Today is World Happiness Day. And one of the most contested issues for those trying to measure happiness is its relationship to income — can money really buy happiness?
Trang Do, who works as an admin staff in Ho Chi Minh City, agrees money can truly buy happiness. “It provides stability and peace of mind, which for me are the basic factors of happiness, no one wants to stare at the ceiling for hours trying to find ways to put food on the table”, she said.
Money and finance website Expensivity has revealed the price of happiness in every country — proving that the link between money and happiness has greatly changed in recent years.
The global analysis was based on the “happiness premium” established by scientists from Purdue University, in the US. In that study, researchers looked at data from 1.7 million people and cross-referenced their earnings and life satisfaction.
They found that more money boosted happiness – but only to a point. Beyond that, further increases in income could actually lead to more unhappiness.
So, what’s the price in Vietnam?
As per the study, the ideal salary for Vietnamese to be happy is $22,580 (VND 521,033,500) per annum or at least $1,900 (VND 43,842,500) per month.
Problem is, in Vietnam, the current monthly minimum wage is divided into four levels, depending on the region: VND 4.42 million ($191.52) for region 1, VND 3.92 million for region 2, VND 3.42 million for region 3, and VND 3.07 million for region 4.
According to a VN Express report, the figures reflect the cost of living in each area. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are in region 1, while rural areas are in region 4.
Businessmen, politicians, and officials frequently talk about how the pandemic affected public health and the economy. But for most people, those are hypothetical considerations. What they experience each day are moods — the sense of being anxious and sad, or, if they are lucky, cheerful and optimistic.
For Trang, who falls under region 1, what she’s earning now is barely enough to support her family and herself. “I live far from my family, so there’s like two sets of budgeting, for my family back in my hometown and for myself in the city.” Adding it’s a problem she has to face every single month.
“But despite everything, I am happy with what I am earning now. I’m glad I still have a job even during the pandemic period. Also, I believe one’s salary range should be based on their ability, and not so much on their position. But companies and the society, in general, have these standard salary ranges for different levels, different jobs,” she said.
As for Nhu Vo, an international student who’s in Vietnam for summer says the $1,900 monthly salary is already a good amount to be comfortable with. “In Vietnam, that’s a good salary to be happy. That’s a lot of money to a lot of people like cleaners, service crew, and factory workers,” she added. However, she doesn’t think she can afford to have that monthly rate if she’s in the US.
The study shows that Bermuda, Australia, and Israel had the highest price of happiness at $143,933, $135,321, and $130,457, respectively. No, this isn’t about greediness or whether it’s a rich country or not. A great factor in the amount is the cost of living.
On the other hand, Suriname, Argentina, and Angola have the lowest price of happiness at $6,799, $8,788, and $8,921, respectively. Again, this doesn’t mean they’re poor, it can be because it doesn’t take much to be able to survive and live in these countries.
Even if some might be determined to extract the conclusion that maybe money does buy happiness after all, there is a stronger case to be made here that better education, secure health provision, lowering of stress, and the nurturing of social and familial relationships offer a far greater dividend of smiles.
While money isn’t everything, if your environment is right, then having enough of it gives you the cushion you need to build a masterplan for being happy in your routine.
“And don’t believe the smiles on the faces of billionaires – their happiness leveled off a long time ago,” Expensivity concluded.