Healthy living

Earning less money than your peers can make you happy

Earning less money than your peers can make you happy Aspire to earn more and greater job satisfaction, report says

Knowing that your colleagues are earning more than you can make you happy, but only if you are under 45, according to a new report.

Instead of being envious or resentful of colleagues on bigger salaries, leading economists say that younger, less well-paid workers are happier in their jobs because they think that one day they will be earning the same amount.

However, the effect wears off by the time people reach 45, as people realise that the bigger salaries of high flying colleagues are unlikely to be heading their way and career opportunities are much more limited for older workers. This can lead to low self-esteem and lower job satisfaction.

The study, 'So Far So Good: Age, Sex, Happiness and Relative Income', was based on a number of surveys carried out in Germany, and is the work of economists at St. Andrews University, Hull University and the Hamburg Institute of International Economics.

The negative effect of comparing salaries appeared to be restricted to older workers. Retired people were much less concerned about their peers incomes, probably because of more urgent ageing and health issues, the researchers said.

Professor Felix FitzRoy from St. Andrews said: "This research provides a more nuanced picture of relative income effects on happiness, and underlines the importance of career aspirations and opportunities for young people.

"This is particularly significant at a time when these opportunities for so many young people are threatened by extreme austerity in the UK and other countries, though notably not in Germany with its export–led boom."

This article was published on Wed 4 April 2012

Image © Sarah Allison -

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