Take this quiz, and discover if your preferences make you happier…or not.
Choose A or B…
Would you rent an apartment that’s…
A) cheap but far from your office?
B) close to your office but expensive?
Would you choose a flight for a personal trip that’s…
A) cheap but with a layover?
B) direct but expensive?
Would you drive farther to pay less for gas?
Would you choose a “friendly” café even though the coffee costs more?
A) No, that’s a waste of money.
B) Yes, I’d enjoy myself more.
If we offered you a prize for taking this quiz, would you choose…
A) $50 in cash?
B) a $120 voucher exchangeable for housework?
MONEY CAN’T BUY YOU LOVE
Here’s what your answers mean: If you answered mostly “As,” you value money over time. If you opted mostly for “Bs,” it’s the opposite—time is more valuable to you.
Researchers at The University of British Columbia performed a series of studies—both in college students and in a representative sample of working adults in the US (average age 45)—asking questions similar to the ones above. They asked the study participants to rate “subjective well-being,” defined as having more positive moods and fewer negative moods as well as a general feeling of life satisfaction—in short, happiness.
The result: Those who opted for more time rather than more money were consistently happier in life.
WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHEN WE THINK ABOUT MONEY
When people think about money, they tend to value productivity and independence, the researchers note. When they think about time, on the other hand, they prioritize social connections. As it turns out, spending more time with people who like you and people you love is a more powerful path to happiness.
How you value your time affects your life choices, too, which in turn can affect your happiness. For example, adults who prioritize time over money tend to work fewer hours in their jobs each week, compared with those who have the opposite priorities. The result may be that they have more time to engage in “enjoyable activities such as socializing and exercising,” the researchers write.
Is opting for time over money the secret to happiness? We may have overstated it a little bit, to be honest. There are many paths to happiness…or away from it. And to be fair, not everyone has the luxury of always choosing time over money. For example, you may really want to get that direct flight rather than endure time-sapping layovers, but your budget may just not allow for that. Many people simply don’t have the option to work fewer hours at their jobs. The researchers plan future studies to tease out whether the happiness benefits of choosing time over money hold true only after your basic financial needs are met.
The good news is that we often do have a choice. Even happier news: As we age, we get better at making decisions that make us happier. Studies show that older people are more likely to prioritize time over money than younger people. That may help explain why, according to other research, happiness tends to increase after middle age.