THOMPSON: Does money buy happiness? Seems it does, at least partly | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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THOMPSON: Does money buy happiness? Seems it does, at least partly

 


OPINION


Three years ago, a group of economists looked at data of every American taxpayer to determine exactly who - not by name but by occupation - are the richest of the rich. Specifically, they sought answers to the question, how did those who dominate the top one-tenth of one percent of all earners make their money?

What jobs or careers - earning at least $1.58 million a year - lands you at the top of the earnings heap? No such study has been done in Canada, but the findings generally apply to Canada, as well.

You might be surprised…as I was. It seems if you really want to get rich…and pretty much stay that way…you should own a car dealership. That’s right…sell cars and trucks…new and used. Twenty percent of the people who own an automotive dealership in the United States are in that one-tenth of one percent group…people who earn at least $1.58 million a year.

That means of the 17,968 new car dealerships in the U.S., 3,594 of those owners are among the richest folks in America. Hmmm…if wealth is your goal and you’re a freshly minted university grad you might want to eye a job at a local car dealer rather than, say, looking at investment banking or some high-tech job.

More than 140,000 Americans make up the ultra rich, according to the study.

It should come as no surprise that owning a business - generally speaking - is going to make you more money than working for a salary. Indeed, three of every four people among the richest 140,000 Americans own businesses rather than living on salaries or inheritances. Of course, owning a business isn’t for everyone…lots of folks lack the experience, judgment and capital to even start their own business.

And while buying your way into, say, a car dealership, sounds good…they’re much like sports franchises…the current owners and their families are happily rich and usually not of mind to sell their golden goose.

The economists who studied the rich in America say a lot of owners derive wealth from decidedly unsexy, unglamorous businesses…leasing heavy equipment, renting tools, distributing beverages, running repair shops for widely used equipment, and gas stations.

Decisions on what kinds of businesses to own aren’t easy. What might sound like a good business…often isn’t. Record and music stores usually go out of business before their first lease agreement is up. Toy stores, clothing outlets and cosmetic stores rarely make it through their fourth year.

Businesses where you are less subject to price competition…or benefit from legal protection…like car dealerships and beverage distributors are good choices. But, again, hard to find and when you do, the cost of buying the business can be prohibitive.

If you are expert in certain businesses or industries, you might want to start a market research firm, which appears to be a licence to print money. Collect data, analyze it and sell reports to customers for five- or six- or even seven-figure amounts. It turns out that ten percent of the owners of market research firms are in that heralded one-tenth of one percent of the richest folks.

Of course, it is important to remember that money doesn’t always bring happiness. In fact, I’ve known a fair number of folks who were knee-deep in folding money who were quite miserable.

But, it turns out that other research, like Matthew Killingsworth’s study of 30,000 adults a few years back, de-bunked a long-standing myth that money doesn’t buy happiness.

Seems it does, at least partly. But relying on money as the root of happiness is an expensive proposition, you have to keep doubling your income to stay happy. Hmmm, easier said than done.

Another study of a few thousand millionaires by Harvard University found that you can derive the same level of happiness as having net worth of $8 million…simply by marrying the one you love. Okay, now we’re talking…something most of us can do!

Another study in the U.K. asked three million smart phone users what made them happy.

Turns out that sex, exercise and gardening are high on the list. I might have guessed at least two of those.

A lot of people are busy at things that have no or little hope of finding them happiness. For one, too many folks are working in jobs they hate…often with people they dislike. Only being home ill and bedridden makes us more miserable than working at jobs we hate.

By the way, don’t count on social media to make you happy…of 27 activities from exercise to sex to gardening to organizing your life…research says spending time on social media drains happiness more than any other activity.

Here’s a thought. Stay off social media for a few days…call some friends - old or new - and get together for dinner. No study to back this up…just call it a feeling…but I’ll bet you’ll be happier.

If not, your back up plan is hoping your son or daughter starts dating the son or daughter of the local car dealer. Then, hope they find happiness, because it looks like they will be rich.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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