After that, people pursue motives of different rank:

  • First so-called Deficit needs, i.e. physical requirements (eating, sleeping, reproducing), followed by security requirements (home, job, health) and social relationships (friends, partners, love). First they have to be satisfied in order for someone to be satisfied.
  • This is followed by the so-called Growth needslike social recognition (status, money, power) and self-actualization. However, these can never be satisfied: An artist paints to express his creativity, not to paint 100 pictures.
Money and Motivation: Theory X and Y

The US social psychologist Douglas McGregor, on the other hand, developed two models in the mid-1950s - Theory X and Theory Y - which are based on two images of man.

  • Theory X assumes that employees are lazy and immature, shy away from responsibility, prefer routine work and can therefore only be motivated by so-called extrinsic measures (status, income, praise). Managers who prefer this image of human beings tend to adopt an authoritarian leadership style, carrots and sticks.
  • Theory Y assumes, on the other hand, that work has a high priority for people per se, they are willing and ambitious on their own. Successful work gives them deep satisfaction.Managers who lead in this way will prefer a cooperative leadership style: They delegate and rely on initiative and self-control.

What actually motivates employees

Also Frederick Herzberg found in his empirical studies from 1959 and on the subject Job satisfaction out that money, status or other bonuses are merely Hygiene factors are: They are not suitable for long-term motivation.

Real Incentives would, on the other hand, be directly related to the work itself: the work content, the competence, the degree of responsibility. Accordingly, managers should primarily aim to:

  1. Meaningful work.

    The feeling of being just an insignificant cog in the machine permanently paralyzes all work ethic. Everyone wants to know that their work creates added value, that it is important and indispensable. Those who convey exactly this to their employees awaken their vigor anew.

  2. Teamwork.

    This is an overused term that is unfortunately too often misused. But he hits it on the head: people are social beings and companies are social organizations. Even if you muddle for a while - cooperation, collaboration as well as recognition and encouragement from others, in short team spirit is what we are primarily looking for in our job, in addition to meaningful work. Those who find it like to do more.

  3. Fairness.

    Speaking of team spirit: This includes that all gratuities - salary, bonuses, praise - are transparent, understandable and fair. Nothing is more detrimental to motivation for the job than nepotism or unjust pay.

  4. Recognition.

    The point is closely related to the first, but deserves a special mention (or rather, attention). Money is the reward for the effort, but it never compensates for a lack of recognition. No matter what someone creates or produces - he wants colleagues and customers to register it, especially if it was good. Praise is a form of attention, a particularly positive one. But objective and fair criticism is also part of it. And especially with high performers, you can't make enough fuss about their services. They even become role models and incentives for others.

  5. Growth.

    The catchphrase of lifelong learning always sounds appealing, but it is our own interest: We want to develop further, grow in the job, and develop more responsibility and creative freedom. But passion only thrives where people can do it. Glass ceilings and a lack of development by superiors or trained service providers are motivation killers - and often a major reason to change jobs.

  6. Autonomy.

    For most entrepreneurs, the main wish was to become self-employed: They wanted to become more independent in their decisions, in their work and in their everyday work. Employees want that too. Indeed, freedom and self-determination are enormous driving forces. Wherever you can: Show people how to become more independent - and you will arouse their passion.

Money isn't everything. Not even on the job - and certainly not in the long term: Timothy Ferriss, the author of the “4-hour week”, wrote the rhetorical, but clever one questionwhat reward it warrants that we have the most precious years of our life Sacrifice to make money and hope to be happy for the last few years?

Or to put it another way: Does money make you happy - when we suffer at work?

The Corruption Effect: Why Rewards Demotivate

Psychologists Mark Lepper and David Greene from Stanford University and the University of Michigan have found out that rewards, especially monetary ones, can have a downright devastating effect on motivation. In technical jargon, the phenomenon is also called Corruption Effect designated.

In their tests, the scientists observed 51 preschool children between the ages of three and five who particularly liked to paint pictures - so do so intrinsic were motivated. Then the children were randomly three different groups assigned:

  1. The first group was told that they would then receive a certificate and an award for painting - similar to the announcement of one fixed wages.
  2. The second group also got one Certificate and an award - but didn't know anything about it beforehand. So you were only surprised with the bonus when you submitted your pictures.
  3. The third group got nothing. Accordingly, nothing was promised or promised to them beforehand.

In order to rule out the factor envy, the children were given separate awards and they continued to be individually observed how their motivation to paint developed over the next few days.

Result: The motivation of the children, who had to expect a fixed wage, fell dramatically. They only invested half their time in painting. The mallust of children without any reward on the other hand, with around 15 percent of the free time invested, it was significantly higher and was only topped by the group with surprise prizes. They invested almost 20 percent of their time in new pictures.

Other studies - for example among smokers who wanted to quit smoking - were able to show that the success rate drops drastically when the test subjects rewarded for achieving the goals become.

The price makes the existing one intrinsic motivation through a extrinsic kick replaced. In the end, people only pay attention to the kick (which has to be increased from time to time) instead of the fun they originally felt.

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January 12, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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